The Art and Science of Law

Cost of Poor Quality and the Case for Customer Surveys

Quality: if you're outside counsel, it might not be what you think it is.




08:00pm EST

A cornerstone truth of every quality management system is that the customer defines quality.  Of course, clever advertising can create an affinity for this brand of coffee, or that breakfast cereal.  But, by the same token, if the customer is really craving corn flakes, delivering the world’s most perfectly executed eggs benedict won’t put a smile on her face.  

This is a simple reality legal practitioners sometimes have trouble fully accepting. We lose sight of the fact that if a service either takes longer than the client wanted, or costs more than they budgeted (yes, budgeted!) the service was not a high quality service, and it doesn’t matter if every case citation was Shepardized, or if all of the legal assistants went to Dartmouth.  We get fixated on perfecting that hollandaise sauce—all the while our client is drumming her fingers impatiently, and calculating how much more this will cost that than the corn flakes she wanted in the first place.

That client may pay her bill, but she won’t be back, and she definitely won’t tell her friends to try you . . . in fact, she may warn them to steer clear.  These are just a few of the Costs of Poor Quality (COPQ)  

One way to begin closing any gaps between your customers’ needs and your service delivery is to implement a voice of the customer survey.  These can be virtual or in person (and there are lots of companies that provide these services—third parties can help ensure participant candor).  For some, the idea of a customer survey can be a harrowing business.  After all, if the check clears, isn’t that a sure sign of customer satisfaction?


But, maybe they use you on large matters, but think you’re too expensive for small-to-midsize claims.  Maybe they stay with you because you have institutional knowledge of the business, but wouldn’t refer you to peers, or use you on other types of work.  Maybe they pay their bill, but only after it’s been renegotiated, and always more than 60 days out.  Maybe you find yourself allocating a lot of non-billable time to remediate client issues.  Maybe you’re spending money on a technology tool, or other infrastructure that doesn’t meaningfully support what you clients actually need.

Whether you can quantify it or not, each of these things track directly to your revenues and profit margins.  So, it couldn’t hurt to ask.

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