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“Fearless Feedback” Transforms Client Listening at Mills & Reeve

By Ben Kent

“Fearless Feedback” Transforms Client Listening at Mills & Reeve

By Ben Kent
Client listening
“Fearless Feedback” Transforms Client Listening at Mills & Reeve

As part of Meridian West’s CLIMB (Client Listening Maturity Benchmark) campaign, we sat down with Kirsty Shenton, Head of Client Care at Mills & Reeve to discuss the firm’s approach to client listening. Through promoting a culture of "fearless feedback", Kirsty and her team have developed an annual client listening programme that is highly valued throughout the firm. Below we explore four key steps Mills & Reeve has taken to build a programme delivering consistently rich and actionable client data.

1: Transitioning from reactive to proactive listening.

Before Kirsty’s time at Mills & Reeve, the firm had been undertaking sporadic but thorough client service reviews for many years. These occasional bursts of listening provided valuable insight, but much of this insight was not shared widely across the firm. Kirsty noticed an opportunity for more. A proactive approach to client listening could deliver more value.

The first step Kirsty took was establishing the mantra of “fearless feedback”, characterised by proactively reaching out to a broad range of clients for feedback and the client care and business development teams working closely on the collection, analysis, and sharing of client data. As Kirsty explains, in the beginning, service reviews were typically ad-hoc and “demand-driven” by partners or clients, which “inevitably led to quite a lot of cherry-picking of feedback”. While this approach can uncover useful insights on specific deals or relationships, its reactive and sporadic nature means it is unable to provide the breadth and volume of client data needed to spot trends over time.

In 2019, Mills & Reeve set about becoming “a leader in client experience” aiming for a highly ambitious 95% client recommendation rating by 2025. Kirsty and her team rolled out the annual "Fearless Feedback Survey”, as a way of measuring the firm’s success against this new strategy. The online survey, sent to over three thousand clients, epitomises the fearless feedback mantra. Respondents are asked six questions about satisfaction, likelihood to recommend, and four additional areas of client service. The survey is proving to be a real success, as Kirsty explains “the data we get is incredibly rich… we’re three years in and on average we receive around one thousand responses. We can analyse the feedback and go, okay, what are the consistent themes here?” Embracing a ‘fearless’ and more proactive approach has made client listening a key part of strategy planning for the firm. The trends Kirsty and her team have uncovered have “led to board-sponsored improvement projects on pricing, contracting, supervision, and more.”

2: Securing leadership buy-in.

Along with implementing a proactive approach to listening, getting the board to recognise and refer to client experience as a strategic priority has been critical to the programme’s ongoing success. Mills & Reeve ensures senior-level buy-in by explicitly tying client feedback metrics to the firm's published strategy. The 95% client recommendation rating by 2025 is a great example of this. Kirsty explains how this has “led to increased accountability and helped to reinforce the belief that improving client experience is a responsibility shared by everyone at the firm”.

Mills & Reeve has taken things a step beyond linking listening to strategy, with board-level ‘sponsors’ taking an active role in the listening process. Kirsty explains “each of our strategic accounts has a member of the board as part of the client team”. Whilst they don’t take the front-line role of a Client Relationship Partner (CRP), “they are always there as a point of escalation for the CRP, or to sense check ideas that the wider client team may have”. Having board-level sponsors bought into the listening process gives the programme constant momentum and keeps fearless feedback top of mind for everyone at the firm.

3: Presenting fearless feedback constructively to motivate change.

With leadership buy-in secured and a consistent stream of proactive feedback being collected, Kirsty recognised the importance of presenting client insights in a way that would lead to action and positive change. Kirsty’s team have worked hard to ensure that at Mills & Reeve, feedback is positioned as an opportunity to get better, not as criticism.

At its core, ‘fearless feedback’ is about embracing the voice of the client and seeing feedback as a vehicle to future success. In practice, this means being “really transparent about feedback, sharing it as generically as possible." Positioning feedback in such a way gives lawyers at Mills & Reeve the space to view it constructively rather than feeling the need to react defensively if challenging feedback is received.

4: Equipping your people to act on insights.

Client listening is a worthless exercise if no learnings or actions are taken from it. However, developing processes to act on feedback at scale is a challenge all firms face. Mills & Reeve take a highly organised approach to this essential part of the process, with the client care team playing a coordination role. The team carefully disseminates findings to practice group leaders, providing targeted recommendations that will improve the client experience. This gives lawyers a useful oversight of challenge areas and equips them with a ready-made toolkit of solutions to improve service. Having such a structured approach to acting on feedback helps ensure Mills & Reeve are in the best position to ‘close the loop’ on feedback and ultimately improve the service experience.

The proactive and fearless approach Mills & Reeve has taken to client listening exemplifies how a firm can become authentically client-centric. Click here to find out more about client listening at Mills & Reeve.