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Build Client Satisfaction Through Active Listening

Harnessing the power of listening has significant commercial advantage to legal firms. Just last fall, Moneypenny found in our report, “The Inbound Phone Call,” that calls to law firms have increased by 26% over the last five years, with more than a third of those resulting in a new business inquiry. This equates to a staggering $266 million for small firms nationwide.

Eric Schurke

Converting those calls into new business requires listening — which is actually a choice that requires making the effort to understand what someone is saying. And active listening typically takes that one step further, including giving the person speaking both verbal and nonverbal signs of listening. These can involve obvious visual clues, such as smiling, nodding and making eye contact. But it can also extend to asking questions, reflecting on what’s being said, demonstrating empathy and clarifying the information that’s being delivered.

When it comes to actually answering the call to listen, the legal sector manages their clients better than other markets like utility companies, doctors, phone companies, banks and insurance companies. In fact, in a recent survey of 1,000 adults, the sector was cited the least as being the worst for answering calls. Still, communication in the legal sector can often be one-way, with firms focusing primarily on disseminating information to clients and prospects. Active listening gives clients and prospects the opportunity to communicate with your firm in return and, more importantly, to be heard.

Listening is also an essential part of customer care, but research from LexisNexis suggests legal firms still have some way to go. While 80% of legal firms think their client service is above average, only 40% of clients agree. Additionally, 92% of lawyers think they are good at listening, compared with just 67% of clients saying the same.

Active listening allows firms to garner much deeper insights into the factors that affect clients’ decisions. From creating detailed records about existing clients to accurately mapping target client personas for marketing and lead generation — these insights can be used to dramatically improve retention, enable successful cross- and up-selling, and identify opportunities for new products and services.

“Now more than ever, we have need for connection, which was particularly evident in the legal sector at the pandemic’s height — legal call durations increased by 25% as clients shared their worries and simply sought out human contact.”

It also provides the reassurance and validation clients may be looking for in a friendly voice on the other end of the line. As pandemic isolation continues to challenge our daily lives, listening takes on new meaning and importance. Now more than ever, we have need for connection, which was particularly evident in the legal sector at the pandemic’s height — legal call durations increased by 25% as clients shared their worries and simply sought out human contact. At the same time, live chat features on legal websites became more popular as people reached out for legal help and support outside of traditional hours.

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While a combination of client satisfaction surveys and client reviews can go some way toward achieving active listening, these typically take place only once per year and are often weighted toward the questions legal firms think are important. Social media is also a useful and cost-effective tool to engage in and monitor conversations in real time. However, while it makes two-way conversation (and therefore listening) easier, the channel plays out publicly and not without reputational risk.

One of the most underused listening tools is a firm’s website. For example, many firms fail to recognize that addressing search engine optimization (SEO) is a form of listening. With more than 2 million legal-oriented search queries conducted every day on Google, firms that pay attention to what searches are growing or declining in popularity can take cues from their audience. 

The addition of live chat further builds on this. By monitoring queries, identifying key words and checking the sentiment of chats, it’s possible to build greater client empathy, spot new opportunities and identify communication priorities. Live chat transcripts can help quickly identify where prospects and clients most need help, from highlighting the information on a website that’s not easy enough to find to identifying issues and questions that should be added to something like a blog. Telephone answering services provide a similar opportunity to evaluate the nature of queries, identify commonalities and inform both service and process innovation.

Ultimately, listening empowers legal organizations to learn from their clients and provides the foundations on which to build meaningful and long-lasting client relationships. More authentic two-way conversation is essential to keep the customer experience evolving and improving, as well as to nurture, build and protect brand reputation.

A concerted effort toward effective and active listening should be at the heart of all legal practice decision-making, helping to inform strategy and steer marketing. As the key to creating confidence, trust, loyalty and value at a time when clients need it most, listening can truly lead to a competitive advantage — you just need to make sure you really hear what’s being said.