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“Your Client Is Your Business”: How Addleshaw Goddard’s tech-led approach to client listening brings the client into the conversation

By Bertie Heppel
Insights

“Your Client Is Your Business”: How Addleshaw Goddard’s tech-led approach to client listening brings the client into the conversation

By Bertie Heppel
Law
“Your Client Is Your Business”: How Addleshaw Goddard’s tech-led approach to client listening brings the client into the conversation

International law firm Addleshaw Goddard is advanced in its client listening capabilities, having transformed its client listening programme in a relatively short space of time. Instrumental to the change has been AG’s Head of Client Programme, Sarah Duke.

We catch up with the firm's Head of Client Programme, Sarah Duke, as part of our Client Listening Maturity Index Benchmarking (CLIMB) campaign, to discuss how the firm has taken inspiration from beyond the professional services sector and invested in technology as the cornerstone of success. Below, we explore her thoughts, advice, and plans for the future.

Winning hearts and minds

Sarah was brought into the firm to enhance its client management programme,  embed client feedback as a key tool to strengthen client relationships, and make proactive changes to the client experience. A big contributing factor to the success of the programme has been gaining the backing and support of Addleshaw Goddard’s managing partner, who believed in the programme and was able to encourage partners to get involved and act on the feedback received.

Once off the ground, the advantages of the programme spoke for themselves. “Gaining confidence in client listening is about showing our partners the benefits,” explains Sarah, “Obviously there are benefits to the client from working with a law firm that values their opinions and future aspirations,  but the benefit to the partner is that they can be more mindful of the decisions that they make,  grow their sector, spot trends, and get ahead of the conversation.”

Central to her internal communications was a focus on returns on investment. “'We find every interview we do leads to a new opportunity to either build a new relationship or uncover a new workstream – every single one.”

Investing in technology

Sarah found that the programme grew “to the point where we just were doing too much to manage in a spreadsheet”. The next stage was to secure investment for a Qualtrics platform to ensure that Addleshaw Goddard could track the results of their client feedback programme effectively.

The platform enabled the firm to “truly interrogate the data we're collecting, look at the sentiment analysis behind what the clients are saying, and map the trends that we know are there quarter-to-quarter”. It also helped in creating a holistic, high-level view of the issues facing the firm by “enabling us to find those trends that we might be missing” across different practice groups; this in turn has created a framework for partners to share knowledge on solving some of the problems raised in the client listening.

Most importantly, the technology provided a ticketing functionality that was instrumental in ensuring that partners followed up on the insight gleaned in the interview, thus ensuring that the client feels the positive results of their feedback.

Looking beyond law for inspiration

With the benefit of her background in implementing client feedback programmes across the real estate sector, Sarah was reluctant to treat client listening in the legal sector as a wholly different beast. “Before I came here,” Sarah says, “I was told that law firms in general were uncomfortable with change and not to fight against things you can’t fix. But I didn't see that at AG.”  What’s more, client expectations around good service aren’t set solely by their experiences with the legal sector: “our clients are buying from lots of different businesses, not just law firms”.

Undertaking feedback on the client’s terms rather than the partner’s terms has been central to enabling a more tech-led, informal approach to client listening.

Linking the findings to all parts of the business

Client listening goes further than the relationship between the client and the fee-earner, as Sarah explains: “Our clients experience every internal team we have: they experience our HR team, our tech team, our finance team, the admin function – all of it, whether they see it or not.” So client listening can be used to improve all aspects of the business. Addleshaw Goddard has made full use of the findings from listening to their clients, feeding it into the firm's business and communications strategies, pricing decisions, HR decisions around staff reward and recognition, and even aided with staff retention.

Key to this success has been ensuring that all business services teams in AG work together to deliver on the feedback raised in the client listening programme: “Feedback is not just a marketing or business development tool, and it's not just for the partners to do something with – client feedback informs the way all of us work together.” For Sarah, the next step will be to interlace the results of the client listening programme with an internal staff survey with the aim of exploring the correlation between client service KPIs and employee satisfaction.

Client listening can help professional services firms reap benefits in almost every aspect of their business. By implementing a holistic, tech-led approach, Addleshaw Goddard has shown how.

Drop me a message if you’d like to understand how Meridian West can support your firm in developing your client listening programme. Take our Client Listening Maturity Index Benchmarking survey to understand where your firm sits in comparison to competitors and uncover how you can continue to innovate your approach to client listening.