Written by Claudia King, CEO / Founder of Automio
A common theme among innovative lawyers is they care deeply about better serving their clients and improving the client experience. They understand what their clients want from a lawyer. These legal innovators learn this by regularly speaking to their clients and asking questions and getting feedback. They use negative or constructive feedback as fuel to get better. They use this knowledge to create client-centric business strategies, and then identify how they will use technology to help them achieve those strategies.
One way legal innovators get meaningful client feedback is setting up a Client Advisory Board.
A Client Advisory Board is a focus group of your law firm’s clients that meets on a regular basis. The purpose of this Board will depend on what you want to achieve, but it could be to get client ideas and feedback to assist with the firm’s strategic planning process.
6 - 8 Board Members is a manageable size.
Carefully selecting your Board Members is important as their comments will influence your firm’s decision-making going forward. Consider the following when choosing your Board Members:
The best way to invite your clients to be on your Client Advisory Board is to phone them. Prepare the following information beforehand so you can share it with them on the phone:
Don’t forget to request permission from each client to add them to group communications for the Client Advisory Group. You will need to be careful of your confidentiality obligations, and let Client Advisory Board members know that if they want to share feedback that would involve divulging information related to a confidential matter then they should do that privately with just you.
You can use email or set up a group on Slack, LinkedIn or Facebook to communicate with your Client Advisory Board. You can use Doodle to efficiently schedule meeting times that suit everyone.
This is completely up to you and will depend on what is appropriate for your law firm. Here are some examples:
At the first meeting you will ask more general questions about the client experience you deliver and how that can be improved. Over time you will dig into specific strategies and problems your firm has so you can get the Client Advisory Board’s ideas and feedback on how to achieve or solve them.
Use open ended questions as much as possible. A lot of the questions you ask will require some follow up - if you get an answer to a question that you don’t understand or need more detail, make sure you ask follow up questions to draw out all the information you need.
Here is a list of questions to choose from to get you started for your first one or two meetings:
Having an independent facilitator is a good idea - it will let you concentrate and engage with the Client Advisory Board, and you won’t need to worry about what the next question is. Consider asking someone who has experience running focus groups or planning meetings. A good facilitator will know how to frame your questions and how to follow up to draw out enough valuable feedback from your clients. The facilitator will also help you set an agenda before the meeting, will make sure your meeting sticks to the schedule in the agenda, and will take notes.
Often these meetings will be held over dinner, lunch or brunch, and for the price of the meal you will gain so much valuable insight to help you with your law firm. In addition, send a personal email or note to each client to thank them for the value they have added to your business during the meeting, along with a summary of the discussion and the most important ideas discussed at the meeting. Let them know what you will work on as a result of the meeting. You might also like to consider giving each client a gift like a voucher, a book, a bottle of wine or a donation to their favourite charity.
Then you need to act on the ideas and feedback that come out of the Client Advisory Board meeting. This valuable information needs to be considered as part of your strategic planning and review process to improve your firm’s client experience, and discussed with your team so they are on board.
In future Client Advisory Board meetings it is a good idea to include an agenda item where you report back to the Board on issues, ideas and feedback you said you would consider, and action you plan to take. If you decide not to take action on a particular issue or implement an idea, explain why.
Having structured discussions with a Client Advisory Board on a regular basis will help you to significantly improve the client experience offered at your firm. This will increase client loyalty and retention, referrals, and help you acquire new clients who you like working with. Keep in mind the tips above, and you can make sure your law firm and your clients receive the valuable benefits of a Client Advisory Board.
Keen to find out how former Solicitor-General of New Zealand, Michael Heron QC, is using intelligent automation to improve the client experience? Michael is the founder of CODR, an online dispute resolution platform, that uses Automio to improve access to justice. Check out Michael’s story here.