Client feedback is a cornerstone of improving legal services and fostering growth. In this episode of the CMO Series Podcast, we delve into how law firms can adopt these best practices.
Alistair Bone is joined by Maggie Watkins, Founder of Maggie T. Watkins Consulting, and expert in crafting and implementing effective Client Feedback programs. Together, they unpack the critical role of client feedback in strengthening relationships and enhancing the overall success of law firms.
Maggie shares invaluable insights on adapting practices from outside the legal sphere to optimize the client experience and drive business development opportunities for law firms.
Maggie and Ali explore:
- The moment in Maggie’s career she realized the importance of client feedback
- What firms can learn from outside of the legal industry when developing client feedback programs
- How to introduce Client Feedback programs to firms and explain their value
- The key steps to launching a Client Feedback program
- The main challenges to getting Client Feedback programs off the ground
- How to analyze and leverage feedback to shape marketing and BD activities
- Advice for others looking to implement a successful Client Feedback program
Ali: Welcome to the Passle CMO Series Podcast where we talk all things marketing and business development. So as I'm sure a lot of the listeners know many industries are well versed in gathering client feedback to inform their marketing and business development efforts. When it comes to law firms, there is an opportunity to take the best practice approach from outside of the legal industry to enhance the client experience and create business development opportunities across the firm today. We're delighted to welcome someone who has extensive know-how in doing just that. I wanna welcome Maggie Watkins to the CMO Series to share her and valuable insights on creating and implementing meaningful client feedback programs that strengthen client relationships and contribute to the overall success of the firm.
Maggie: Well, thank you Ali. I'm delighted to be here.
Ali: It is an absolute pleasure. I'm thrilled that we have finally got you joining the CMO series podcast. But I understand that you might have a little bit of news for us as well.
Ali: Well, I do and I'm excited to announce that I'm launching a new company in September, Maggie T. Watkins Consulting a professional services, marketing and business development consultancy.
Ali: That is very, very exciting. And if you could see my face right now, I am beaming cos I know what huge success that's gonna be and I'm sure that everybody will be very excited to hear this and to be able to start working with you. So I guess best of luck for that venture and I look forward to seeing how it all goes.
Maggie: Thank you. I appreciate it very much. I'm excited too.
Ali: So today, we're obviously going to be talking around sort of the whole idea of client feedback and you've had a huge amount of experience in that. And I think in terms of the best place to start for our listeners, it would be really nice if you could just talk us through it. At what point in your career did you realize the importance of client feedback?
Maggie: Well, I'd be happy to do that, and client feedback is something that as you know, I'm very passionate about, I was fortunate enough to be recruited out of college by Aetna to sell employee benefit programs and pension plans to middle market companies. It was as I like to say, a heady job for somebody coming out of UCLA who wasn't sure what she was going to do when she grew up. But I quickly learned through that whole process, the value of developing strong relationships with my clients and brokers as these plans typically had to be renewed regularly and in some cases actually renewed on an annual basis. So I was looking around in the industry to see if there was some mechanism that I could use to determine how Aetna and how we were doing sort of in this interim period. And I didn't see any kind of a feedback program in place. So I developed my own and it wasn't fancy, it was pretty simple. I did look outside to other professional services firms because they did have some programs in place. And that's really where I got the idea. When I went to my first accounting firm, I implemented this plan just with a few minor tweaks. And I really saw the value there because it was, I had an ability to educate the accountants on strong client service and client retention and they began to sit up and pay attention to that. And I have to say that every firm where I've worked since then, I've implemented a client feedback program or in some cases reintroduced a program that was started at some point, but never was continued and we'll talk a little bit about that later. So as I mentioned early on, it's been a passion of mine and it's really been the foundation of my career.
Ali: I think that's really interesting and a great place to start. And it's just amazing how it's something that so early on, you start to look at and realize just how beneficial that is.
And actually, as you mentioned, there are a lot of the experiences come from outside of sort of industries. And, you know, you obviously spent a lot of your career within the legal industry. So when you think about this, is it important that firms are looking externally when developing those client feedback programs?
Maggie: You know, it's interesting, Ali, that has been a theme also of my whole career is looking outside your own industry and, and seeing what others are doing, it's important for sure to know who your competitors are and what they're up to. But some of my best ideas come from and have come from looking outside at nonlegal firms. And obviously the accounting firms are a place you look other professional service firms, but even companies completely outside of professional services. And I think that is something that people who have been successful do on a regular basis because I think it can give you some inspiration, it can help you identify new and creative ideas and innovations. And if somebody is doing something really well and has been doing it for a while, you know, nobody says you have to reinvent the wheel if you can take that idea and make it work within your firm or parts of it, why not? And so I have felt so strongly about that and when you look at law firm clients, this is the piece that when we're educating the lawyers is really important. Most of our law firm clients have some sort of a program or mechanism to be able to survey their clients about the services and products that they are selling them. It's just like our industry is a little behind the curve when it comes to that. And so why would you not want to pay attention to what these other companies are doing? And again, it is just been a theme through my career. When I get stuck on something, I'll say, well, what are they doing in health care or what are they doing in the banking industry? You know, what are they doing in this tech company over here? And is there something there that I can use to help me address whatever the issue is in front of me?
Ali: Yeah, I think you what you hit up on the nail on the head there was that whole idea that, you know, your clients will probably have some form of mechanism themselves already. So why would you not be trying to implement that yourself? And I think you also, you know, to quote you as well, you said, you know, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. You can take these great parts from outside of the industry and start to implement it. So when you start to think about that, you know, how have you found has been the best way to introduce client feedback programs to firms and therefore actually explain the value?
Maggie: Well that certainly is a very key point. I think first and foremost, if you take a step backwards, it really depends on the firm and what I call where they are in the client feedback lifecycle. If they've never had a program in place, I would introduce it in a pilot setting. And I think most CMOs when they are introducing any new initiative in a firm, you know, they don't want to start rolling it out firm wide. They want to start small with a group of what we call the willing, you know, those attorneys that have an interest in participating and that way you work out the kinks, you figure out, you know, who's engaged, who's not, you just get all the bugs taken care of before you would go firm wide. And that's actually, how I've done it in the past in most cases, you know, going to a practice group using an industry team, an office or again, a small group of attorneys that have an interest in doing this at my first law firm. I attended a practice group retreat. I knew most of the attorneys pretty well. They came to me for a lot of help over the time I was there. And so I introduced this concept of client feedback and they were all game, they were very interested in doing this. And I will tell you that after a couple of the client feedback meetings, we had one where we had a very disgruntled client, a client that literally had five people sitting around the table when we were expecting just the CEO and they were there to tell us that they were not happy with the service we were providing, which I have to say is not usually the case. And it's usually because you start with your key clients and most of your key clients are very happy with you and they want to meet and talk to you. But in this particular case, the client was not happy, there were a number of issues and I went back, I'll never forget this because I was fairly new at the firm and fairly young in my career. So I didn't quite have the confidence that I have now and I had to sit down with this partner to debrief him. He was the relationship partner, but he was also a member of the executive committee. And after, you know, after starting out with I'm the messenger, so don't shoot me, I'm just providing you the information and the feedback that we received. There was this long pause. And after that, he looked at me and I'm thinking this is it my career is over and he says this is the best damn program that we have and we need to mandate this across the firm. Now. That was a complete surprise. But I will tell you that's how we rolled it out at the first law firm where I was, you had an attorney that really understood the value and he, and he understood the value because he was able to go back, make some changes and be able to keep that client and kept that client frankly for a long period of time. So I think number one, if you've got something, if you've got a firm where there is absolutely no client feedback program in there, I cannot stress enough starting small, starting with a group of interested attorneys, get them part of the process and they will participate if you're at a firm. And I've been in a couple of these where there has been no program recently, but once upon a time they did have one. It's interesting to get the back story and why did it not work? What were they doing? Get a hold of the materials they were using, talk to a few people and see about resurrecting it. And again, I've done this tweaking it. So it, you know, was going to be successful. And I think again, I starting out with a smaller group rather than going firm wide, is always the best approach.
So on the value side, I think attorneys need to be obviously educated on the value of such a program. What they don't recognize and they really don't. I'm always surprised by this is that clients want to be asked, they want to know you care about the service that you're providing, they want to help you do better so that if you do better, they do better and it's streamlined and usually there's less cost involved. And they're always amazed because in when I do these programs, I always have another partner with me and we'll talk about that in a little bit. So the fact that a partner is taking time out of their busy schedule to come see the client also impresses them quite a bit. It gives you an opportunity without selling them anything to talk about the services that you provide and they come up in different ways throughout the client meeting. You also have an opportunity and II started doing a lot of this, is sort of conducting a little mini focus group for a lack of a better way to say it, you know, throwing out an initiative that we were thinking of launching or a webinar, we were thinking we were going to put on and this is how we were going to structure it and would this client attend and what did they think about it and letting them give us input. I think that there's just a variety of different byproducts that come from these meetings. And when the attorneys understand that you're not trying to go in there and get them for anything, it's really trying to get you to have another person or persons bring back some information that we give to them that's additional and over and above what they do on a day to day basis. Because typically on a day-to-day basis, they're trying to solve whatever the concerns or problems of that client are, they're not thinking about some of these ancillary issues. Like, is the billing statement providing the correct information? Is it too much? Is it too little? We've had a lot of those kinds of discussions. Are you getting too many newsletters from us? I mean, little things like that seem like nothing but they build up over time with clients and they'll say, and they have said to me, I can't tell you how many times, well, I didn't want to bother the attorney about that, but I will tell you now that you've asked and then they fill in the blank with whatever it is. It is an education process. But again, I think in most cases you start small and you go from there.
Ali: Yeah, it's fascinating. There's so many really valuable points that you made there and there are a couple of things I wanted to pick up on around that last one in terms of, you know, the clients want to know and I'll never forget. It was actually, I think the LMA annual conference last year and there was, you know, a panel of general counsel on the stage and they were sort of talking around that whole sort of client relationship management and feedback and all of these sorts of things. And one of the points that kind of came out of it was, you know, at the end of the day, you might think that that relationship partner, you know, they hold the key relationship, but actually, we might want to know the rest of the team behind them and actually we might hold a better relationship with somebody there. And it's the sort of thing that if you're not going in there and having those conversations, you're never gonna know. And it really, really struck me as a valuable piece of feedback because why would you not be going in as you touch upon it?
Maggie: Can I add on to that because you're absolutely right. And most of those general counsel panels do all say that. And the irony is if you're not doing that with your own clients,
trust me, your competitors are working as hard as they can to get in there to conduct a similar kind of meeting. So the worst case scenario is putting your head in the sand and that's what I see so much and have seen over the years where attorneys, there's a fear factor. I mean, I've been doing this long enough. It doesn't get talked about. But the fact of the matter is most lawyers and it's not all lawyers but most lawyers, you know, the fear of the unknown is more of more prevalent for them. They'd rather you not ruffle the feathers of the client. They'd rather you not go out there because there's a fear, an underlying fear that you're gonna find something out about them or the team that isn't going right. And the fact is we're trying to just be another member of your team to give you that information, and I'm very sensitive about my delivery of the information. We're not spreading it all over the firm. That's part of the trust that I'm gonna talk about in a minute that you really need to understand that there is this underlying concern. Nobody wants to be found out that they're maybe not doing something as well as they could be. And so it's getting that trust built with the lawyers. So they are feeling good about you going out there and bringing back information that they can then use to make whatever changes if there are any changes at all.
And again, not, I'd say 90% of the meetings, the clients are thrilled to death and they want to tell you and they will tell you the names of all the people, you know, the paralegals and the legal secretaries and the receptionist, they know them all and they're so happy to be asked and they're so happy to be able to tell you the great news.
Ali: Yeah, I think you're bang on there, of course. And it's in terms of when it comes to explaining that feedback. So it's not about just like burying your head in the sand and our whole life, the fear of unknown, the example you gave earlier of, you know, that senior partner who was on the exec committee and it was the first time you were doing it and actually had all of that. You came back with all of this valuable, basically content for him. And it was like, wow, this is the best thing we've ever done and you, it makes, it's anecdotal examples like that, that allow us to explain the value to other people and kind of help to sort of open this up. And, you know, we kind of touched a lot on there on sort of almost how you get going and where you begin and the whole idea of it.
But I was interested to understand from you Maggie actually is over the time that you've been launching these client feedback programs when you first started. So around sort of that example that you gave there through to now, have you noticed a shift in the responsiveness of the firm? Probably more so from the partners than necessarily the marketing or BD teams. But have you seen that people are more open now, maybe versus previously, or has there been no change?
Maggie: I think so, I mean, I spent a lot of my career as, you know, speaking at conferences about this topic and I would always do, you know, the check with the audience and say how many of you have a program in place. And it was always so upsetting to me to see that, you know, maybe 25% of the hands would go up, you know, now what I see is closer to 50% but still not over 50% and certainly not 100%. I have a cute story because I told you about how each firm is different and the cultures of firms are different, right? And so, you know, starting small is always the easiest way, but I was at a firm, an AmLaw 200 firm and I'd been there for a month and they had all attorney retreat flown everybody in for a couple of days and they had asked me if I would stand up and provide my observations after being with the firm for a month. And if you know me, whIch you do, that's no problem. So I got up and I talked about, you know, here are the things that I think you're doing really well and here's some things that you might want to consider, you know, maybe improving upon. And I said, “You don't have a client feedback program.” And I began to talk about some of the things we've talked about, just how your clients have one and you know, the value of it and all, and when the general session was over, all the partners went into one big room and all the associates went to, I guess they broke out in several rooms, but I was pulled into the partner meeting and the chairman stood up and he said, “Based on the presentation we just heard, I'm here to announce that we are going to have a firm-wide client feedback program.” And I thought, wow, that doesn't happen very often. And then he said, “And I'm gonna go with Maggie to all of the meetings.” And I thought, well, that's not exactly what I want. So I pulled him aside and I said, “I'm delighted that you all are so enthusiastic about this. But frankly, one of the key components of this program is educating the partners” and they are partners, 99.9% of the time, I don't really take an associate, I take a partner. And again, we can talk about the details of that and how that person is selected in a minute. But the partner, if they've never been to one of these meetings, the education they get is so important. They hear that a client will tell you just about anything if you ask them and they are stunned when the client doesn't know we have certain services or, you know, just a whole variety of issues like that. And so I said to this chairman, you know, “In all due respect, I would love for you to come out on all of them, but maybe it would be better if we went through the top… I think we had the top 50 client list… figure out those that you need to go to.” And I think we came up with 20 or 25 and then let me work with the other partners. But again, there was a situation where who knew, you know, they'd never had one in place. We weren't starting small. We literally launched it from the top down and I thought it was great. But when you are launching one of these programs and besides the things I've said about starting small, somebody needs to own the program. It's like any other initiative in a law firm. If somebody doesn't take charge of it and sort of think about it on a regular basis, it will die after a certain point. And I've always made it my role on top of everything else I had to do as a CMO or CMBDO to be responsible for the client feedback program and some of it was selfish. I wanted to meet those clients. I'm out in the communities. It was another touch point for the firm. I wanted to be able to spend some time with the partner who was going with me, whether we met there or we had to drive a long drive or we flew there together or whatever, that gave me another chance to bond with those people.
The value we talked about in launching one of these, you really got to be able to explain the value to the attorneys, but that trust component that I mentioned earlier. So, so critical to the success of this program, I can't tell you how many times I've heard over the years “No nonattorney is going to go out and visit my clients.” I've heard from, you know, some key partners over the years and of course, that you look around the room and I'm the only person there. So why don't you just say my name? But it's that fear piece and the piloting again, I think that's the best way to do it. And when you're defining who you're gonna go meet with what clients, I sort of let that be decided by the attorneys. They can define it the way they want if it's looking at all the top clients, whether it's clients, where we only provide one service and we think we can provide more. Maybe it's clients who we haven't received any new business from them for a while. Maybe there is a client and over time as you're building up trust, more partners would start to come to me and say, you know, “I do have a client and I think we do have a problem there. Can you go out and meet with them?” And then I know that, you know, we're making some headway when that happens. And then when you do it, I feel so strongly again that if you can meet in person, you know, that's the ideal way to do it. We all know that, But that's not always possible, particularly when, you know, a large firm that has multiple offices and clients all over. So Zoom works well. We did a number of these during the pandemic where the a partner was with me. So it wasn't just the two of us. I mean, it wasn't just me, it was two of us and those were very important. You know, there are times we've had to do it by phone. Again, I make sure there's a partner there. So there are different ways to do it. But in a perfect world, I think anybody would agree that if you can do it in person, that's the best.
And then just quickly putting the plan together and making it fairly simple. So everybody's on the same page and then the two key players are the relationship partner whose client is it, they have to be on board and they really need to be participating in the sense that they need to give you the back story. You know, how did this client come in? Who's the client service team? What are the revenues we've been getting? I mean, yeah, you can get some of that from the accounting system and I do both, but it's always really helpful to hear from I think the relationship partner and they can give you some of the nuances and you know, this guy or this gal is this way or that way. So expect this and then they get more interested and say, “Well, maybe while you're there, you can find out this or you can find out that” And then the other person, of course, is the partner that goes with me and that partner. I feel very, very strongly has to be blessed for lack of a better term by the relationship partner. So I will say “Ali, you're the relationship partner of XYZ company. Let's talk about who should go to this meeting with me” And I try to give them ideas, you know, are there some services you think we could be providing them that we're not and maybe the head of that practice group because it's not a sales call. But just by the very nature of saying, you know, “This is James Barclay and he, you know, heads up our corporate practice group” Plants the seed, right? That James, you know, does corporate work and we provide corporate work and we know that you're using another firm for that. So all of those pieces kind of come into play to together. And I think again, letting the partner who's never gone with you to a meeting, understand sort of how the meeting is gonna work. I typically say I drive the meeting, I run it. I have a certain set of questions that I ask. I take copious notes, but you, partner, can ask any question you want, you can answer any question you want. You know, you're like, I prefer the sports analogy. You're like the color analyst, just do your thing and know that I'm gonna be tracking the time and making sure we get out of there and you're there to provide whatever information or ask any questions that you want.
Ali: Yeah, it's really interesting.
Maggie: That was along answer.
Ali: Yeah, but it was a worthwhile answer. And that's the thing you covered off so much and you started to allude to it. I definitely want to come on to is that whole idea of the cross selling. There's definitely a huge opportunity there, but actually, maybe there's a step before that, I would imagine where you come away from the meeting. You've got this fantastic feedback and it'd be interesting to understand how you then and analyze that and then leverage the information to sort of start shaping marketing and BD activities around what's come out of that. And then I imagine the next step which, you know, we'd love to hear about would be the cross selling. But I feel like in the first instance, you know, I say you've got this great information. How do you analyze and leverage that from a marketing and BD perspective?
Maggie: Absolutely. Well, again, you know, I take notes and I'm very, you know, I always start with the client to say, “I hope you don't mind. I'm gonna take notes. Are you cool with that?” And they're all “Yeah, no problem.” And what I work really hard on is trying to capture exactly what they say, you know, and how they say it because I mean, having done so many of these over the years, you begin to sort of understand what they're really trying to say. And I take that information and I give it to the relationship partner, I'm not running and making copies and handing it off to, you know, the managing partner, chairman of the firm that comes up very rarely if there's a real big problem like that, first one I mentioned, if the,
you know, client is ready to walk out the door, you know, we need to raise it to the highest level. But it's really being very careful to give the feedback, the specific feedback to the relationship partner. And then I give them the responsibility to debrief their client service team. Now, if they want me part of that, which I am often more than happy to do that.
But I want them to feel like this is their information that they can share it. And then,
as I mentioned, as you begin to pick up these themes, you begin to see again what are we doing particularly well as a firm and where are the things that we need to improve?
And you take that information and you know, after you've got a certain number of these in the books, so to speak, you can go to somebody whether it's the chairman of the firm,
whether it's the COO who however your hierarchy is to say, “Hey, look, you know, we've developed this information and there's clearly things that we're doing really well and we want everybody to know we're doing it well, everybody within the firm. So we can continue to do that. But there are things that we need to improve on” And, you know, presenting at a partner retreat, presenting at a all attorney retreat uh practice group industry team, however you want to do it. But taking those themes and saying this is where we stand and these are some things we're doing well, we need to continue it. These are things we need to improve on.
I mentioned to you earlier that when we go into these client meetings, there are times when we can have test out some of our initiatives or upcoming programs that we're thinking about doing and getting feedback from the client. I tell you that's one of the best ways to really sort of shape sort of the direction of some of the marketing and business development initiatives. Obviously getting feedback from your clients who want to tell you their thoughts on that. I've also taken this information and used it at a couple of successful partner retreats where we invited some key clients. We sent them an email beforehand and said, “We're gonna pretend we're doing the client feedback meeting with you. These are the questions that we would be asking you that we're gonna want to talk to you about during the retreat in front of all the attorneys.” And then in one that was really successful, we gave all the attorneys voting mechanisms and we said, “OK, here's, here's the first question you know about, let's just say responsiveness, how responsive is our firm” You know, give an answer between one and five and we let the attorneys vote and it would show up on the screen, this is how they thought the clients would answer it. And then we turned to the clients and said, “Well, what do you think about this?” And it was fascinating because unfortunately in most cases, the answers didn't match up. And then that was really, I think, eye opening for everybody. So there are so many things that you can do with this information. And if you're really creative, I mean, there's the obvious things you take care of the fixes that need to be fixed right away, but it helps you recognize again, you know, people are sending out client alerts all the time and are you really segmenting it in a way that the clients that need to get the certain information are getting what they need and all the rest of the stuff they're not getting? Then I now have evidence to say, you know, a lot of your clients are getting bombarded by these things and they really need to be streamlined to the ones that really are the most important for them to receive. So you just take it and you can sit and look at it and it just, it's amazing what you can do with it.
Ali: Well, I think you sort of suggest there is, you can pick out these themes that will just help shape the activities that you're doing to be very sort of specific and honed in terms of that's actually gonna drive benefit here. It's gonna drive benefit there. And in terms of leveraging that further, you did start to talk about it a little bit earlier and we would love to pick your brains um on this me and see if you had any nice examples from client feedback where actually they were cross selling opportunities that arose. I don't know whether there's any of you might be able to share with us, but we would love to hear it if there were.
Maggie: Well, certainly again, I would say to you my example before, for example, is when you take a partner with you. And so you take the head of the Labor and employment practice group and you say “This is, you know, Bill Smith and he heads up our labor and employment practice group.” It's embarrassing when they say, “Oh, didn't know that you provided labor and employment services.” And when you're the CMO you want to hit your head against the wall. Like, are you kidding me? How do you not know this? But they didn't. And so do you get an immediate piece of work when you walk out? Not necessarily, but they will follow up saying, “Gee I didn't, I wasn't aware of that.” I think that clients, it's very interesting. We've been in situations where we talked about the fact that they had an RFP that was coming out.
We didn't know it was coming. They hadn't really told anybody it was coming, but they would share with us. “Well, you know, since you're here, we'll let you know you're gonna be receiving this RFP about, you know, a particular issue or project that we've got going.” Well, you know, we'd ask them questions about it and they'd give us some feedback and that helped us shape our responses to that RFP and made us feel like we had a little bit more of an inside track than maybe some of our competitors going in and asking them about expansion plans. You know, either we knew a little bit or we just asked the question, you know, “You do seem like you all are doing so well. Are you planning to expand?” And then they get into that. And then we've even had situations where they say, “Well, now that you mention it, you know, I do have a little something that we, you know, could be sending your way. The very fact that you're in front of them is just another way. And another reminder that we are there. And the fact is that when these clients are working with multiple firms like a lot of them are, it's the visibility issue. And so whether you're sending a client alert, that's a great touch point. But you're doing these webinars. That's a great one too. But nothing beats getting in front of them off the clock and having just, you know, a candid conversation about what's going on in their world and what are the concerns they have and what are the issues they have and frankly what lawyers are just blown away by is I will ask these questions and they will answer and they can't believe that the clients are telling me what they tell me. And I'm saying, if you ask, they will tell you. It's that simple.
Ali: I can imagine. I have no doubt that if we were to look back over your career, Maggie and I would be able to plot a graph or do a spreadsheet. There are just some fantastic examples of where you've been able to ultimately do that cross-selling and bring in business off the back of it. And there's been an ROI from all of this and I'm sure it'd be, I say it'd be very interesting to be able to plot that over time.
Maggie: It's a strategic... I think a couple of points to that. It's being like anything prepared when you go into those meetings and understanding what services we are providing, what services we are not providing, who is providing those services, and getting the partner with you on the same page. And again, and I cannot reiterate this enough. It is not a sales call and I've had to kick attorneys under the table where they start going down a path of, “Well, let us tell you, let me tell you all about this department and all the stuff that we're doing here.” It's like, “No, that's not what this is about. You can say, well, you know, we do provide those services, happy to talk to you at a later date about them” but we respect, you know what we told the client we were coming to do. We're not there to sell them things. But I can assure you that as a result of those meetings, we've either literally walked out with something saved a client in some cases or had them think of us for things that they hadn't thought of us for before. And you know, it is a revenue generator even though you don't present it that way we can, like you said, plot a graph and show the amount of new business we've got as a result of going to those meetings. And where appropriate, I will point out, where a chairman or managing partner or member of an executive committee or even, you know, practice group leader when we need to carry the flag and have somebody important at those meetings. You don't think those clients are impressed that the chairman of the firm is taking the time to come out because they're that important of a client. Something always comes from those now is it right then and there, I can't say that. Is it, you know, months later, there's just another opportunity for us to remind the client that we can provide these services as well as anybody.
Ali: Yeah, certainly. And we spoke about so many of these really great examples and a lot of it's been incredibly positive. One of the things before we kind of reach the maybe the final question. Have you got any examples or anything you want to share around some of the challenges? Because I think it's always worth us knowing what those are and what people can look out for.
Maggie: Well, I think there's always challenges. I think there's… I would start with number one, you know, that fear factor that I talked about again, it's not something that's talked about, it probably shouldn't be talked about, but it's something that whoever is going to run this program needs to be aware of and be sensitive to that. I feel very strongly that the chairman,managing partner, COO, depending on the structure of the firm, whoever that key person is, they need to be aware about an interest in getting a program like this launched or launched again because you need a couple of allies in this. And if they're not the allies that it may be the marketing partner, it may be, you know, a practice group leader, however it pans out but you need a couple allies within the firm. And again, that's no different than any other initiative that you'd be launching. Anyway. I think another challenge is again building that trust. I think you have to have a certain amount of, let me think of the right word, like status within the firm. If you are a brand new, you know, Junior CMO, maybe not even CMO but maybe director. Certainly a manager, a coordinator. You're probably not gonna be able to do one launch one of these programs because you're not gonna have the necessarily the respect or the clout within the firm to do that. You have to be at a certain point in your career where you have the confidence, they have the confidence in you and they trust that, you know, going out and meeting with these clients isn't going to cause a problem for them. That's what they see. They think you're gonna go out there and somehow the relationship's gonna get changed because you went and met with them. So there does need to be that and people need to understand that. I think the constant education, the attorneys will start selling it internally if they go to a couple of these meetings and they see the success and the value of it, they will start talking to people. It also takes time. It takes time to, you know, identify the clients, it takes time to meet with the relationship partner. There are I have one cardinal rule that says if we go to a relationship partner because say their client is in the top 15 in the firm. And we've identified that that's one of the clients we need to visit and he or she says, “No, absolutely not. And I don't care what the reason is, he doesn't have to, he or she doesn't have to filling the rest of the blanks. She can be saying “It's just not a good time.” We say “Fine, no problem. Make a note, come back and see you in six months.” There are plenty of other clients to go out and visit. You don't have to worry about that one. And so that's a very important one because I think that also helps with building the trust with those people. It also takes time to schedule these. And a lot of times we find particularly the general counsels that they're very, very busy, they don't have to time for all this. And yet we hear differently right at the GC panels at these conferences that, “Oh no, I'll meet with somebody, come talk to us. We’re very interested in giving you our feedback.” That's where a relationship partner can come in. Very handy to run some offense for you and ask them to make the call or send an email and say you're going to hear from this person regarding a client feedback program and I the relationship partner would really appreciate it if you would take the time to meet with them. So that is huge. You've got to have that because that comes up a lot. And then, it also takes time to get everybody's schedule coordinated. You know, my schedule, the partner that's going with me and the client. So setting a huge target of like, we're gonna do 100 of these in a year is not gonna work for you. So, again, like anything start small, set up a few of these meetings, get them going and then, you know, then it'll, I always say you build the army one person at a time, then they will start to hear about it and want to get more involved and understand that you're not going to uncover things that's going to embarrass them or make them feel, you know, badly about the whole process, you want them to feel good about it. And as I say, keep reiterating all the positive things that the client says and the client says a lot of positive things and that we want to share throughout the firm.
Ali: Brilliant, that is really useful and understand it. As I said, it's so important to have an idea of some of those challenges because it just knows some of the pitfalls that may well exist as you go about setting this up. And actually on that, it brings us to our final, final point after this very informative conversation, Maggie, what would be your one piece of advice for others looking to implement a successful client feedback program.
Maggie: I would say “Just do it” as Nike says, start small, get some attorneys to buy into the idea schedule. A few of the meetings, ask some good questions, take some good notes,
debrief with the relationship attorney and then let them share it with their client service team.
And once you have a few under your belt, you'll begin to understand, you know, kind of the flow of these things. And then you can go to again, whoever the senior person is managing partner, chairman, COO, whomever to say, you know, “We've done enough of these. Now,
I'd love to be able to share the results” and then that opens it up to being a much broader firm wide initiative. But I think it's just starting uh just starting it and you'll be amazed. I just cannot tell you, I have a quick last story when we did one of these during the pandemic and it was a global CEO of a tech company, one of the partners and I, we talked to this gentleman and it was right around the time when the whole Black Lives Matter issue came up and he shared with us that he had taken great thought in putting together an email to send to all his employees. And he worked very hard on it and he felt like he needed to say something. And so he took a very diplomatic approach. And then once it went out, his leadership team sort of turned on him and they turned on him because they felt he should have taken a stronger stance than what he had taken. He was trying to be sort of middle of the road. And honestly, he needed to share this with somebody because this was fresh on his mind and we got this whole story and I mean, I wanted to put my arms around them guy through the screen because he was so upset over this. And so here we were getting something that had nothing to do with the client feedback program. But we had a situation where a CEO really wanted to share something that was of great concern to him. And then we were able to kind of get into the other, you know, questions and issues of responsiveness and communication, all the things that you think about at a client feedback meeting. So you just never know what direction these things are gonna take and you just cannot lose by doing it because again, I keep coming back to the point clients want to hear from you, not just always when there's an emergency at hand, but when they can, you know, share ideas with you and talk to you, as I say off the clock.
Ali: That is, yeah, that is brilliant. I think your opening statement there of just do it is so true. And it, as you then spoke about, it just shows you how much value can come from these, from having those conversations you never know the directions they're gonna go. But ultimately, it's gonna be, you know, something positive that you're gonna be able to use in some form or another. So Maggie, thank you so much for being such a wonderful guest and for such a highly informative conversation as many, many nuggets that could be picked out there. So I know there's gonna be one for the listeners to enjoy.
Maggie: Wonderful. I enjoyed it greatly. And again, I'm so passionate about and I believe so strongly in it. I've been doing this for a long time and it just continues to bring value to the firm and I think that's what's most important.
Ali: Yeah, 100%. So, thank you very much for that. And now not as is tradition, we're gonna quickly go into the quick-fire round that just brings you to life a little bit more. Obviously, I'm fortunate enough to know you fairly well, but for the listeners who don't, we'll get to know Maggie a little bit better with a couple of quick-fire questions. So, just to open up, what's your favorite business and nonbusiness book?
Maggie: My favorite business book has been and still is Jim Collins, Good to Great. It's a little bit older now, but I still think it's very relevant to our times today. On the nonbusiness book, I love biographies and autobiographies and this is gonna be a strange one, but I found one at Costco a few years ago about Ted Turner. And I was amazed at just how accomplished he is and all the things that he done over the years and I just found it fascinating. I knew nothing about him except for his relationship with Jane Fonda and obviously the TV station.
Ali: Brilliant. Always good to know. What was your first job?
Maggie: I was a waitress at Jack In the Box when I was in high school and just to say I was not very good. I'm sure you're brilliant. I'm sure you charmed everybody, Maggie. What makes you happy at work?
Maggie: You know, what makes me happy at work is when an attorney tells me that something I told them to do, they did it and it worked and they came to share that with me and that, that makes me so happy as well as the fact that if I have a staff member on the marketing BD team and I see them gain confidence and be able to work alongside the attorneys, not just being a note taker. I kind of watch them bloom as I like to say. That makes me happy as well.
Ali: Yeah, that's very, very rewarding. So what are you listening to at the moment? It could be a podcast, some music, audiobook, anything that's on repeat for you.
Maggie: So, I'm a big podcast listener. I run and I walk in a dog in the morning and this will make you laugh. My husband said I shouldn't tell you this. But I love the SmartLess podcast with Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes. It's hilarious. They interview people, celebrities and non celebrities and it just puts a smile on my face.
Ali: Funny, that one came up to me last week and apparently it's well worth a listen so that you are reinforcing that. So I'll have to get that one. The final question is, where is your favorite place to visit and why?
Maggie: Well, you probably know Cabo San Lucas is my happy place. My husband and I had our honeymoon there many years ago and we've been going there for years. We now have a home down there and it's so easy to get to from San Diego. Just a two-hour flight.
Ali: How wonderful. Well, Maggie, thank you very much for that. It's been, I say an absolute joy talking to you and been great to get to know you a little bit more on a personal level there.
Maggie: Thank you again, I enjoyed that. I'm delighted to have been included and I wish you luck in your new digs there in DC. And look forward to seeing you soon.
Ali: Very kind, likewise, Maggie. Thank you. Thank you.