The Client Experience (CX), described as the “corner stone of professional services” by some, is a concept which many firms are actively making investments to enhance their client focus.
In our previous article CX, Technology and Legal Services, we examined CX within legal services and the role of technology in improving the external client’s experience. In this article, we explore CX within the in-house legal function, where clients are internal staff members, colleagues and business units.
First – an overview. CX in any context is the cumulation of a client’s interactions with a business or firm, from when they first hear about the business or firm, to the closing of the deal and beyond. Within the context of the internal legal function therefore, CX is cumulation of all interactions that internal staff members and business units have with the in-house legal department and its team.
The main objectives of CX is to provide a service or deliver a product in a way that meets (and exceeds) the client’s expectations. This first requires understanding the client and then managing communications and processes to ensure that what is delivered is aligned with what the client expects. Asking: ‘how do my clients experience the legal department?’ can provide insight and highlight areas of improvement. The key here is maintaining a client-centric focus.
Applied to the in-house function, lawyers must develop a framework for understanding their internal clients which subsequently, can be used to set benchmarks of clearly defined objectives and metrics for expected outcomes. This can include things such as expected wait times, task prioritisation, budget allocation and other preferences. That said, depending on the size of the organisation, the number of departments and number of employees, this can quickly become an insurmountable task. Therefore, a better place to begin is by engaging the firm’s leaders and identifying the organisation’s objectives. This will provide a big picture view and promote a shared understanding, which can then be refined or adjusted accordingly, for certain internal clients or internal departments.
Identifying the pain points can be achieved in several ways. Again, the chosen method is heavily dependent on the organisation, however essentially the goal is to receive feedback from internal clients (eg staff members) about their experience with the legal department. For larger organisations this might require a formal auditing process where an external provider is contracted to perform an evaluation. For smaller organisations, a company or department wide internal survey, informal interviews with line managers and/or regular observations might suffice. Whichever method, ensuring that the outcome increases understanding of the points of friction is critical to improving client experience.
Communication is a key aspect for a fulfilling CX, particularly in a digital age where clients demand prompt, informative and accessible content, or advice, where and when required. Here is where a legal team can implement collaboration tools and shared digital workspaces to streamline the communication with internal clients. These types of tools can resolve some common frustrations of engaging with the legal department, keep the client updated on who in the team is working on their matter and where they can also receive status updates as work progresses. An additional benefit of digital tools is that they can enable and encourage staff members to identify and more readily raise awareness of potential compliance or legal issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, and which they feel anxious about raising. This relates particularly to instances which involve employee misconduct and/or compliance breaches. That said, while digital tools can indeed enhance communication within the organisation, it is important that its scope and application remains supplementary to human interaction and engagement, rather than a substitution.
In addition to strong communication, being able to demonstrate the ability to efficiently manage processes (or agility) is a competency highly valued by customers, and in this context the internal client. This applies to a range of processes – from how a legal team manages projects, to how the legal team completes routine tasks or engages external counsel. Importantly, most processes can be enhanced by technology and the key here is identifying which tool or tools will be most beneficial for your team and increase the efficiency of managing the specific processes that routinely occur in your organisation.
Some tools to assist include:
These tools are instrumental in demonstrating the legal team’s competency, which can instil confidence in the client’s that their matters will be managed effectively and produce better legal outcomes. Importantly, using technology tools to streamline processes provides the entire organisation with a competitive advantage, as the legal department can invest additional time in more strategic and complex activities that contribute to the overall business goals.
Looking to the future there is no doubt that understanding and continuously improving CX (customer experience) and how the in-house legal department provides legal services to meet the needs and requirements of their internal clients will be absolutely critical. A greater appreciation and focus on this important aspect will also empower the legal team to develop strategies and plans that will enable them to dynamically support and enhance the organisations strategic goals.
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