Many CX practitioners view the legal department in their organizations as separate and apart from the work they do. I know I did. But over the last few years, I’ve begun to see what an important role our legal team plays in the overall customer journey with our company. We are making the most of it.
In fact, in the B2B technology company for which I work, legal is now one of our biggest CX champions—our most improved team in terms of customer satisfaction, with ratings increasing over 30 percentage points over the past year.
How did we do it? It’s easier than you might think.
1. Banish the misconceptions.
Some CX practitioners might be intimidated by their legal departments. In B2B companies where contract negotiations are typically the key interaction point between legal and customers, those sessions can be complicated and, by their very nature, prone to conflict. You might think that CX principles have no place in those interactions, or that CX can somehow step in after contracts are signed to smooth any customer feathers that were ruffled.
Or you might be intimidated by lawyers. Law is one of the five traditional professions, after all, right up there with architecture, clergy, engineering and medicine. CX leaders might fear a “don’t tell me how to do my job” response from the attorneys in their organization if they try to bring them into the CX fold.
For me, the first step in building a bridge between legal and CX was saying emphatically that I am not here to tell them how to do the legal part of their jobs. Nonetheless, there are steps surrounding the “legal stuff” where CX principles can come into play, things that can happen pre- and post-negotiation to help build stronger relationships with customers. This was my approach to bonding with our legal team. You know what? It worked.
2. Enlist the C-suite and develop a plan.
It didn’t hurt that I had the C-suite on my side. A cross-functional executive steering committee guides our CX program, and our company president is a member. He knew that there had been little movement in the legal team’s customer satisfaction scores since we started our CX surveys, so he asked Brian Leslie, SVP and general counsel for our company, to partner with me and build a plan to get the legal department more involved in our CX work.
Our first step was to hold a workshop with the legal team where we talked about customer expectations around the legal process. We did some interactive exercises so we could define specific behaviors to improve customer satisfaction. It was a great session. We even achieved what some might say was an impossible task: We developed a way to improve customer satisfaction with the negotiation process.
The USAA example of great CX served as a good model to discuss with the legal team. One of the top-rated companies in the world in customer satisfaction, USAA knew it couldn’t do anything about the fact that customers calling to file a claim have had a car accident or similar bad experience. But it looked for ways to make the call itself a great experience. It started by having all agents ask first, “Is everyone OK?” Something that simple quickly had members talking about how caring the company was. What could we do in a similar vein that might show customers we care before sitting down at the negotiating table?
3. Encourage new ways for the legal team to get involved in the business.
In that workshop, we talked about the CX pitfalls of viewing the legal department as some companies do—a back-office function that has little to do with the core business. With experience in marketing and sales and owning his own start-up company early in his career, Brian clearly sees the role legal can play in improving CX by getting out of the office more, by integrating more fully with day-to-day business. So the team discussed ways legal could build relationships with customers before negotiations begin.
Why not have members of the legal team fly out to meet customers before negotiation day—especially in situations where the contracts were large and complex? It’s become a best practice for our legal team because it adds a human touch and gets everything off to an amicable start. And it’s one of the reasons why customer satisfaction scores have seen a major uptick in recent surveys.
The purpose, says Brian, is “to get to know the people as people, before the negotiations start.” It’s an approach that has helped deals go more smoothly for both our company and its customers, leaving all parties better informed and more satisfied. Neither does it hurt that these warm-up visits help our legal team better understand the personalities involved once negotiations begin—an important factor in closing deals successfully.
Brian shares more details about his team’s support of our CX effort in an interview in the legal journal Modern Counsel. As a CX professional who at first was apprehensive about the legal team’s response to our CX efforts, I couldn’t have asked for a better ally or a stronger show of support for the work we are doing. (Incidentally, Brian now sits on our company’s executive CX steering committee.)
4. Leverage the legal team’s communication skills.
In the interest of building relationships with customers much the way our sales and professional services teams do, increased communication with customers is part of the joint plan Brian and I developed. That includes Brian and members of his team sending a personal, post-negotiation thank-you email to the customers they worked with, thanking them for their help and participation.
In a busy world where people often forget to say thank you, this simple act delivers a huge payoff. One key is never to use a template for these emails. They must be genuine and sincere. They must come from the heart. Attorneys are usually excellent writers and do a great job with this outreach. Some of the thank-you notes they have written nearly bring me to tears!
In addition, our legal team has begun responding to customers more quickly, even if it’s to tell them that “we don’t have the answer yet.” This was one area customers frequently commented on in our CX surveys. The comments made sense when one understands the tendency of many attorneys to wait until they have a solution before they communicate—a preference to announce a win rather than a “we’re working on it.”
This tendency was causing frustration among our customers and a feeling that they might be getting ignored, no matter how much midnight oil our legal team was burning to solve their issues. From the customer’s perspective, perception is reality—an important lesson to share with attorneys and anyone else who might not be accustomed to the CX way of doing things.
5. Know your stuff.
Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Law and Order knows that attorneys are challenging by nature. Skeptical and smart. When we did our initial workshop with the legal team, they questioned everything I said. I loved it because they were so engaged – and I was prepared. I had stats from our data analyst showing the impact of good CX practices on our company, and stats from industry analysts showing the bottom-line value of CX in a world of increasing customer’ expectations.
We showed how communicating with customers regularly increases satisfaction. We showed how satisfaction drives loyalty drives increased business drives greater market share. The best part? When our legal team saw the connections, they said, “Let’s do it.” They had no problem committing to the CX effort once they had the facts.
The connection between sales and legal is key
Any successful CX initiative involves de-siloing an organization so that all departments present the same face to the customer. We will continue to bring our sales and legal teams together to see how legal can get involved earlier in the sales process and better understand the nuances of a new contract before negotiations begin. This is fine-tuning great work that’s already been done by two strong departments to ensure their collaborative focus is a customer-centric one. As I’ve said before in previous editions of CustomerThink, I am a very lucky CX practitioner.