April 27, 2009
Ease-of-Use for Services: Will we ever get there?
Client service. In our view, that huge gap between the promise and the reality has rendered the term "client service" nearly meaningless. Even for those who deeply care about the crusade of delivering "it", this simple idea generates much loathing and guilt. It's a mantra we repeat to ourselves, to our employees, and to our customers. We believe that if we say "it" enough, "it" will come. Service providers really do institute--but rarely work at and enforce--regime after regime of CS. The reason: CS is much harder than it looks. You weave your skills into a buyer's "experience" of them, and deliver them together as One Thing. CS is a hard-acquired habit. It never was easy. Never supposed to be easy. So...
What if the services sector, now King, competed for clients and customers on the basis of "Ease-of-Use"? Develop and apply ease-of-use concepts for products and goods to pure services? Our clients' services? Our services? Law. Accounting. Consulting. Advertising. Newer and non-traditional services, too. Anything where a service (something valuable but "invisible") or product-service mix is part of what you pay for.
In other words, ease-of-use for services.
Services are pretty much Everything these days--and the direction global markets now march, in good and bad times.
Consider for a moment just products. In 2006, The Folgers Coffee Company was awarded an Ease-of-Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation for its AromaSeal™ Canister. If you're a Folgers® drinker, you notice that Folgers® added an easy-to-peel tin freshness seal (no need for a can-opener), a new "snap-tight" lid and even a grip on its plastic red can.
Folgers® did it for coffee cans. IBM and CISCO have ease-of-use programs for the products they sell. The great companies many of us represent do spend money and expertise on making their goods, equipment and products usable.
Think about your car, your luggage, your TV remote (well, strike that one), your watch and even grips on household tools. Think about Apple, Dell and Microsoft. Each year they think through your experience with their products and try to make it better. Continuous improvement models for "things."
Develop and apply ease-of-use concepts to pure services? Our clients' services? Our services? Sure, why not? It's probably coming anyway, even while it will be infinitely harder to do for services than for products. WAC? has noted before that even corporate clients that sell goods see themselves as selling solutions and not products.
By 2004, services sold alone or as support features to the sale of goods and products accounted for over 65% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the US, 50% of the United Kingdom's GDP and 90% of Hong Kong's. Even products sold by IBM and CISCO, now chiefly service companies, are part of a services-products mix in which the services component is the main event.
Law firms, of course, have always sold services. And we are a small but powerful engine in the growth of the services sector. We strategize with and guide big clients every day. While that's all going on--day in and day out--what is it like for the client to work with you and yours? Are clients experiencing a team--or hearing and seeing isolated acts by talented but soul-less techies? Do you make reports and communications short, easy and to the point? Who gets copied openly so clients don't have to guess about who knows what? Is it fun (yeah, we just said "fun") to work with your firm? How are your logistics for client meetings, travel and lodging? Do you make life easier? Or harder? Are you accessible 24/7? In short, aside from the technical aspects of your service (i.e., the client "is safe"), do your clients "feel safe"?
What if law firms--or any other service provider for that matter--"thought through," applied and constantly improved the delivery of our services and how clients really experience them?
And then competed on it...?
Posted by JD Hull at April 27, 2009 03:08 AM
I actually believe few things would be better in improving ease of use for lawyers and clients than widespread deployment of document assembly software with version tracking and collaboration tools. This kind of software allows everyone to escape the version tracking nightmare of emailing attachments back and forth, and makes it much easier to work together to close a deal. Applications in this space include Dealbuilder from Business Integrity, Lexpertise.net, and, of course, my web site, WhichDraft.com.
Posted by: Jason Mark Anderman at April 26, 2009 11:42 PM
As usual, Dan, when it comes to all things client service, you are right on the money. The way so many firms have bragged about client service (see, all you need to do is do it our way!), the phrase client service now has the significance of elevator music. But when one experiences great client service, whether at a hotel, a department store or a law firm, you know it.
Posted by: Patrick Lamb at April 27, 2009 10:40 AM