Let me set a couple of things straight before I even start this blog post. Whilst the title suggests that I am focussing on one particular industry, the essence of what you are about to read can apply to many industries and professions all over the world. I must also make it clear that I am neither a lawyer nor someone who has extensive knowledge of the legal profession!
So that being said, why am I writing about an industry I know nothing about? Over the last few months, I have had a number of conversations with people in my networks about the challenges being faced by the traditional professions – predominantly law and accountancy. I have also conducted some work with one of the professional bodies that is responsible for developing the competencies of professionals working in these fields. During these conversations, it has become abundantly clear that those who know a lot about Legal and Accounting firms are concerned that they are amongst the most ‘un-customer centric’ organisations on the planet.
They are not alone. Despite the ever-growing Customer Experience ‘tidal wave’ there are still many untouched industries that are yet to acknowledge the need for change – the need to re-think the way they interact with customers and clients. These industries are often populated by businesses who THINK they are already customer focussed. They do not THINK there is any need to do anything differently. They THINK that Customer Experience does not apply to them.
I have worked recently with a company who did not think that Customer Experience applied to them – ‘we are different’ the senior managers in the business said. They may THINK they are different…..but they are no different to any business that relies on the successful interaction with a customer to drive the commercial goals of the organisation.
Businesses that THINK there is no need to change are usually ones who are focussed on one primary measure of success – SALES. If the ‘top line’ is doing well, why do we need to change? If we consider the way the legal profession has worked traditionally, it is one that is as SALES focussed as any other. I have been told by many people that legal firms will ‘not work for nothing’. Every minute of every day is an opportunity to generate sales….or in other words ‘bill the client’. As long as employees of the firm are generating ‘billable hours’ all is good with the world. This is what I am being told – and it does not sound very customer centric to me!
I was told today that law firms are incredibly ‘short term’ focussed businesses. It is all about the weekly sales figures. If the figures are not going in the right direction, find more clients to bill. This is NOT a strategy that will lead to long term sustainability of an organisation – however long it might have existed up to now. I was also told that firms tend not to care too much about ‘non fee generating staff’ – that is not the kind of business I would want to work for.
The industry insiders I have been interacting with are in complete agreement that the profession needs to change. The problem is that as yet, there is little evidence that firms are prepared to take the step to change the status quo. It is almost as though the industry is caught in a vacuum of past glories and no-one is willing to disrupt what they perceive to have ‘always worked’.
So is it possible to create a genuinely customer centric law firm that puts the needs of its ‘customers’ in equal balance with the commercial goals of the partners? You can guess what my answer is going to be…… of course it is! What the legal profession desperately needs is DISRUPTION! The legal profession needs someone – an individual, or a firm, or multiple firms – to disrupt the status quo. It needs someone to show the rest of the profession that it is possible to change the way things work – the way they have worked in the PAST. Like other industries before it, the people who run law firms need to understand that becoming more customer centric will not only deliver financial benefits in the LONG TERM, it will also enable their businesses to become more efficient and effective at doing the things they do – or in other words improve their profitability.
To DISRUPT an industry takes ‘balls’! It requires forward thinking innovators to recognise that change realises opportunities. I strongly believe that the implementation of a Customer Experience Framework can help law firms to be the best they can be – for their partners, employees and customers. At conferences, workshops and seminars that I have the honour of delivering all over the world, I always remind people that at the end of the day, we are all customers in our own right. Even a lawyer is a customer him or herself – the key is to remind the lawyer that the things he/she considers to be important as a customer are exactly the same as the things his/her own customers consider important as well.
If you are a genuinely customer centric law firm, I would love to know about it – what are you doing to disrupt your industry? It would be great for others to hear your story.
As always, your thoughts on anything I write are very warmly welcomed – whether you agree with my point of view or not!