We’re frenetic, stressed and seem to have our collective attention pulled in all sorts of directions, so reducing the time and effort it takes to engage in mundane transactions relieves us of a thousand little burdens.
THE IDEAL TRANSACTION SCENARIO
Now, taking a cue from Amazon’s customer-centric philosophy, imagine the following scenario. You are a client of ABC law firm, having signed a written fee agreement via DocuSign or some other comparable software. You upload documents for your attorney’s review to a cloud-based portal, in which all documents related to the matter are available 24/7. The matter’s critical court dates and filing deadlines are immediately accessible to you electronically — or perhaps even automatically texted to you as they get closer.
After your attorney attends a hearing, they summarize the events in the cloud; notice of a new entry is texted to you. While the case is pending, you follow its progress on a virtual docket that contains the case filings, orders, deadlines and pending dates for hearings and conferences. As attorneys and paralegals work on your matter and record contemporaneous entries of their time and activity, those entries are available to you in real time rather than on the next month’s bill. When the bill is due, you use a secure portal on the firm’s website to pay.
The firm has an e-learning portal that helps you acquire a basic understanding of the procedures applicable to your matter. If you happen to be intellectually curious, materials in the firm’s law library that may be pertinent to your matter are made available for you to access electronically.
At the matter’s conclusion, you receive an electronic survey from the firm that asks you to rate its performance. (Those who complete the survey, by the way, receive a gift card for a local restaurant.) You give the firm five stars in all categories.
HOW TO LOWER THE BARRIERS
The impetus to create “transactional effortlessness” is actually greater in the legal profession than in it is for someone buying an iPad on Amazon. More than often than not, a client’s initial contact with a lawyer is triggered by stressful circumstances. When a client walks into a firm weighed down by angst, they should be able to take comfort in knowing that the manner and means of their interaction with firm personnel won’t add to their stress level.
So how does a firm implement transactional effortlessness? It starts with securing feedback from clients at the conclusion of each matter. A series of survey questions should be included to capture the client’s opinion of the interactive experience. Some sample questions include:
- Did you find it easy to use the firm’s electronic resources to keep apprised of the status of your matter?
- Were you consistently made aware of the documents that you needed to provide to firm personnel?
- Did you find it convenient to pay the firm’s bills?
- Do you feel that you were consistently updated and/or aware of the amount of time that was devoted to your matter?
- Did the use of firm electronic resources help you stay aware of significant dates or deadlines for your matter?
- Were resources for a deeper understanding of the legal issues pertaining to your matter made available to you?
Once the firm has obtained a large enough sample size from the surveys, it can begin developing the architecture for transactional effortlessness. When it comes to designing a client interface, one size will not fit all. A larger firm with sophisticated business clients will likely want to implement something more elaborate than a small firm with a relatively unsophisticated client base.
Some elements of the infrastructure should be central to all firms, large or small. Billing and payment processes should be electronic; there are any number of vendors that can integrate electronic payment systems into the firm’s website. The same can be said for docketing and deadline information.
When it comes to client preparation in the litigation area, clients can truly benefit from online videos that supplement live training for depositions, trials and mediations. Large firms should consider creating in-house video capability that would allow for firm-only webcasts and webinars, as well as enhanced preparation of client witnesses through video recording and feedback using video production software.
Although firms are embracing technology that streamlines their internal operations, relatively little attention has been paid to technology that clients can see and use. As organizations’ decision-making is transferred to younger generations — who are ever more demanding that service providers make the client experience as user-friendly as possible — firms that fail to recognize this seismic shift are destined to lose market share.