Client Service Teams
The Value of Aligning Client and Firm Interests
Loyal clients are satisfied clients, and satisfied clients are the foundation of a law firm's success. Successful law firms know that "satisfaction" is multifaceted and defined subjectively—in effect, as individual as the client making the judgment. To enhance client service, firms continually need to look for ways to understand and anticipate their clients' specific priorities and concerns, including conducting substantive client interviews and systematically gathering information about their industries, markets, and competitive environments. Firms that use the insights they gain from client service interviews and other research to align their interests with those of their clients increase their competitive advantage and foster increased client satisfaction and loyalty.
Client service teams provide both a structure and a process for facilitating this alignment of interests. They focus a firm's lawyers on results-oriented efforts that identify and satisfy client needs, enhance client service, and solidify client relationships. They also help realize the firm's investment in client service interviews by providing a forum for the feedback the firm receives. As team members' knowledge of the client deepens, unforeseen service opportunities often surface. Zeughauser Group recognizes the power of client satisfaction in cultivating and retaining clients, and the vital role that client service teams play in increasing that satisfaction. In addition, strengthening and expanding client relationships is a critical tool for improving law firms' financial performance, and client service teams foster enduring relationships.
Zeughauser Group's Client Service Team practice is a vital part of our commitment to help our clients compete more effectively and achieve greater profitability. Our Client Service Team partners have led marketing and development programs for some of the world's leading law firms and corporations, and they have direct experience building client service teams and managing them for success in highly competitive markets.
Our practice benefits from the results of the periodic surveys we conduct of market-leading firms, which include questions about client service, and from the insights we've derived over the past decade by hosting Leadership Roundtables for law firm chairs, managing partners, and chief marketing officers.
Firms whose interests parallel those of their clients have a fundamental advantage in their markets. Robust client service programs affirm—internally and externally—a firm's exceptional commitment to its clients. Designed and implemented effectively, client service teams serve as a focal point for the relationship-enhancing programs that firms develop for their key clients. Accordingly, our Client Service Teams practice can be part of a broader, integrated offering that includes client service interviews and client-specific marketing and business-development planning.
Effective client service teams deliver many benefits, including:
- Enhancing communication among the lawyers who comprise individual client teams—as well as among the firm and its key clients. Better informed team members are able to service clients more effectively and more proactively. Similarly, the most effective law firm/client relationships feature open and regular two-way communication.
- Increasing client loyalty. Because client service teams improve service delivery, firms with effective team programs enjoy increased client satisfaction and loyalty.
- Institutionalizing the client. Client service teams strengthen the relationships between lawyers at all levels in a law firm with their client's legal department counterparts, rendering the firm's most important client relationships less vulnerable to its competitors.
- Building marketplace knowledge. By developing a growing dossier about the client's environment and the markets in which it operates, firm lawyers gain valuable marketplace insights that can benefit other clients as well as colleagues who represent other clients in that same industry sector.
- Uncovering clients' potential needs. Because client service teams foster an exchange of information among all attorneys servicing the client about important trends and developments affecting their business and their industry, firm lawyers can help the client anticipate issues that will affect the pursuit of its chosen strategy.
- Focusing lawyers on targeted marketing efforts. Client teams are not just vehicles for determining how best to serve an existing client; they provide a structure for uncovering unmet client needs and customizing marketing initiatives to address them.
- Promoting the accountability of team members. Developing a six-to-twelve-month service plan for each client clarifies each team member's role and responsibilities and enables the client to appreciate more fully the firm's contributions to its success.
Because no law firm's goals, markets, and client base exactly mirror another's, we do not offer a one-size-fits-all approach to designing client teams. Instead, we draw on our extensive experience to provide customized tools and guidance that helps firms create and manage effective client teams and individual key-client accounts. As a corresponding service, we help clients build comprehensive client service programs around their client service teams, and integrate those teams into the firm's overall marketing and business-development planning.
- Selecting client teams for the initial program launch. We meet with key members of the firm to discuss the project and the firm's objectives as it formalizes its initial client teams. We typically recommend a small beta launch. Once the initial teams are launched and operating effectively, we assist the firm with its next set, and repeat this process until the firm has created and launched a client team program that enhances and secures its key client relationships.
- Working with teams to establish goals. After specific client teams have been identified and established, we meet with each client's relationship partner(s) and the appropriate marketing and business-development staff members to establish principal goals for every team leader and member.
- Developing an action plan. We work with each team to develop a plan that is action-based and focused on goals to be addressed over a six-to-twelve-month period.
- Integrating client service interview feedback. In developing each plan, we ensure that the feedback gathered during any previously conducted client service interviews is integrated effectively into the plan.
- Assessing team performance. As each client service team is established, we work with team members to develop customized performance criteria that adequately address the purpose of the team. This step enables the team to assess its effectiveness over time, although it is important to keep in mind that some of the team's original objectives may alter based on real-time changes in the client relationship or marketplace.
- Establishing a team meeting schedule. Typically, teams meet monthly during the first two or three months, then transition to a less frequent schedule, usually meeting no less than quarterly.
Consistent with the process by which we establish, evaluate, and monitor guidelines for managing individual client teams, we work with the firm to ensure that the entire client service program continues to function effectively over time.
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