How companies can use feedback to create a culture of internal service


Increasingly, law firms are implementing formal processes to collect feedback about the client’s experience. But when it comes to in-house client experience—the service attorneys and staff receive from the firm’s business professionals—feedback is often ad hoc and focused more on problems than best practices.

However, companies looking for a better approach can use their external efforts to build an internal service model. This is what we at Troutman Pepper did after our 2020 merger.

Here’s how our first-ever management survey set the internal service standards, plus tips for other companies looking to launch similar initiatives.

Step One: Define your approach

When the Troutman Paper Company merged, we not only brought together 1,100 attorneys from 23 cities. We’ve also integrated our professional teams, technology systems, and processes for everything from writing a client alert to opening a new matter.

We knew a group of this size was going to have some speed bumps, and last year, we wanted to better understand what was working and what wasn’t.

Although we never sought large scale internal feedback, we did so externally through companywide electronic customer surveys. We decided to take a similar approach here.

Our Customer Experience and HR teams collaborated with consultants at the Wicker Park Group, who assist us in obtaining customer feedback, to design a questionnaire that would collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback about our managerial functions.

adviceUse customer surveys and interviews as a template for your internal feedback efforts. Identify key themes from customer feedback, such as responsiveness and problem-solving. Ask questions to see how your internal teams can measure these KPIs.

This will allow you to identify company-wide service strengths and see if internal service influences interactions with customers.

Step Two: Ask for feedback from a wide range

When designing our survey, we needed to define our audience. We considered different groups, from partners to lawyers to all time-keepers, before we finally decided to send out the survey companywide.

We found this to be the right decision. The participation of all of our employees in the survey increased participation and generated support for our actions post-survey. But more importantly, broad participation gave us more robust and actionable feedback, especially since we found different groups within the company had different needs and expectations when it came to internal service.

advice: Consider making your survey anonymous to encourage respondents to be as honest as possible. For the Trotman Paper survey, we asked for employee ID numbers for the sole purpose of segmenting the results by demographics, such as lawyer versus employee or office by office.

Only the Wicker Park Group team could see the full results, and no one at the company could see the individual’s survey. At the end of the survey, we allowed the respondents to decide if they needed a follow-up, which allowed us to close the feedback loop on individual issues.

Step Three: Share results and make them actionable

After interviewing client feedback, Troutman Pepper’s client experience team always produces a next-step report and encourages attorneys to share feedback with the full client team. Empowering all team members with practical, actionable ways to address feedback makes progress more likely.

For our internal survey, our partners at the Wicker Park Group helped us compile company-wide trends which we shared with all attorneys and employees. More importantly, they also provided summary reports for each senior officer.

These documents reflected our customer feedback reports and included trends that emerged in the survey responses as well as suggested follow-up actions. Then, our senior officials worked with their teams to develop a feedback response plan.

advice: In addition to summarizing trends from the feedback, consider sharing all of the anecdotal feedback from the survey with the appropriate stakeholders. While quantitative data provides important information about areas for improvement, qualitative data provides important context about individual experience.

Step Four: Promote best practices

The purpose of comments is not only to identify problems. We also use feedback to detect and institutionalize best practices. This is what we did through the internal survey of the administrative division.

After conducting the survey, we launched the company’s first set of business professional service standards. These criteria reinforced feedback from the survey about what good service looks like at Troutman Pepper.

For example, one of the common themes in the survey was how much people value colleagues who take ownership of the request. These colleagues prioritize thoughtful and timely responses from start to finish and who use their subject matter expertise to understand what might be behind the request.

advice: Give your internal feedback efforts power by continuing to recognize good service after the survey is complete. Plan an internal campaign that reinforces survey results and shares new cases of exceptional service.

For example, we launched a quarterly employee recognition program to recognize business professionals who demonstrate our standards. Among our first honorees were over 100 business professionals who were named in the survey.

Focusing on the employee experience is a prerequisite for providing exceptional customer service. By leveraging external client feedback efforts, law firms can begin to take a more disciplined and productive approach to improving service for internal clients as well.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author info

Shanna Beldick He is the Chief Human Resources Officer responsible for leading, developing and implementing human resource strategies for the national law firm Trotman Paper.

Daniel B. polka He is the Executive Director of Business Development and Marketing at Troutman Pepper, where he leads the company’s development, marketing, communications and customer experience functions.

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