How well do you know your clients? Well, if you’re working in big tech, pretty well. Or commerce, for that matter. Even banks have a very accurate picture of their customers. The ability to download your data profile on Facebook has made us painfully aware of how much data we create. The motivation behind all this is pretty clear. If you know your customers, you can sell to them better. Better still, you can avoid harassment of those who are unlikely to ever buy your products. Clearly, the benefits of knowing your clients are evident. So why are so many companies complaining that this isn’t the case? And how can firms collect client feedback and understand their clients better?

Do you have a feedback loop?

Before a firm can analyse data about clients, it must be collected. While firms already hold a huge amount of data about clients, they often lack a feedback loop. By this, we mean actively asking clients what they thought of the service they received. Did your lawyer understand the business concerns sufficiently? Did you receive the right paperwork at the right time? We have all filled out one of those little surveys after we have stayed in a hotel. Have we all done the same after using a lawyer?

Having built this feedback loop, firms must also learn how to make the feedback visible. Firms are often vast, filled with hundreds of different departments and practice groups. All, however, must answer to clients. As such, it is important that all departments collect and share feedback from clients. In this way, teams can collaborate to ensure that improvements are implemented across the board. Innovative Dutch firm, Kneppelhout Korthals, have already implemented this strategy to great success.

Use your data to understand your clients

For many firms, getting hold of data on their clients is not difficult. Firms keep meticulous records of the work they carry out for clients, and of the clients needs themselves. As ever, the difficulty lies in making that information structured. Because much of this information is stored in plain text, reading through it all would be too time consuming. Instead, firms must look to tools which can read, analyse and then categorise this data in order to better understand their clients. At Clocktimizer, we see a number of different ways firms use the information held in time-sheet data, to provide insights on their clients.

The looming Brexit crisis is likely to keep firms busy. But not every company is aware of the potential legal implications. Thus, firms which can identify which clients have made use of visa or employment related work, can be proactive in getting in touch with these clients to discuss Brexit related employment issues. By using Clocktimizer to read and analyse time-cards, firms can identify keywords relating to current events. Accordingly, firms can ensure happier clients, by identifying and contacting those most likely to need legal assistance.

Why existing clients cost less than new clients

The logic is this. Bringing on board new clients costs considerably more than increasing sales to existing clients. “A 5% increase in customer retention produces more that a 25% increase in profit” (Bain & Co.) Therefore, firms which can identify cross selling opportunities in their existing client base, are likely to see better profit margins. One of the simplest ways of cross selling, is to identify which practice groups are not working with specific clients. This could be because the client does not need the service. However, it could equally be because the client uses an alternate firm for this service. Clocktimizer breaks down client relationships to show which practice groups or teams work with a client, to inform cross selling opportunities.

In addition, firms must pay attention to each client’s key contacts within the firm. After all, when senior lawyers leave a firm, they often take their best clients with them. Accordingly, good firms must ensure they do not have a single point of failure. Ensuring each client has a strong relationship with multiple team members, across multiple practice groups, makes it unlikely that your firm will lose business. However, it can often be difficult to identify those key players in the huge amounts of work done for each client. At Clocktimizer, we create social graphs, which model the relationships between clients and lawyers. Where team members show multiple connections, they can be identified as a key link within a matter. Firm management can then invest time in spreading those connections to prevent the loss of that client.

Be data driven in your client relationships

The personal element of clients relationships cannot be understated. However, in many firms that exists at the detriment of the collection of data. Firms should seek a balance between the two in order to truly understand and improve their service. Data in this instance can be objective; like knowing what matters you have running, across which practice groups, for which clients. But it can also be subjective, like looking for feedback to improve service delivery. The successful collection of any data will come down to the tools used to understand, process and act on it. A lesson that the most successful firms are already learning.