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Ever thought of customer intimacy as a competitive strategy?

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There is merit in law firms adopting ‘customer intimacy’ as their core competitive strategy in the current legal sector landscape – tight budgets and ever-increasing competition. Interestingly, it’s a concept that was coined over 20 years ago by Harvard Business Review.

Customer intimacy requires developing deep, long-term client relationships to better understand and address their business requirements in a way that delivers ‘value’– value not as ‘perceived’ by the law firm, but as ‘defined’ by its clients. This demands purposefully listening, understanding and learning about clients’ problems.

There are a number of barriers that prevent law firms from delivering value. Technology can enable firms to execute on a customer intimacy strategy, but a marked shift in approach to IT adoption is required. Historically, the driver for technology adoption has revolved around process and business efficiency – to reduce administrative costs and increase profits. However, this only delivers value to the law firm, not its clients.

Top of clients’ ‘value’ list is responsiveness. I recollect a GC saying his company dropped a law firm because the organisation was unresponsive to the corporate’s business needs. This is despite the fact that the lawyer working on their matters was exceptional. Your firm’s technology system must support the organisation in understanding your client’s requirements.

Lack of transparency often fractures trust between clients and law firms. Technology systems exist today that allow you to create customisable dashboards/portals whereby your client has visibility of how matter execution maps against the agreed action plan, resource utilisation, expenses incurred, collections and such.

Poor resource management too can drive a wedge between you and your clients. At the onset of an engagement, it’s important that a partner in your firm is able to access historical information on similar matters to cost, budget and provision the new task. The HR system within your business management system should help you to determine the best qualified team for the job, or identify a gap in expertise that your firm can work on closing.

To achieve customer intimacy, you need technology that can help you ‘operationalise’ it. Harmonised, flexible systems can help you exceed client expectations and fulfil your growth objectives. Now more than ever, building trusted relationships and maintaining a solid reputation depends on delivery of outstanding and increasingly distinctive experiences —not just for a single project or at executive levels, but consistently across every client-law firm interaction.

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:


Stu Gooderham leads client engagement for LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions' ERP solution LexisOne in the UK and US markets. Consultative in style, he works closely with law firms to support their decision-making process for the adoption of LexisOne; and remains personally involved in projects from inception through to go-live and beyond. The implementation of LexisOne at Fieldfisher is the most recent example.

With a focus on the Top100 law firms in the UK and the AMLAW 250 in the US, and thriving in client-facing roles, Stu continues to play an instrumental role in educating the legal market on the business benefits of ERP. He was the founding member of the LexisOne Future Insights Group, which saw senior representatives of the Top100 law firms come together to brainstorm and articulate the dynamic nature of demands that clients had of their law firms in the 21st century. He has used the insight gained from this forum to convincingly illustrate to the market how LexisOne is well-placed to overcome many of the common problems faced by law firms – including continuous improvement in customer service levels, client retention, driving new business and always being operationally optimised.

Stu joined LexisNexis Enterprise Solution, following the company's acquisition of Redwood Analytics, a business intelligence software provider.

Prior to these positions, Stu worked at Oracle, selling the Oracle 11i ERP system to the legal market. He is an engineer by training and also has experience in the manufacturing sector.

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