I have used Amazon for a few years, and have probably placed in excess of 50 orders for books (if you would like to know more about those then you can go to my reading list on my LinkedIn profile). My wife has also used the account for presents for our children and friends.
So far, touch wood, we have not been let down. By “let down” I mean they have not screwed up. Not only have they delivered the right thing every time (a feat that has beaten every other on-line retailer – Next being particularly poor in this respect) but they have kept to their word on delivery times. I know Seth may have a few issues with being given a window for delivery but I don’t. It manages my expectations very nicely and in fact I can’t a remember a single occasion where it has taken as long as the long-stop date.
The only other on-line retailer that comes close to matching them is Wiggle, which is a cycle and cycle parts supplier. As an aside, at one stage, I was getting everyone’s parcels in the row of houses where I live, which was a bit embarrassing and did take a bit of explaining to Mrs Summerhayes!
The Amazon “experience” got me thinking. What would Amazon do if they set up a law firm? Whay would it look like and how would it work?
In one word: Predictably.
Now at this juncture I could go on to tell you how it would work in practice, how it would outsource or deal with some of the work that could be driven through an on-line model but I won’t. For the simple reason that it has been done to death already as a precursor to ABS, Legal Services Act implementation and ‘Tesco’ law. You are likely to know the drill by now.
No, my problem with Amazon is this: being predictable is not enough for me. The experience is dehumanising, cold and dare I say boring. If Amazon really wanted to understand my buying habits and capture more of my business then just once in a while it would be really nice to speak to someone.
“Hi Mr Summerhayes, how did you enjoy your purchase”.
“Hi Julian, you seem to really like Seth’s works. Did you know that he has launched the Domino project”.
“Hi Julian Summerhayes, you have qualified for our loyalty programme and we just wanted to give you the details of that.”
Any of these would work. Human contact would make me feel slightly special and certainly not just another very, very small cog in a massive wheel that it likely to take over more of our lives and become ever more sophisticated.
Now there will be some of you who will say that this is the march of progress and I accept that. But at what cost?
There is also the more serious issue of what happens when things go wrong?
Again, you know the drill by know. You usually have to do everything through a series of inpenetrable steps starting first with a Help or Q&A screen and then moving through to a contact form and if you are lucky there might just be a ‘live’ customer service team. We have all been there and that is perhaps why Twitter has grabbed a lot of the headlines for helping real people sort out real problems: “I just can’t stand it any more”!
And this is where professional practice needs to get a grip.
What are they doing to engage with their clients to make them feel special?
I would wager that quite a few people will still see clients as a problem. Indeed it is an expression that has become part of the psyche of all professionals: “The job would be so much better if we didn’t have to deal with the clients”.
If you don’t make the effort to reach out to your clients and start delivering on your promises, making them feel like nothing is too much and that there is complete transparency with your charges, then don’t be surprised when they start to go for something that doesn’t involve the hassle of dealing with another Ivory Tower professional. By analogy, if I was going into my local bookstore in Totnes and they were anything but helpful (which they definitely are not) then it wouldn’t be long before Amazon had all my business.
In the future the experience will be everything. You need to challenge yourself to offer your clients something that no other firm is doing. That might be value based billing. That might be a money back guanrantee. It might even be as radical as pay us what you think we are worth (see Valorem Law Group). But don’t expect your current clients to be your future clients if you carry on with your current service delivery. It just won’t cut it.