TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 17, 2012) - A new study of leading Canadian B2B law practices has found that, while firms understand the value of asking clients for their views, a significant minority remain lukewarm about the value to be obtained from feedback programs.
The survey of 58 senior personnel at law firms across Canada found that 65% of firms surveyed now ran a client feedback program, a considerably higher percentage when compared with B2B law practices in other countries. A previous global study, conducted in the first quarter of 2011, found that just 48% of firms surveyed routinely asked for client feedback. Both studies were commissioned by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®, and researched by the Wicker Park Group, a consulting group specializing in client feedback initiatives for professional services firms.
Positively, the overwhelming majority (87%) of respondents to the Canadian survey felt that obtaining client feedback was either "important" or "extremely important" to their firm. A further 92% believed clients valued a firm's willingness to seek feedback.
Of the firms surveyed that did not routinely collect feedback from their clients, 6% justified their stance by claiming that clients were unwilling to provide feedback, but the clear majority (82%) said their lack of a formal client feedback program was because it was not a priority for the firm's leadership. A further 24% attributed operational reasons - the lack of staff or resources - to their inaction.
Overall, the survey found that Canadian survey respondents were broadly satisfied with their firm's client feedback efforts - with a positive response rate of 69%. Worryingly, however, the survey also uncovered several significant complaints about specific client feedback outcomes. For example, just over half (56%) "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that their firm had adjusted its behavior towards clients in response to feedback. Furthermore, only a small majority (54%) "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the proposition that their firm's feedback program had produced a return on investment (ROI). In response to both questions, a significant minority declared themselves neutral (28% and 33%, respectively) or actively hostile (16% and 12%, respectively).
"The most surprising aspect of this survey was the contrast between the participants' belief that asking for client feedback was - in theory - a 'good idea' and their view of the tangible benefits that their own programs had delivered," said Derek Benton, director of International Operations at LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell.
In reality, this "disconnect" is reflected in the intangible objectives that firms set for their feedback programs, for example to improve individual client relationships, or to help define service standards. While this intelligence is undoubtedly vital from a client retention perspective, it's very difficult to quantify the ROI.
Benton added: "It's worth remembering that many law firms run their feedback schemes on a fairly low cost base - 46% of firms surveyed invest less than 5% of their marketing budget on such programs. But the fact that a small majority of respondents positively view their own schemes suggests that they are managing to obtain useful information for a modest investment."
In relation to how client feedback is received and shared, the Canadian study uncovered a decidedly mixed response among participants. On a positive note, most (73%) said their firm was open to receiving feedback from its clients. However, it is evident that there is a lack of subsequent business development initiatives or structured internal communications to act upon feedback received: 42% of respondents had "neutral" views on whether feedback obtained was shared openly and broadly within their practice, while 25% felt there was no sharing at all.
This perception that Canadian law firms have a tendency to "hold back" from sharing client feedback was also reinforced in a separate question, which asked survey respondents to describe to what extent client feedback was shared among the firm's personnel. While around one-third (33%) of all respondents in the earlier global study shared feedback with all lawyers and staff serving a client, less than one-fifth (19%) took this approach in Canada.
Despite this inaction, Canadian law firms were more likely (42%) to formally document feedback obtained than their counterparts in the global survey (21%).
It is clear that Canada's law firms see the value of obtaining insights from clients, with 68% of respondents who do not currently ask for feedback intending to do so in the future. Among those firms who already had client feedback schemes in place, an overwhelming majority (78%) said they intended to increase their feedback efforts "somewhat" or "substantially" during the next 12 months.
"Overall, our research suggests that, in the future, the vast majority of Canadian law firms will have feedback programs in place," concluded Benton. "Given that clients are increasingly more demanding and the legal sector ever more competitive, we expect to see law firms beginning to structure business development and marketing programs to act upon feedback received to aid client retention and ultimately boost their financial performance."
To obtain a free copy of the summary or full report "Canadian Client Feedback Initiatives", visit: www.martindale-hubbell.ca/feedback
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