Friday, February 17, 2006

Lawyers-Customer Service and The Brand

I had recently read a post where a law student at a symposium was asked what she thought about all the various recruitment pamphlets sent to her from various law firms. Her response was of course predictable. You appear to be all the same was her reply. And of course real world customers or potential client customers see it the same way.

I had to really think about this one and after researching all the appropriate links my take on lawyers and law firms in regards to branding and customer service hasn't changed. This is of course based on my experience as a customer experience architect and customer service consultant.

Branding and customer service is an accumulation of various customer experiences and the result of their direct interaction with the customer with or on those experiences.

Law firms or individuals are not customer sensitive when comes to meeting and understanding needs and this comes out of the arrogance born of the aristocratic methods and attitudes of teaching in various law schools and the focus of personal achievement in attaining milestones or case awards over customer service. Rarely is their focus on the customer as a customer and in the development of experience management.

I know you and the 100 or so attorneys that I know are going to yell and scream over this. The Law industry is product focused, not customer or client focused, never has been and in this lies the issue. The Law student very simply and powerfully underlined this in her statement and when law professionals work with the client it is also demonstrated in the relationship that is formed.

If you want to take it a step further perhaps the lawyer jokes could be used as another broad market indicator. These exist because of the self centric view and function of those who are members of the law bar.

Branding is then built around this perception of self and takes a somewhat arrogant position in relationship to the client or potential client. The negative view of attorneys is because of the constant unfulfilled promises of the brand.

Branding is only a part of the equation. However, it is the visible part. The other and stronger part of the equation is centered in the perception and relationship to the client and those experiences that are either directly or indirectly influential in the clients interaction with the firm and its members.

For law firms or individual Lawyers to really move to effective branding and customer centered experience management they need to change their perspective and the perceptions perpetuated by the general society in which they function i.e. promise fulfillment.

There is a great misperception about the power of the brand and loyalty as well. Although somewhat associated the brand only delivers the perceived promise (effective, efficient, reliable, low cost, always win etc) the resulting performance of the firm or individual will determine the fulfillment of that promise and the extent to which a trust bridge is drawn between the lawyer and the client. It is the experiences of the client that build this trust bridge that determines customer loyalty and/or the return of the client. If the promise of the brand, and subsequent marketing meets the need of the client and is fulfilled then trust is extended.

The problem is that most branding in this area either offers no promise (law student observation) or its perceived promises are often misleading and unfulfilled i.e. customer expectations and customer need.

The result is that the Law profession will keep struggling in understanding and determining brand identity. As a result, in the customers eyes all brands are the same.

Please feel free to leave your comments or observations as a part of the blogging and business community.

For more information on customer service and customer experience management please check out The Customer Development Center

1 comment:

Glenn said...

Marketing and lawyering require two different skillsets. You are correct when you say that lawyers are focused on "products" not customers. Ask the marketing staff at any large law firm and they'll fill you full of horror stories of how lawyers percieve marketing.

Perhaps in their undergrad days, those intending to become lawyers should take more business and marketing courses. Same for other professionals such as physicians.