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Steve Jobs once said that innovation distinguishes the leaders from the followers, but in the legal market how many firms are true innovators, and how many are just following the pack or worse still stuck like rabbits in the headlights?
Research by Peppermint, sponsored by Oyez, looks each year at how well law firms understand the needs of their legal clients. The last report (published autumn 2012 a new report is due out this autumn) showed that clients require a high quality service, with good communication across multiple channels, whether face to face, e-mail, phone, or post. Not surprisingly, price was considered important, especially when picking a firm for the first time. Fixed prices were also preferred as consumers wanted to know the cost at the outset.
However one of the more surprising findings was the lack of understanding of the relative importance placed by clients on the different the forms of communications. Whereas two-thirds of law firms thought their clients preferred on-line communication, only one third of clients said this was their preferred way of keeping in touch. Clients wanted to be able to track the status of their cases on-line, and for routine communication to be electronic, but still placed great virtue on face to face interaction, something clearly not fully appreciated by many firms.
Suppliers to the legal industry are aware of these trends, leading to supply side innovation and investment. Data centric CRM (customer relationship management) systems are becoming widely available which allow staff in a firm to quickly access the information they need to ensure good quality communications with clients. On the cost side speech recognition systems are generating a lot of interest as they can greatly reduce the time taken to produce letters and file notes; with a significant impact on costs (our own speech system can reduce document production costs by over 70%). New intelligent forms systems mean that forms and documents can now be shared and client portals are becoming an essential requirement.
How quickly has the legal industry been taking up these initiatives? Overall my experience is that take up is still patchy, but this will accelerate as more and more firms put service innovation at the heart of their approach and look for new technology solutions. Hopefully service innovation will be based on sound research and a proper understanding of what customers actually need rather than from biased assumptions!
Peppermint’s new 2013 research study has now been completed and initial results show there has been significant movement in the opinions of legal buyers. Publication date for the new report is 18 November. For further updates visit http://www.pepperminttechnology.co.uk/legal-service-customer-experience-research
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