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Following on from last month's post 'Relationships + Insight = Opportunity (Part 1)', Kevin Wheeler looks at how to build a 'knowledge pool' on your clients to keep you ahead of the pack.
So, you’ve identified the key decision-makers at the client, ascertained their level of influence in determining which law firms are used by their organisation, and mapped the strength of relationships that the lawyers on your client service team
have with these individuals. Now the client service team need to pool their intelligence on the client and conduct additional research to build the necessary insight which will allow them to fully exploit all the opportunities that exist at the client.
At Wheeler Associates, we call this building a ‘knowledge pool’.
The other components of this knowledge pool are:
Understanding the client’s business and industry is a basic requirement for providing effective client service by a lawyer. Sitting back and waiting for instructions is lazy. The most effective lawyers make it their job to be aware of their client’s
plans, and developments in their industry, so that they can proactively offer advice.
The client service team need to be able to answer the following questions:
The greatest source of opportunity for any law firm will come from seeking objective feedback on current performance from its key clients. Because so few law firms do this – our research shows that just around 10% of client / law firm relationships
are formally audited on a regular basis – and as most clients welcome the opportunity to provide feedback, those firms that do so can achieve a huge client service advantage over their competitors.
As well as periodic client service reviews conducted by an independent party, say, every 18-24 months, firms should ideally commission post matter reviews conducted after every significant piece of work undertaken for the client, and also ensure that
the CRP carries out quarterly reviews with the client specifically to explore client service issues.
Understanding how the firm is making money from each of its key client relationships is crucial for effective key account management. The CRP and his/her team need to work closely with the firm’s finance department to understand how to drive revenue
and profit increases from the account.
The following questions need to be answered:
Firms should never be obsessed with the other law firms acting for their key clients. Major organisations will usually use a range of firms for different things and many will have formalised panels to manage this activity. The first priority should be
to do an excellent job for the client, which if achieved should ensure increased loyalty from the client, continued instructions, and referrals.
Having said this, some monitoring of competitor activity is sensible. If the firm has a robust feedback regime in place, feedback on competitor activity should flow from this. The key is to identify any areas of weakness by competitors which the client
service team can then exploit, hopefully by displacing the other firm(s), or areas of threat, say, a competitor offering the client a novel solution, which can then be countered.
The team need to answer these questions:
Kevin Wheeler is a consultant and coach with nearly 30 years’ experience advising professional services firms on all aspects of business development. He has particular expertise in designing and implementing KAM programmes for law firms, and coaches CRPs and their service teams to deliver great client service.
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