I was talking to a client the other day and we were discussing the implementation of yet another “client satisfaction survey”. This would not have been their first appeal to their clients for feedback regarding their level of service, but their third! And, yet one more opportunity for a set of potentially disappointing results ~ UGH! So, I begin to think. What could be causing this less than desirable level of client service and this history of low client satisfaction? And, more importantly why weren’t they able to turn this pattern around? Were they really paying attention to the results they were getting from the feedback in the client surveys? Were they even asking for the right feedback (i.e. asking the right questions to start with?) Were they acting on this feedback or simply checking this off their “to do list” that they conducted the surveys?

As we talked further, I determined that the managing partner and the firm administrator were both deeply bothered by the continued results of the surveys and wanted to implement a change, but the internal survey results with the team members reveled something truly surprising and unsettling. The external client service – which was pretty bad, according to their survey results, was far better than the internal “service”. There were some perceptions of structural problems, process and procedural deficiencies, poor leadership, stolen and often lack of praise all together, lack of support between practice areas, some in-fighting and back-stabbing and even some silos (where workers wouldn’t work with others at all).

So, I began my analysis and internal cultural restructuring. Here the adage – “the shoemaker’s children have no shoes” applies and gives a very accurate picture. There was a huge disparity between what they practiced and what they preached and an even greater disparity between what they gave to others and what they gave to “each other”. If the truth is known, if we don’t practice what we preach (or we don’t walk our own talk), we put our credibility at stake. Who would trust the extremely overweight fitness trainer? Would you follow the advice of a business development coach who had never worked in business? It is like trusting the person who says, “do as I say, not do as I do.” Thus, it would truly be pointless to judge the service level of your firm from the client perspective without first considering the internal perspective of your team. So, if you’re really looking for how your clients are being treated, look first to how your team members treat each other. Here are so important things to look for:

  • How responsive are they to each other?
  • How supportive are they to one another’s projects and tasks?
  • What communication style do they use for both informal and formal communications between one another?
  • How much trust do they engender to one another?
  • How do they celebrate one another’s accomplishments and successes?
  • How do the help to heel each other’s failures or defeats?

The school of thought with regards to this internal review is, very few people can “give” what they don’t “have”. So, if your firm has a difficult giving great service internally to itself, then it is going to be even harder to give it to others.