Market researchers in many industries have come to believe that the answer to a single inquiry – Would you recommend us to your friends and colleagues? – is the most insightful indicator of customer satisfaction. The rationale is that a customer would not risk his or her own credibility in recommending a product or service to someone else if it wasn’t worth it.
Law firms also see the merit of this question in attempting to gauge client satisfaction. But what if a firm asked its own people the same question?
The external version (posed to a client) is a largely one-dimensional inquiry:
Do I, the client, sufficiently value what I my law firm delivers such that I would stake my personal or professional reputation by recommending it to others who trust me? - If the answer is no, then the firm should immediately take action to assess its shortcomings with that client, determine if the relationship can be salvaged and improved, or if appropriate, drop the client.
The internal survey (posed within the firm) is more telling because it measures additional factors:
Do I, the employee, know enough about the firm such that I could not only recommend it to others who trust me, but would be able to intelligently describe its services? – When it comes to cross-selling it’s not enough to have a partner introduce the client to another partner in a different practice area. Every attorney and non-attorney is an ambassador for the firm, and must be educated to a reasonable extent about the practice mix, current trends, and the types of people and organizations that would benefit from that knowledge. You can’t send the troops into battle without the necessary armor.
Does the firm value me enough so that I would want to recommend it to others who trust me? – The second factor revolves around the individual’s self-worth at the firm. We all know that shareholders, associates, paralegals, legal assistants, admins, billing department staff, and a host of others in the organization each play an important role in delivering value to the client. If an individual’s contributions to that mission are not recognized, she will be less willing to sustain that commitment, pursue new business opportunities, or refer a potential new hire. That is not to say that lackluster effort should be commended; just as the firm needs to fire a problem client, the firm should also rid itself of those within the organization who are not dedicated to delivering value and a superior client experience.
What’s in it for me? – The third factor can be especially important for those who aren’t at the top of the firm’s hierarchy. Everyone from your garbage collector to the president of the United States wants to be recognized for his achievements, and successful organizations get the most from their people by fostering a culture where individual achievements are publicly acknowledged and valued. There are any number of ways to do this – a cash incentive, a congratulatory email broadcast to the entire firm, a gift certificate to a four-star restaurant, tickets to a pro sporting event, etc. Recognition like this not only inspires the person to want to repeat the effort, but also encourages others within the firm to do the same.
So are you ready to ask the question to your people?