How to Get Real Client Feedback — and Act on It

By Jamy J. Sullivan


Client satisfaction has always been the bedrock on which law firms build their success. That’s another way of saying that reputation is king. But how can you be sure that you’re meeting — and preferably exceeding — your clients’ expectations?  


It’s an age-old question, of course, but look to the details. Specifically, the details of your client surveys, which, along with reviews and comments clients decide to leave on your website or social media, are important, real-time sources of feedback.  

Here are some tips for crafting surveys that generate meaningful feedback — and for analyzing results to develop plans that will address client concerns and enhance your firm’s overall performance. 

Creating effective client surveys 

The most useful surveys fall within that middle ground where clients have the space that they need to express themselves and yet short enough not to become a burdensome chore.  

  • Set clear goals and objectives - If you want thoughtful answers, you need to ask thoughtful questions. Consider what you want to learn from the survey. Are you concerned about your firm’s overall client communications? Or would you like to get a better read on lawyers’ performance? If you opt for a mix of general and practice-specific questions, frontload the survey with the former. Respondents who mostly deal with your firm’s corporate transactional attorneys may get frustrated if the first few queries ask for feedback on the firm’s litigation practice.
  • Keep it short - Your clients are busy, so don’t put together a survey that’s going to take them an hour to finish. Try to keep it short — something they can complete when they have a few spare minutes. General guidelines suggest creating a survey with about 10 questions and requiring around 5 minutes to answer. 
  • Choose a cross-section of your clients - Aim to survey a sampling of your entire client base. If you only poll clients in one area, you won’t get a clear picture of your entire firm’s performance. 
  • Work with their schedules - Give clients advance notice that you’ll be sending them a survey and give them an idea of when to expect it. Try to do this as early as possible in your relationship, letting them know that the firm’s client feedback process is planned and proactive. 
  • Provide options - Surveys should always be optional, and so should the questions so don’t force “required responses.” If clients still decide to opt out, don’t assume it’s because they’re 100% satisfied with your performance. Some may prefer to provide feedback on a short call or video meet-up; be flexible enough to facilitate this.  

Analyzing feedback 

After you’ve received the survey responses, it’s time to turn that feedback into an action plan. 

  • Categorize responses - Review the responses and look for patterns or trends. Are you seeing a lot of comments on billing? Are they positive or negative? What about communication? Put your feedback into buckets so you can more easily identify your firm’s strengths and weaknesses. Give extra weight to unsolicited feedback. If a client takes the trouble to add a section criticizing or praising some aspect of your firm’s performance, it’s a sure sign that issue has been uppermost in their minds. 
  • Debrief and assign tasks - Next, convey your findings to the wider team. Schedule meetings with key stakeholders at the firm to discuss what you’ve learned and invite them to suggest ways you can put those learnings to good use. 
  • Utilize positive feedback - Don’t ignore the positive feedback. Instead, turn it into a business development tool if you can. Provided the client agrees, add — or ask them to add — their testimonials to your website or social media and use positive quotes in your marketing campaigns. 

Above all, try to keep your eye on the bigger picture. While it can be chastening to read critiques of the firm’s performance, clients who feel empowered to express their concerns are likely to become long-term partners and ambassadors for your firm, especially if they see those concerns acknowledged and addressed.