Last week I had the honour of presenting a paper at the annual LawSouth conference on Achieving extraordinary client engagement. Here is a summary of the main points raised by the speakers:

The people are everything – Julian Summerhayes

Julian started his talk with quotes from “The age of client” from Lexis-Nexis Bellwether Report 2015   which showed that despite 80% lawyers thinking that they provided excellent or above average service, only 40% of private clients agreed. The importance of speed and responsiveness were again highlighted.

He described an interesting case study of HCL (global technology services) which, counter to much management thinking, puts staff first rather than clients first. The thinking being that if staff are happy, empowered and productive they will deliver exemplary service to clients.

He also looked at the customer service practices of leading consumer brands – including Starbucks which advises its people to “create inspired moments in the customers’ day” and to “Anticipate. Connect. Personalise, Own” the customer experience.

The audience were encouraged to consider “wow” service and to spend a day in the life of their customers and clients. He noted the Simon Sinek TED talk on working inside-out with “Start with why”

He summarised with the three pillars of client service:

  1. Quality
  2. Customer interaction
  3. Autonomy to go above and beyond

Value driven client experience – Tim Aspinall

“Customer service: multiple touch points over time which result in a real relationship feeling” was the starting point for Tim.

He urged members of the 60-strong audience to consider how well their investment in customer experience training, satisfaction monitoring and client listening was serving them.

Research from Altman Weil 2014 research was examined – particularly the result that 43% of chief legal officers planned to increase their in-house workforce. And from the 2015 research that 67% of law firms anticipate losing business to corporate law departments. He asked us to explore the challenges of providing different levels of service depending on what the client was prepared to pay and their perceptions of value. He asked why lawyers found it so difficult to ask clients “How much are you willing to spend?”

He then went on to consider forecasts that suggest that 80% of the personal injury market will be dominated by five businesses and the other impacts on the consumer legal market by ABS firms. The threat posed by Saga Law (2.7 million customers, 1.7 million product sales, 95% retention and 6 million previous clients in the community) was considered too. The forecast that the legal mid-market would consolidate from 1200 to 130 firms raised some eyebrows.

Managing performance for service delivery and growth – Rupert Merson 

After asserting controversially that “business is an art and unpredictable”, Rupert covered four topics:

  1. People – Professionals are a particularly difficult group to manage (with interesting references to imposter syndrome)
  2. Firms – The differences between “things” businesses and “thoughts” businesses
  3. Growth – Achieving the right balance between leadership and management
  4. Performance – Management and client service can get in the way of professionalism and efficiency can get in the way of integrity

He argued convincingly that in recruitment, attitudes matter more than skills and considered the value in engendering “a culture of disobedience”.

Digital or not, psychology matters for client engagement – Kim Tasso

For the final session, I explored the human experience underlying the customer experience and considered how the latest developments in psychology and neuroscience might support exemplary client engagement.

Themes explored included emotional intelligence, personality and other personal and style differences, managing emotions and conflict and a deeper look at the role of non-verbal communication and active listening.

I prepared a separate blog post with more detail of the content and the results of the group work here:

Throughout the conference, brilliant artist Chris Skipton  sketched the main themes in each talk and these were distributed after the event.