Key Trends in Client Service That Lawyers Need to Know

Though it seems counter-intuitive, these days, top client service depends more on digital engagement and self-service options than personal human interaction. 

At least that’s one of the findings of the 2022 State of Service Report sponsored by Salesforce, reports ZDNet.  The report found that not only are companies increasingly engaging customers through digital channels, but 57 percent of customers prefer digital channels to other types of interaction.

Phone is On the Decline, While Text, Mobile, and Video for Customer Interaction Are on the Rise

The chart above shows the engagement tools being used in the post-pandemic world. The number of companies using phone and email both have declined by roughly 15 percent. Meanwhile, 15 percent more companies are using video and community forums to engage customers in 2022 than back in 2020.  Other channels – such as online forms, social media, and customer portals have remained the same.  And while it’s tempting to chalk up the change in communication protocols to reduced workforce staff or the pandemic, it bears repeating that this type of interaction is preferred by 57 percent of customers.

Self-Service Is Favored for Simple Matters

Good customer service also means a healthy dose of self-service.  A full 59 percent of customers prefer self-service tools for simple questions and issues – though 81 percent prefer the phone for more complex matters.

What Can Lawyers Learn From Customer Self-Service Trends?

Self-service can be good enough: Most lawyers assume that all clients want personalized, direct white glove service.  But the reality is that clients are as busy as lawyers and don’t necessarily have time to schedule phone calls or come into the office to address an issue. And the State of Service report proves that they don’t have to.  That said, keep in mind that the study covered interactions with existing customers; mileage may vary when it comes to prospective clients with an urgent need who aren’t yet familiar with your firm.

Invest in a variety of communication channels: The chart above shows a myriad of digital communication tools for engaging clients- text, video, social media, portals and community forums and mobile apps. Lawyers should maximize use of as many of these tools as possible, as all are  relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and integrate with most practice management and CRM platforms.  And while granted, some tools (e.g., a community forum or social media) aren’t appropriate for communicating one on one with clients, they can still be used to convey more general information.

Self-Service can be a win-win:  As I’ve posted before, self-service isn’t solely an economic phenomenon with a goal of saving money but a sea change in attitude in today’s clients who want the flexibility to control their experience with providers.  Self-service thus aligns the interest of clients with lawyers, who likewise benefit from the removal of small matters on their plate so that they can focus on larger problems.

Self-Service Isn’t Assembly Line Service Just because clients prefer digital media for service, doesn’t mean that service doesn’t matter or that clients want assembly-line treatment.  If you offer self-service options, make sure they function correctly. For example, sending clients through repeating loops on a not-ready-for-primetime chatbot will frustrate clients or result in angry phone calls and negative reviews.  Likewise, trying to respond to a complex legal question by text may not be appropriate.  To maximize success of self-service, lawyers should try to build in personalization and offer a table or menu showing what types of matters are best resolved by a given self-service product.

The Bottom Line for Lawyer Engagement – Times are changing, and a new generation of clients raised on digital communication will soon comprise the majority of our business – if they don’t already.  So if you haven’t invested in digital communication and self-service options, you’re not serving your law firm or your clients.