Three myths about client surveys

Three myths about client surveys

Why don't more law firms conduct client surveys?

Our firm has been researching that issue continuously for the past five years, through surveys (of course!) and also hundreds of informal discussions with law firm managers and marketing directors.

Some law firms are simply afraid to ask for feedback.  They are not relevant to this issue because, refusing to solicit feedback in a systematic way, they are doomed to crisis-to-crisis improvisation and, ultimately, the deterioration of their client base and market position.

However, when we ask people from healthier firms why they have not conducted a formal client survey within the past five years (or, in a shocking percentage of instances, never!), we usually hear three excuses.  Each one of these reasons seems to make good business sense, but has been disproven by the experiences of successful law firms throughout the world.

"Clients already have to fill out too many surveys.  They won't participate in ours."

Most clients see a significant difference in a survey conducted by a hotel chain and a serious survey conducted by a law firm.  When clients fail to participate in a survey conducted by their law firms, it is frequently because:

  • The survey questions are trivial; or
  • They are not confident that their answers will make a difference.

Law firms that send out generic surveys usually learn this lesson the hard way.  Surveys that might work well in ordinary consumer businesses can completely miss the key points with respect to quality in legal services.  This is why we recommend that your survey be designed for a law firm - not a hotel chain - and  be tailored to the specific characteristics, practice specialties, and client base of your firm.

The truth is that even the busiest clients like to be asked for their opinions.  If at all possible, even busy clients will try to find time to answer serious questions.  However, questions such as "Do you like our website?" and "Are our fees fair?" (I am not making these up.) usually drive clients away.

A good law firm client survey should be as sophisticated and thoughtful as the clients to whom it is sent.

"Client surveys are too expensive and too much work."

Like all myths, this one has a kernel of truth.  Client surveys used to be expensive and time-consuming.  With on-line survey administration and tabulation, a custom-designed survey, including an in-depth analytical report and benchmarking to other law firms, can be conducted at a cost that most law firms can recover, several times over, with one new client or one new matter. Whether you design and conduct the survey yourselves or outsource it to a firm like Walker Clark, your firm cannot afford not to conduct a client survey.

"Surveys don't produce results."

This myth also can be true if you merely read the survey and do nothing about it. The most important part of a client survey is the follow-up, both with the clients and internally. Even a dissatisfied client can become one of your firm's biggest fans if you follow up specifically and systematically concerning the points of dissatisfaction.

Specific follow-up means responding promptly to the client about the client's concerns. Systematic follow-up means making improvements in your firm's internal operations and client relations practices to ensure that similar problems do not arise in the future.

Visit the Walker Clark website for more information and examples.