Client Satisfaction Is Dead…

Author:Mr Joseph B. Altonji
Profession:LawVision Group LLC

Client satisfaction is dead - or you may be, if that is your primary focus as an organization.  This seemingly radical statement is but one conclusion you might draw from reading Value As a Service, a fabulous new book by Rob Bernshteyn, President of Coupa, a cloud-based business spend management software and consulting company.  It's not that client satisfaction is a bad thing; a more accurate way of thinking about it might be that 1) it likely is the wrong goal and 2) it isn't nearly enough in any case.  As Bernshteyn writes, "We don't want to satisfy our customers - although it is nice when it happens - we want to do everything in our power to make them successful.  The customer-success model aligns our interests with the interests if our customers in quantifiable ways."

If it seems strange to imply that client success and client satisfaction are not the same, think back to the old story (apparently not actually true) about Henry Ford.  When asked once about his customer's goals, he supposedly responded along the following lines:  "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses.'"  To move into the realm of the legal world, how in the world did law firms ever get the idea that the route to success was returning all phone calls the same day?  You can have wonderful service, and all your clients might tell you they are tremendously happy - until they leave you because someone else figured out how better to ensure their success.

So what is "value as a service" all about?  In simple terms, it is all about defining, up front and in quantifiable ways, what the client's objectives are (e.g. saving $X million, or improving processing times by Y, or settling a case within 3 months for no more than $Z) and measuring that against the cost of the product or service you are providing, in a way that allows you to know categorically that you created value and are being paid appropriately for that.  A key point, though, is that "value" is not a concept that can be defined by either the client or by the service provider individually.  It needs to be a joint effort, which aligns your organization's success with the success of your client in the particular project or matter at hand.  Then your organization will focus solely on assuring the client's success is achieved.  Although many of Bernshteyn's examples are drawn from the world of enterprise software and other major technological efforts (E.g., why was the Obamacare...

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