Turning the tables from lawyer-centricity to customer experience
Does your law firm or department proudly boast its commitment to customer service in its advertising? I’m sure it does. Sure, we serve our customers, we give them information, we solve their problems, but how often do we think about the customer experience in law.
Customer service is not the same as customer experience or customer-centricity in law.
And customer experience is the fourth mindset shift in legal design.
After the three other mindset shifts (collaboration, creativity and simplicity) I saved the best for last: shifting from lawyer centricity to customer centricity.
We can look at customer experience or customer-centricity in two ways:
- The customer experience using the product or service.
- The user interface of law: Is it accessible, usable and helpful to the customer? Here we are thinking about our legal products, services, information and the legal system.
The customer experience mindset shift
Rather than focusing on solving the problem, the customer experience mindset shift is thinking about how you’re solving the problem.
Asking who is your customer? What do you know about your customer? What do they want from you, and what do they need to know to achieve their outcome? How and where do they want to be served? How can we make the experience of the law easier?
I see it in the Lawyers Design School legal design workshops all the time. Lawyers struggle to put themselves in their customers’ shoes.
In our workshops, we map customer journeys.
A customer journey map documents every potential interaction a customer could have with your organization during a project. I see oodles of diagrams about writing memos, research and drafting documents. It’s all very lawyer-centric and assists with providing solutions – but it has nothing to do with the customer experience.
The customer experience is about how your customer feels about how you went about solving their problem. Are you easy to access and communicate with them often? Can they trust you? How do you build trust?
While it may seem irrelevant to lawyers, your customers want comfort in knowing you are available for them and they can trust you. They want it to be easy. And if these things are critical for your customers, they are fundamental for you.
How does customer-centric lawyering look in practice
Rachael Adranly makes an excellent distinction between traditional lawyering and client-centric lawyering:
A traditional lawyer mindset means focusing on:
- How to make your case
- How to come up with winning arguments
- What are the billing hours?
- How to close the most deals using whatever means possible
A client-centric mindset focuses on:
- How your clients feel about how you handle the case
- How you interact with the lawyer on the other side
- What kind of experience you provide to your client or a colleague
It was a revelation for Rachael when a customer-centric approach meant she could do her job as a lawyer well AND care about the experience of the people she affected. Once it became about humans and not transactions, the world shifted on its axis. It can for you, too.
Wire yourself to your customer’s frequency
We know design starts and finishes with the customer.
Once the customer experience is your priority, you’ll frame every action to their situation and place in life. You’ll stop looking at everything like a lawyer and start using your designer mindset and use empathy to understand the real problem your customer is facing and needs to solve. The human connection will spark your designer mindset, and applying creativity, you’ll approach your problem solving with a different perspective.
You’re not customer-centric even if you think you are
That is the hard truth, my friend. I’ve lived it and see it every day. Most lawyers look at customers from their perspective. We don’t show empathy with our customers and live their lives.
(But the good news is we can.)
Right now, we give priority to our own business and build our processes around assumptions we make about our customers.
To shift your mindset to a customer-centric one and create exceptional customer experiences, your view of your customer requires a more holistic approach.
After all, your customer does not need you. No one wakes up full of excitement about seeing a lawyer.
Their need is something completely different to what you assume. Your customer may need you to help build trust between business partners or take care of the affairs of a parent with a memory disorder. Your services should reflect the customer in their stage of life and deliver their customer experience based on these needs rather than the current “one size fits all”.
It’s a game-changer.
So, what is the customer experience in law
Think about the last time you made a decent-sized purchase. Maybe a course or a car or even a new laptop. You did some research, got a feel for the brand, sent them an email, did some Googling, looked at customer reviews and perhaps followed them on social media. Each time you dug a little deeper, you were at a touchpoint with the business, deciding if you trusted them, whether you were happy with their service, while you were deciding whether to buy.
That is the customer experience: the collection of touchpoints your customer has with your service as they move through their journey with you.
We can relate to this when we think about buying a car or a course but we rarely think about the customer touchpoints when dealing with the law. Because the law is the law, right?
Wrong. Your customers are doing the same research on law firms as we are doing when we are looking to make a purchase. And we need to shift the customer experience in law if we want to survive.
Take a moment to think about the customer touchpoints with your legal service.
- Is it full of bottlenecks and frustrations? Or does it bring feelings of relief and trust?
- Are lawyers on a pedestal? Customers struggle for access, forced to adapt to the lawyerly way of doing business rather than receiving the kind of service they expect everywhere else?
If you were buying a course and couldn’t communicate with the teacher or the messaging didn’t inspire trust, you’d move on and buy another program, right?
What we are doing now is not sustainable. A Lawyerist article on the customer experience in law shares some scary stats on customer touchpoints:
- Fewer than 10% of callers to a law firm will get to speak to a lawyer
- More than 40% of potential customers who leave a message or complete an online form receive a reply within 3 or 4 days
- 11% of callers to law firms will hang up within 10 seconds in frustration about not being able to speak to the person they ask for by name
So as a profession, a system, law firms and in-house teams, we have some thinking ahead to change our mindset about “customer experience”.
I like how Jordan Furlong puts it: don’t bring clients to law, bring law to clients.
Lawyers are no longer exempt from customer experience
As a lawyer, you’re in the enviable position to innovate and serve customers in a way that makes them enjoy their interactions with you, rather than dreading the idea.
Once you take the time to truly understand your customers: their needs, frustrations and desires you’re in a position to serve them. If you’re not doing this, you and your customers are missing out. Your customers are missing the help they need, and you are missing out on the business opportunities.
Tim Brown’s book Change by Design argues services are becoming more like experiences, and consumers are shifting from the expectation of functional performance to a more broadly satisfying experience.
Thinking about the experience you create for your customers in your organization is crucial.
Lawyers compete for customers based on customer experience, not legal expertise.
Your customers are buying your services because they’ve done the research, read the reviews, developed trust in your brand and had positive experiences at every touchpoint.
Let that sink in.
What’s in it for me? Great customer experience in law
If you’re offering what your customers truly value, your pitch will hit home more often. Customers choose to spend their money based on their service experience, so the better the experience you offer, the more customers you attract.
Customer lifetime value
The more customers enjoy doing business with you, the more they buy from you in the future. A no brainer, right?
A point of difference from your competitors
Stand out and survive the hunger games in the industry. Your customers control your brand and reputation, not you or other firms. Deliver an outstanding customer experience, and your customers will sing from the rooftops. You’ll be a stand out in a sea of frictional, aloof, transaction-based lawyering.
You can concentrate on things your customers’ value AND say no or let go of things they do not.
Fuel for innovation
Once you start looking at your service through your customers’ glasses, you’ll begin to see new opportunities for your business and ideas for growth.
It’s time to start
There is no escaping the shift to customer-centric law. Now is the time to work to improve your customer experience. Talk to your customers because they are a gold mine. Stop trying to think like a customer because you aren’t a customer. Ask them. What would improve their experience with you?
If you don’t have customers or are afraid to start, start with friends and family until you’re confident. Everyone has some experience dealing with legal problems in their own lives.
Step into your customers’ shoes by trying out your services. Have you personally experienced the service you’re providing to your customers? Go through every touchpoint your customer does from the beginning until the end and see how it feels.
Learn more about designing a world-class customer experience?
Dig deep into your customer experience at the Lawyers Design School workshop. Map your customer journey, understand your customers and look at your touchpoints.
Take the time to examine your services through your customers’ eyes and use legal design to improve the impact and trust you build with your customers and create an exceptional customer experience every step of the way.
The time to stand out (and future proof) is now. Drop me a line at [email protected] if you would like to discuss how customer experience can revolutionize your legal career.