Did you see this article in The Legal Intelligencer (also on law.com) about how Ballard Spahr hired a "non-lawyer" to interview clients with the sub-title, "Could this new form of communicating with clients lead to the end of law firm marketing?"
A few thoughts:
- Interviewing clients for fun and profit isn't new, but it is hard to do consistently. Instituting firm-wide standards and practices to gain feedback on client satisfaction and opportunity identification is contrary to most silo-based law firm cultures.
- The managing partner of Ballard claims that they will focus on interviewing the top 300 of the firm's clients in the first year. Good luck. Most firms are happy to do quality interviews of a dozen or twenty clients in a year. Still, they get points for hiring someone to do interviews and orchestrate a client service initiative.
- The article interviews a consultant from Altman Weil, who I truly believe was misquoted, indicating that if firms listen to their clients through feedback programs such as this AND they have a strong sales functions, then law firm marketing as we know it will not be necessary. While I agree that firms need to listen to their clients in order to provide a custom experience, and that firms need to develop a refined sales process, we will still need law firm marketers for many reasons, if only to support and direct these efforts.
Client service interviews are becoming big business. Many firms are quietly conducting top client satisfaction surveys in one form or another. In fact, a new generation of consultants - outsourced interviewers - are emerging and growing. You can now hire experienced, professional and insightful interviewer from firms such as Wicker Park Group, Zeughauser Group, as well as multi-disciplinary consultancies such as Altman Weil and Hildebrandt.