It’s Time to Embrace the “Experience Economy”

In a recent podcast episode, I talked about the “Experience Economy” and how law firms can differentiate themselves from the competition by providing a superior client experience, in addition to providing good legal work. I got a number of good questions and so I want to dive deeper into the subject here.

Let’s start with the basics.  The Harvard Business Review coined the term “Experience Economy” back in August of 1998. The premise is simple – in addition to tangible goods and services, consumers today are sensitive to the experience they have while doing business. As a result, businesses that provide an exceptional experience wrapped around their products/services have a huge competitive advantage. For example:

  • Starbucks can charge $5 for a coffee drink that would cost you $2 at a coffee stand or 25 cents to make at home. They’re selling more than coffee – they’re selling the experience of a “third place” between home and work for their customers to socialize, work, study, or relax. In the 90s, when the company began to grow explosively, this was a brand new concept. The experience they created fueled incredible growth, created customer loyalty, and justified significantly higher price points.
  • Admission to Disney’s Magic Kingdom starts at $119 during peak season. Meanwhile, thousands of amusement parks around the country charge between $40 – $60 during peak season. In many cases, these other amusement parks are larger and have a greater variety of rides and attractions. But nobody creates a better experience than Disney. Their attention to detail is unparalleled. My favorite example of this: every night, their crew repaints the entrance gate to the park so that that day’s visitors see a glistening white coat of paint. Every single night. And, it’s a detail that most visitors probably won’t consciously recognize. But Disney knows how to create a memorable experience every step of the way, and that’s why they can charge 2x or 3x the rate of local amusement parks and still draw tens of millions of visitors from across the world each year.
  • The Mayo Clinic has differentiated themselves in the medical field by focusing on their patient experience. For example, their standard hospital rooms are larger than the industry average and contain more amenities. They’ve placed couches in doctors’ offices to help patients relax and feel more comfortable. They enforce a strict dress code for doctors while meeting with patients – as well as back-office technicians. Management is known to ask employees to replace their shoelaces if they’re dirty. Their attention-to-detail communicates respect and appreciation to their patients. And it has powerfully differentiated Mayo from other healthcare providers, to the point that patients will jump through hoops to be treated at Mayo rather than their local provider.

So how does this apply to your law firm? Obviously, providing a great experience doesn’t replace the need for quality legal work. None of the examples above would be sustainable if the actual products and services those businesses provide weren’t acceptable. But if you can engineer an exceptional client experience wrapped around the work you provide, the sky is the limit. Clients who have an excellent experience become ambassadors for your firm and refer people your way every chance they get. You’ll have the ability to charge above-market rates and still win business. Your staff will be more motivated and bought-in to your mission.

Let’s talk implementation. The first thing to consider is what an ideal experience looks like for your target market. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. High net-worth individuals who are planning for the future of their estate are looking for a much different experience than an individual facing criminal charges. But here are some things to consider:

  • Your office decor, layout, and amenities
  • Your office location (are you located in an area that your target clients want to visit?)
  • Your physical appearance
  • The appearance of your staff
  • Your branding (website, logo, marketing materials, etc.)
  • The way your phones are answered (you should have a script, or at least clear guidelines)
  • Client communication policies
  • Billing

This list is just the beginning. I suggest that you take some time to map out your client engagement from start to finish – from their initial phone call, to a consultation, to the legal work itself, to the follow-up after the matter is resolved. Pay attention to the details… even down to the shoelaces!

How can you create a unique and valuable experience for your clients, every step of the way?

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Daniel Decker

Daniel Decker is a co-founder and Partner at Spotlight Branding. In addition to helping lawyers stand out from the crowd, he spends his time writing, dreaming up new marketing strategies, and coming up with catchy subject lines. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys playing sports, guitar, politics, and Minnesota sports.