What makes good client service?

An old-fashioned barber shop seems an unlikely place to gather client service insights. But consider how one purveyor of cuts and straight-razor shaves flourishes while its rival down the road languishes. It’s the same commodity service, but customers flock to the former because of the barber’s ability to identify and predict customers’ needs and to personalise their experience.

Legal firms, too, use intangibles to set themselves apart – and they’re looking beyond the profession to generate fresh ideas.

“The legal market is competitive and it’s becoming harder for law firms to distinguish their offering and to attract and retain clients,” says Andrew Willder, Chief Executive Partner at Lander & Rogers. “We can’t just limit ourselves to looking at what other law firms are doing. We increasingly look outside the law – for example, to accounting and advertising, and even technology firms.”

Hacking a path to the future

Lander & Rogers recently held its inaugural Hackathon, a two-day intensive workshop between mixed teams from all levels of the firm, collaborating with external coders and designers.

“Hackathons have become a popular way of stimulating innovation in other industries, and we wanted to explore using the process as a way of encouraging innovative thinking and developing ideas that would otherwise take months to get to prototype stage,” Willder says. “It really demonstrated to me that digital innovation is no longer just the domain of the IT team.”

Lander & Rogers is thus combining the best traditions of yesteryear with contemporary client service tools. This approach saw it shine at the Financial Review Client Choice Awards 2016, where it was named Best Law Firm (revenue $50m – $200m), and Best Professional Services Firm (revenue $50m – $200m) alongside consulting engineering firm Tonkin & Taylor.

From barber shop to barnyard

Great client service is about understanding your clients’ commercial drivers, their businesses, and industries, and seeking to improve your service offerings. “We are an experience-based business, much like taking a flight or a taxi, and every interaction with us has an effect on our clients' experience,” Willder says.

Lander & Rogers promotes a culture of ‘customer centricity’, a whole-of-firm approach that is led from the top down. “People who are happy and empowered at work are more likely to reflect this in their interactions with our clients, so we pay close attention to the happiness and wellbeing of our people,” he explains.

“One of our partners said, ‘Happy chickens make the best eggs’. Empowered people are more likely to reflect this in their interactions with clients, so we want to ensure that we continue to provide our people with a great working environment, which includes everything from flexible work arrangements through to office design.”

Remaining true to core values can prove challenging during periods of significant growth, such as that which Lander & Rogers has experienced over the past decade. “We have done a lot of work on this to ensure that our culture remains very collegiate and supportive,” Willder says. “Our unofficial workplace rules of engagement for everyone in the firm are: No blocking, no hogging and no wimping.” Lander & Rogers pays more than lip service to this notion, with the firm’s financial model remunerating collaborative behaviour.

Playing the long game

Like the busiest barbers, Lander & Rogers gets to know each client individually. Shunning the short-term financial metrics in favour of a broader perspective has resulted in many enduring partnerships. For example, the firm has worked with one of its retail clients since it opened its very first store.

“Over the years, it has grown into a national chain and our team has grown with the client in order to support them,” Willder says. The relationship with another longstanding client expanded when lawyers identified a hidden need in another area of the business. “Ultimately, large-scale portfolio work can be grown and developed from small beginnings,” Willder says.

Building better value

Thus, lawyers are encouraged to think beyond the immediate problem at hand. For example, Lander & Rogers’ Family & Relationship Law practice does a lot of work with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA).  “Earlier this year, they identified an opportunity to run a session on starting a business, at which lawyers from Corporate, Workplace Relations & Safety and Commercial Disputes teams presented,” Willder says.

This year, too, Lander & Rogers has hosted a range of events, including annual client economic briefings, and a panel discussion regarding the findings of the Independent Review by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission into the workplace culture at Victoria Police. “The best businesses work collaboratively and the best lawyers are collaborators who bring people together to create solutions,” says Willder.

Words by Denise Cullen

The articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily that of the Bank. You should seek independent professional advice before acting on any matters set out in the articles.