Exit surveys are good management tools

By Sylvia Hsieh

The Daily Record Newswire

If you've ever wondered what your clients really think of you, try asking them.

Client exit surveys are a useful management tool for small-firm and solo attorneys, and they double as an effective marketing tool.

Lawyers should ask all their clients to assess their experience with the firm at the end of a case, according to Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute in Gilbert, Ariz.

For long-term clients with an ongoing relationship, such as business clients, he suggests surveying them at least once a year.

Send a written questionnaire by email and regular mail or, even better, ask a client on his or her last visit to your office to take five or 10 minutes to answer a survey.

To get accurate answers, Fairley cautions against having attorneys conduct the questionnaire. He recommends having someone outside the firm administer the survey.

Although some lawyers think they will get more accurate answers in an anonymous survey, he says that is a waste of time.

"You want to know if there's a problem with a relationship with a client," Fairley advises. "You want to know if you have to invest more in that person, and you want to know what a good referral looks like. It's not worth the anonymity to lose all that good data."

Some questions to include on a client exit survey are: What were your initial impressions of the firm? How were you treated in your first meeting? Were you billed on time? What are two ways we could serve you better?

A good way to generate more business from clients is to ask them what type of legal services they anticipate needing in the coming year.

Another question that will strongly predict whether that client will refer others to you is: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to refer us to a friend, family member or colleague?"

According to research, clients who answer from 0-6 are not happy with your relationship; those who answer 7 or 8 feel you did a good job but aren't thrilled; and those who answer 9 or 10 are much more likely to send you referrals, Fairley says.

Two follow-up questions he suggests are: "What's one area we can improve on that would make you more likely to recommend us to others?" and "What specifically about our law firm would cause you to recommend us?"

"If you find out your assistant was really rude, or that 50 percent of an attorney's clients said, 'I hated my attorney,' you need to act on that," Fairley says. If you find out that timely billing was a big complaint or half your clients were shocked by a bill that was sent out, now you have to fix it."

Published: Mon, Oct 24, 2011

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