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The results of a major survey on the needs of law clients were released on Monday at the Legal Futures conference, with insightful results for all law firms with aspirations of success.

The research was conducted as part of an annual study by Peppermint Technology, with primary findings telling us that quality of customer service trumps cost, whether the clients be consumer or corporate.

Immediately, firms can learn from this research that they need to provide a consistently personalised experience, quality customer service and advice whilst remaining at a competitive price.

The story differs slightly when bringing first time customers on board, before they have had a chance to experience customer service. In this case providing a fixed price remains an important factor. Once the new client has been gained it is important to use quality customer service to retain them. It is at this point the price becomes a less important factor.

The research into billing itself has shown that a fixed rate is by far the preferred method of billing, whilst hour based billing is considered to have potential to create bitter relationships. Firms appear to meet this request with a high majority offering fixed fees, capped fees and/or success based fees.

On deciding between firms, more than half of clients claimed that it was not price, but recommendation of a friend or colleague would be the most persuasive factor.

What firms have mistakenly assumed however, and may need to work on in the future, is communication method. Individual clients, especially those of the older generation, prefer face-to-face communication, whilst firms are becoming slightly absorbed with technology and assuming remote communication is adequate.

Peppermint’s final word on this research is that “Old-fashioned customer service and strong relationships remain critically important to business clients and new entrants that try to win market share based on price or technological innovation are unlikely to prove successful. But if they can provide both (as well as innovative fee structures) while also preserving the traditional lawyer-client relationship, then the future could look very different indeed.”

You can read more about this research here.