Have you noticed, as I have, that “industry” is placing, as never before in my experience, a premium on customer satisfaction? 

On three occasions in the last few months, I have scheduled routine service appointments for my General Motors vehicle.  Each time I dropped off the car, I was greeted by a service technician, who clearly explained anticipated price, schedule, and shuttle service availability.  The technician ascertained a number of ways to contact me in case unexpected issues arose, or in case I was needed to answer a question or make a decision.  I was provided the url for an internet site where I could track the progress of my service.  And I was exhorted to respond positively when, subsequent to the appointments, I received GM satisfaction surveys.  On each visit, the technician made certain that I knew that his performance evaluation hinged on my responses and that marks short of “completely satisfied” would not bode well for him and the dealership.  And on each occasion, the day after the repair was complete, I received both an e-mail and a phone call to ensure that my expectations had been completely met.

Then, last week, a Sears repairman visited my home to work on a malfunctioning washing machine.  When he finished the appointment, he highlighted in yellow on the receipt a customer satisfaction website where I could rate his work.  As with the GM survey, he made it clear that anything less than the highest marks were undesirable to his superiors.

Both surveys asked questions about promptness, courtesy, clarity of communication and the like.  Both surveys asked questions about likelihood of being a repeat customer and recommending the company to others.  And both surveys asked the most fundamental question of all:  Did the problem get resolved to my complete satisfaction?

What is remarkable to me is that my total out-of-pocket expenditures for three GM service visits and one Sears appliance visit was less than $200!  Despite the small size of the bills, the companies and the individual technicians were vitally interested in my satisfaction; clearly, they had personal stakes in the transactions.

A notable part of these experiences was how clearly the technicians communicated to me that they would be evaluated upon my responses to the surveys and that, to a degree at least, their compensation and livelihoods hinged on my responses.  Their sharing of this information created human connections between me and them, and caused me to pay more attention than I ever have to their level of service.  I actually found myself rooting for them to deliver great service and achieve the right outcome.  In the end, I was delighted to give the companies and the technicians the highest marks.

I can’t help but reflect that law firms providing services many thousands of times the size of my repair bills very often do not stop to assess client satisfaction with lawyers’ performance including, especially, satisfaction with the result. 

What I observed in my recent vehicle- and appliance-repair experiences hearkens to recent presentations by the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Susan Hackett, wherein she indicates that nearly two years into the ACC’s Value Challenge, among the game-changers going forward are attributes such as:

–       Focus on collaboration (the technicians made me part of the process)

–       Risk-sharing (the technicians compensation and livelihood were on the line)

–       Longer-term relationships

–       Communication

–       Transparency

–       Evaluation of value shaped by each client/matter

–       Accountability

Based on my recent experiences, GM and Sears service operations are owning these messages.   It’s a good thing, because like law firms, their customer-service reputations have taken a hit over the last several years.  Perhaps the car company and the appliance company are turning the corner.  Hopefully, law firms can do so as well in delivering “completely satisfied” performances to clients in the days ahead.