Friction is first and foremost about client expectations.
With friction, clients are not satisfied or satisfied enough to stay with you or recommend you.
You can see the downward spiral.Being frictionless means you took steps to eliminate complexity. You optimized everything that impacts the client experience, and you continue to do so because competitors are behind you working to do the same. Ultimately, you make client experiences as seamless as possible—from your website content and interactions to the way you and your staff answer the phone to the timely and reasonable bill your client pays.
When you are a frictionless law firm:
- You gain client loyalty.
- You retain clients.
- You gain referrals.
- Your firm’s spiral is upward.
That’s the way we’ve always done it!
This type of justification is just like “Professionals don’t touch keyboards!” or the more generic, “It’s good enough!”
Attorneys are known to resist change (along with a few other types of professionals). But you can’t be stubborn about client expectations that are above what you deliver; you have too many competitors.
Some firms are smaller, entrepreneurial, and embrace change. They’ll take your “satisfied” clients. And large firms with forward-thinking, growth-focused, profit-oriented leaders will take clients from small firms with competitive services and fees. In short, because these frictionless law firms meet and exceed client expectations at EVERY point of interaction, they win.
How do I become a frictionless law firm?
By meeting and exceeding client expectations at every point of interaction.
You must identify every way that clients or potential clients may interact with your firm:
- Website – How quickly does it open and change pages? Is the quality of colors, pictures, formatting, etc. compromised in some way? How easy is it for a visitor to interact with your site?
- Website Content – Is it a glorified brochure or do you offer articles, webinars, and other value-creating content?
- Inbound Calls – How is the phone answered? What do you have as on-hold content: dead air, music (have you checked the volume), useful information, or a commercial? Does anyone check the on-hold time in your phone system logs?
- Voice Messages – Does the receptionist, office manager, clerk, attorney, or partner jabber whatever comes to mind in whatever tone of voice happens to come out, or does everyone follow a protocol?
- Voicemail – Is it whatever the person wants to say, or does everyone follow a protocol that states your firm’s goal about response time and emergencies?
- Response Time for Messages and Voicemail – Is this up to whomever gets a voicemail or message, or do you have a protocol for responding within a set time?
This list can go on and on and on and include client intake, steps for common tasks and services, reminders, time and expense entry and approvals, billing, etc.
Feeling overwhelmed about becoming frictionless?
Don’t be. It comes down to “How do you eat an elephant?” Of course, one bite at a time.
The first step is to decide to make the investment: this may be time, money, or both. Just know that your investment will be worth it.
Once your law firm becomes frictionless, everyone—current and new people—will know what they need to do and how to do every task. With greater efficiency in the front and back office, you’ll reduce time and cost. Professionals will have time to do more work, including business development and cross-selling to clients. And staff will have time to do not only their current tasks but take on more.
In other words, your investment in becoming frictionless boosts revenues and profits.
Now, you might think that all you need to do is buy software. And yes, you do. Web apps—giving you access anywhere, anytime—will augment tasks that need to be done. Apps speed up tasks, especially when you invest time in learning how to use them fully.
However, investing in software is not the end of your investment, not a panacea. These are tools that support your optimized procedures and protocols.
Once you’ve made the decision to invest, to take the next bite of the elephant, you must define your tasks and their flow.
Become frictionless by defining your tasks and workflow.
In your next company meeting, assign a few task definitions to the person who knows the task best and how it should be done. For example, how do we answer the firm telephone and handle the client request? Or, how do we onboard a new tax client?
To completely define each task, you should:
- Title the task.
- Describe each step in the process.
- Describe what tools will be used: software, tablet, mobile phone, etc.
- Describe the information to capture, share, or eliminate.
- Identify who handles each step.
- Include the expected time to complete the task.
- Identify any decisions that need to be made and what to consider.
Now, in the next meeting, present the task process to everyone. Discuss additional steps, decision points, and tools that should be part of the process. Talk about not only what is done today, but what to do to improve the task process.
For example, if the task is a caller making a request, during the task process meeting, ask the group what additions and/or changes need to be made. The goal should be to refine the process as well as suggest tools to optimize the client experience. For instance:
- Match the caller ID to a client, prospect, or existing contact. If the person calling is not in your contact file, then ask them if they are new, should be added, etc.
- Ask why they are calling. Is this a salesperson calling and trying to get to a partner who is very busy?
- Use a chat app to alert a person about the call: who, what, why, etc.
Depending on how far you need to take the situation, you might tell the caller the partner or staff is in a meeting or a work-only period.
The key result from these meetings and discussions should be a checklist for each task to document the workflow. But, why create checklists?
- For business continuity
- To know what is supposed to happen and reduce errors
- To identify opportunities for improvement (now and over time)
- To assign responsibility for each task
- To ramp up new employees quicker
- To handoff tasks to support staff with confidence
- To ensure consistent quality
Of course, checklists are only valuable if they are used. As each step is completed, the person should check off the item. Later, someone should confirm the steps were followed.
Checklists are living things.
Client expectations do not stay the same forever. The workflow checklists you create and use to eliminate friction must be living things: changing and adapting. You will need to revisit them periodically, identifying new elements to reduce the friction of earning new clients, delivering products, and so on.
A few frictionless law firms shared what they added to their workflows to exceed client expectations:
- Email invoices and statements to all clients to smooth out the process and reduce delays.
- Have their software automatically attach expense receipts to emailed invoices, reducing the questions that otherwise arise when a client reviews Accounts Payable.
- Include a payment portal link on all invoices and statements for easy and fast payment, reducing the client’s effort and time spent paying the bill.
- Add an eBook on their website that walks a client (or prospect) through the probate process, thus reducing the time involved in the initial client conference and meeting.
- Email a copy of a tax return to the client, speeding up the process and eliminating the need to keep both paper and electronic copies.
- Add a web app that generates probate pleadings much faster than using the court's PDF forms.
The bottom line.
Becoming a frictionless law firm is essential to success now and in the future.