During the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of technology has increased to an extent that most business and transactions are happening online. This rapid and widespread digitization, along with the pre-pandemic changes in the legal industry have brought some drastic alterations in the fundamental behaviours and interactions of clients. Legal organizations now need to study clients, understand their demands and work backwards from their needs. To move ahead in the competitive legal market, firms and organizations need to have a client-centric approach and also tailor their solutions to the clients that they are dealing with. The pandemic has been an essential milestone in history, for bringing about a stark change in consumer patterns. Not everyone has been affected similarly, hence not every client has the same needs and expectations, this has arisen an additional opportunity, and burden of bringing in flexibility to legal solutions that are increasingly being adopted. The following observations show that the client market is highly volatile and fast-evolving. Clients’ needs change and progress with time. It is imperative for legal organizations to keep up and adapt to the changing needs and demands of clients.
“As a client, I know firsthand how important it is for me to find a one-stop-shop to solve our biggest corporate challenges. I don’t want to go to 4-5 providers and try to piece together their analysis. This is ineffective and inefficient. I want a turnkey solution to understand what happened, and what we need to do.” – Life Sciences Ethics and Compliance Professional
“If you are going to be a trusted advisor, clients must have confidence that you are putting their needs first. You just can’t do that if you don’t know what their needs are.”- Heather Townsend, author, and speaker, The Excedia Group.
The New Client is the “Digital Client”
In less than 2 years, clients and businesses have developed an immense understanding of the vast arena of possibilities and opportunities that the internet brings to their disposal. This has led to a change in interactions: from physical, terrain bound to online and remote. The adoption of cloud and other online enabling technologies has brought a fundamental change in how clients interact and communicate. The implications of this change are reflecting on their expectations in terms of interaction across different industries. For the legal industry too, clients now prefer remote interactions over traditional means.
A change in preferred mediums of communication has also been noticed. More and more clients now prefer to communicate via phone, messaging, and email than physical interactions. Some percentage of clients are also embracing newer technologies like website chatbots, mobile apps, video conferencing, etc.
Clients have more options
With the advent of technology propelled businesses, the prospects of finding clients are not limited to geography or network, instead, remote work has set in motion the possibility of hiring professionals or employers from across regions. This has inevitably given consumers a pool of options to choose from. Hence, even if one of the many options clients have does not meet their expectations, they have the comfortable choice to switch. This puts a burden and an opportunity on legal organizations to be more open to technology, accept change and be flexible in solution building. It is important to note that technology and innovation disruption can also influence an organization’s ability to deliver and meet client expectations. This happens because technology disrupts efficiency, better work processes, instils better client management processes, etc, in place for the organization. The situation is a win-win.
The graph below shows what factors influenced the choice of lawyers clients wants to hire in 2021.
Clients are seeking a one-stop-shop
Clients do not want to seek legal advice from different sources and teams. Instead, they are in search of a ‘bundled’ legal team that serves as a one-stop shop for all their legal, compliance, technological, and other needs. A re-bundled legal organization is holistic in nature and offers a wide range of legal services that give clients the benefit of a single supplier, with trusted relationship and service delivery.
Clients are less loyal
Since clients now have a large number of alternative offerings to engage with, their loyalty to a single entity or lawyer is fleeting. Clients have increased expectations in terms of quality, transparency, communication, and experience. Unless a legal organization focuses on a client-centric model of service delivery (which simply means putting your client and their needs in the centre of everything you do), there is a high chance they may lose clients.
Read more about client-centricity here.
Clients value experience
More than the outcomes, clients now prefer experiences and value addition while transacting with a business. Engaging clients to the center stage, involving them in decision making, understanding their specific needs and demands and therefore producing personalized and tailored solutions is a key differentiator from competitors. Moreover, quick response time, availability of remote options, comfortable payment plans, availability of text and mail, free consultations, transparency in decision making, faster resolutions, etc, are all expectations of the “digital client”.
Plan ahead with a AAA Client Engagement Approach and Client Success Measures
The triple-A approach is a simple disciplined perspective that can be followed to address the concerns that come with changing the behaviour of the clients. This approach lies at the careful intersection of making legal services accessible to the clients and keeping them at the centre stage of decision making, hence making them aware, and acting on the possibilities of change and innovation.
Access: Not granting easy, reliable, and transparent access to information and work progress is the opposite of engagement and may lead to a lack of trust and a weaker partnership. Easy access keeps the clients in the loop of what is happening, and also makes them an essential part of the process.
Awareness: An awareness of what is happening in the market is an important factor for satisfactory service for today’s clients. As much as real-time updates on the delivery status of orders build anticipation and spur interest, so will an awareness of legal transactions. Awareness promotes client engagement, loyalty, and trust in a highly competitive market.
Action: Taking action on emerging technologies, innovation, and behaviour patterns is the new client engagement currency. Customized workflow, toolkits, disruptive AI platforms to enhance the organization’s capabilities, interactive document builders, etc should all be used to take action.
Read more about the AAA model here.
Further, some client success measures are also essential to ensure that clients’ needs and expectations are met:
- Client Journey Mapping: Gathering feedback and recording the journey of clients is a touchstone that ensures efficient client consideration and also helps the organization critically analyse areas of improvement.
- Relationship Development: The general dynamics of billable hours, do not promote healthy relationship building with clients, which appear at a junction of client engagement, and prioritizing client needs as the primary goal.
In order for a firm to survive and exist in the legal market, it is essential for them to optimize their processes and workflows through the lens of their client. Especially, at a juncture when clients understand the market better and have innumerable resources at their disposal, companies need to keep clients at the centre stage to ensure client retention and satisfaction.
Further Reading Resources:
- Law Firm Client Engagement needs AAA approach, Thomson Reuters
- A new framework for Client Engagement, Thomson Reuters
- 4 Engagement Models for Customer Success, ClientSuccess.com
- Path to Client Centricity, Journal for Service Research
- 6 Ways to Build a Customer-Centric Culture, Harvard Business Review
- The Case for Client-centric design in law firm technology roadmap, Legal Evolution
- Evolution in the Law Firm: why do clients demand that you embrace new technology? Legal Futures
- Client Selection: The next frontier in the evolution of legal ethics, Law Gazette