We're delighted to have collaborated on this piece with Pierre Landy, executive mentor to legal leaders and ex-GC at Yahoo, Ledger, and The Walt Disney Company. To learn more about Pierre, check out his Legal Spotlight here.
Of course, you’re a brilliant professional and you’re certainly very nice (especially if you subscribe to the Legal Means Business podcast on YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts 😉). But do you know what happens when your business colleagues or counterparts call and you’re not there to answer? And how long on average do they have to wait to know that you’ve actually read their email?
All of these elements contribute to the “client experience” and, believe me, a good client experience is essential if you expect to thrive as an in-house legal professional!
Working on your client experience can make all the difference to both internal and external relationships. In this article, I’m going to share a little exercise that I had the opportunity to practice and share with many teams that I’ve worked with over the years.
So, what is the “client experience”? At its core, it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of your clients - the users of your legal products, processes, and services.
How did it all get started?
The client experience, also known as the “client journey”, is a concept born in the 80s in the airline industry. In the 80s, getting on a plane was something ultra-complicated! You had to phone, wait, choose a plane, then pay, send a cheque, then wait for your ticket… and it goes on.
In short, this was an ultra-complex process that was clearly designed to simplify the life of the company but not the life of the customers.
The airline industry pretty much stayed like this until the arrival of a certain Jan Carlzon at the head of the airline SAS. Jan wanted to change everything! For him, the whole process had to be rethought not from the company's point of view but from the customer's point of view. And it is thanks to Jan that the concept of a “client journey” was born (and that booking a plane ticket is no longer such an ordeal!).
“But Pierre, what does this have to do with my legal team?”
Well, here’s an example. Let’s say you work in the office and have a phone line. It’s Friday morning, the phone rings but you’re in a meeting. Your legal team colleague who hears the phone ringing can react in a number of different ways. This is where it gets interesting...
Perhaps they don’t answer and they let the phone continue to ring. Sure, they can say to themself, "I'll let it ring because I really don't see why I should pick up Pierre’s phone". That's one option.
They could pick up the phone and say, "No, Pierre is not here. Goodbye!". And hang up…
They could pick up and say, "Pierre is not here. Can I take a message?”. A little better.
They could pick up and say, "Pierre is not here. Can I help you?”. Sounds a little more friendly.
Or they could pick up the phone and say, "Pierre’s not here. Can I help you? Ah, yes, of course! I have our NDA template! I'll send it to you right away". This is much better, right?
In this example, the answers can be radically different - and, as a result, so can your client’s experience be! It totally depends on the way your colleague answered - or did not answer - the phone and responded to the call.
The challenge of the “client experience” is to realize that every time one of your internal or external customers comes into contact with a member of your team, it’s an unrepeatable chance to make a good impression (or vice versa!). This is what we call a "moment of truth" - that one occasion that may never present itself again to make a great (often, first) impression!
The basics of working on your “client experience” as an in-house legal team
The exercise I’ve had much success with involves taking a task that comes up regularly.
Let's take the very concrete example of negotiating a contract. We can then break this task down into all the "moments of truth" that we can think of.
For example, first, you are contacted by your sales team; then comes the first meeting; then the first contract draft; then the first exchange with the partner; the second contract draft, perhaps a physical negotiation meeting, the signing of the contract and then the implementation of the contract internally… and so on and so forth. You can unravel the entire process.
The idea is to take each of these elements and sort them into two columns:
- What you're doing today
- What you could be doing tomorrow to improve the customer experience
For example, when you’re contacted by a salesperson, the legal team could commit to responding within 24 hours (where legitimately possible). This will manage expectations and deliver a better client experience.
List all ideas where you can improve for each of the "moments of truth". By the end, you'll have a whole new process!
Define and commit to your "client promise"
Ideally, the whole team decides to make what is called a "client promise". This is the new way of doing things that the whole legal team has decided to implement.
You could all decide to respond to all emails within 24 hours. But be sure to be clear! Replying does not necessarily mean giving the solution but acknowledging the request at an absolute minimum.
You can simply write back: "Thanks for your email. I’m currently working on a prioritised topic and I'll get back to you by Friday". This is an answer. But for your internal (or external for that matter), it changes their experience! Instead of worrying that their e-mail was swallowed by a black hole from which it will never return, they are confident that their email was received and that it will be processed in the near future.
There are endless examples of improving the client experience to build stronger relationships, offer confidence to your internal or external clients, and streamline processes!
So how about it? Are you ready? Which tasks would you like to improve? And how? Over to you to create the best client experience for your respective teams and company!