By Jaime Bochet
Of the Legal Staff
By now, we've heard it so many times that it seems like a no-brainer: Law firms should ask their clients how the firms are doing in order to gauge their success, manage their perception and deliver better service.
But something is wrong. I'm starting to believe that firms really don't care how their clients think they’re doing -- especially after seeing the results of a new LexisNexis survey.
One of The Legal's affiliates, the AmLaw Daily, recently reported that the results of the Lexis survey (found here) which included responses from 415 firm personnel worldwide, said, "More than 70 percent of law firms responded that client feedback affects the way their lawyers conduct business, yet fewer than half -- 48 percent -- formally solicit client critiques and just one-third communicate the feedback to lawyers."
Translation: "We know feedback is important, but we don't care to go after it or to tell our lawyers about it."
Even more troubling is the fact that not many of the respondents care to change their practices regarding client surveys: "Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they failed to solicit client feedback because they lacked the staff and resources to do so, but 64 percent of those proactive firms said feedback programs consumed less than 5 percent of their marketing budgets."
Translation: we have the money to do it, but we choose not to allocate it that way.
The numbers for Pennsylvania are even worse, according to the results of The Legal's own Managing Partners Survey, published in last year's "PaLAW: Annual Report on the Legal Profession." While our survey covered a significantly smaller snippet of the legal population, the percentage of firms failing to conduct client surveys is still puzzlingly high. Of our respondents, "81.5 percent said they still do not regularly use client satisfaction surveys," reported Gina Passarella, which is up from 64.5 percent in the 2009 survey.
To make things more confusing, we've reported in our own paper that plenty of firms DO use client interviews and satisfaction surveys. Bob Denney's article in our "What's Hot, What's Not" supplement said as much, and Gina even wrote an article just last month about how client interviewing has weathered the down economy.
So why do so many firms that could use this tool choose not to? Is it because they’re afraid of what they may hear? Let's be honest; who wants to hear negative feedback? It might lead to people thinking that -- shudder -- change is in order.
After all, as long as the firms are still getting business, their clients can't be that unhappy, right? Why should the firms change anything?