I was reminded through a couple of examples this week of the importance of listening to your customers if you are a product or service provider. It’s stating the obvious: if you want to sell something to someone, you ought to know what they think, Duh…
Yet, lots of lawyers seem to resist the notion of asking their clients what they think of the lawyer’s work, the lawyer, and the law firm. Like its somehow beneath the lawyer to ask what can be done better? What was done poorly?
So here are the examples that brought home the notion of the advantages of listening. The first example occurred when I had a catch-up chat with Alex Babin, CEO of a company called Zero, this past week. I have known Babin for a while and have written previously about his company. When I last talked to him, Zero was touting an email management system designed to work with mobile devices. (It also provides similar features for desktops but really shines with mobile use). I thought it was pretty cool at the time. It provided an elegant and relatively solution for keeping track of emails without a lot of input from people, thus saving time.
I was surprised when Alex sent me some materials in advance of the call describing the company as one that provided “a next-generation AI solution.” According to the materials Zero uses “autonomous virtual agents to mimic human decision-making in high-value, repetitive processes, increasing individual users’ productivity and accuracy, and ultimately bringing more profit to the law firm and helping stop knowledge attrition.” Say what? What happened to the emails??? I wasn’t sure it was even the same company.
But when I talked to Alex, it started to make sense what Zero was doing. According to Alex, Zero had transformed itself based not on internal navel study but through actual, in depth conversations with its customers. What Zero’s customers told it was that Zero was not an email management software company like it thought. It was, in fact, an automation provider company. What Zero was really selling and providing—what it was good at— was processes to automate tasks and data.
The realization led Zero to focus on a handful of high-value repetitive tasks that lawyers do, which could be better automated. This feedback inspired Zero to create its Cognitive Productivity Automation (CPA) tool. The tool acts as a virtual intelligent assistant. It trains itself to perform specific tasks like information prioritization and data classification, or email management and time capture to help law firms increase billable hours and capture more revenue. According to Babin, Zero aims to be the “Lamborghini of automation.”
What services are the lawyers providing that clients value? What are the lawyers doing well? Where do they excel?
In essence, says Babin, conversations with customers led it to a “repositioning and right messaging.” Perceptively, Babin told me that “companies have to realize who they are, and this must come from clients.” Lawyers need a similar mindset: as I have written before, they need to ask what business they are in. And more importantly, if you follow Babin’s logic, you need to ask clients what business the client thinks the lawyers are in. What services are the lawyers providing that clients value? What are the lawyers doing well? Where do they excel?
The second demonstration of the importance of listening came not from my interview with a provider but the podcast of my good friend Brett Burney. Burney recently interviewed another friend of mine, Tara Cheever, on Burney’s podcast, Apps in Law. Cheever is the founder of LIT SOFTWARE, along with Ian O’Flaherty.
LIT SOFTWARE provides three (and now four) platforms for litigators and others who present: TrialPad, TranscriptPad, DocReview Pad, and now ExhibitsPad. Cheever reviewed the history of LitSoftware on the podcast, which in and of itself is fascinating—Ian and Tara recognized the power of the IPad for lawyers and never looked back. She also offered the truism that most nine year olds can create better power points and presentations than a good many lawyers. She gave a damn good argument why lawyers should use presentation technology to be persuasive, particularly now. Again, this is a subject I am passionate about as well. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, I strongly recommend it,
One more thing did get my attention. As successful as LIT SOFTWARE has been in large part owning the trial presentation space, it’s always looking to offer new and improved products. Like Zero, it does this based on what its customers are telling it.
According to Cheever, LIT SOFTWARE “loves Its customers.” It loves them not lonely because they buy the product but because, according to Cheever, “They help us to make sure the apps are not just useable but used.” As Cheever put it, “if you buy software and it’s on your computer, but you are not using it, it’s useless!”
And the only way to know this is to ask your customers what’s being used, what they need. Again from Cheever: “when our customers say we are loving this, but it could just add this additional feature…more than a couple of times, that’s what we do…we add the feature.”
Listening. Following up on what your customers tell you. Loving your customers (clients).
Listening. Following up on what your customers tell you. Loving your customers (clients). (How many lawyers can really say they love their clients and want to be sure they are getting super service).
Why is this so hard for lawyers? Is it innate arrogance: thinking they are somehow “better sauce” and its below them to ask? Is it just hubris? That’s an attitude that’s hard to wash out–even with strong bleach. A friend of mine says every lawyer should be required before bar admission to spend some time waiting tables to understand the value of customer service. (Edward Bellamy suggested just this in the novel Looking Backward).
Whatever it is, as I have discussed before and has been well established, clients, by and large, aren’t terribly happy with their lawyers. Maybe it’s the arrogance and because lawyers don’t ask and don’t listen to their clients’ wants and needs. Lawyers need to lose their attitude and be more like their vendors. Like Zero and LIT SOFTWARE. Ask, listen and respond. Love your clients.
It shouldn’t be that hard.