Client Service v. Expertise: A New 80/20 Rule for Legal Procurement
My grandfather, a member of the Greatest Generation, made a lasting impact on my life in many ways. Humble to the core, he was never one to brag about anything – and certainly not about his service to his country.
But near the end of his long and decent life, on one of the rare occasions when he actually spoke about his service overseas, he made a comment that I still think about often. He attributed success among the men he was privileged to lead to 80 percent grit (one of his favorite words) and hard work performed by people “who had each other’s backs,” and only 20 percent to talent or (more often than not) plain old luck.
Fast forward to midtown Manhattan last week as I sat listening to an excellent presentation by Dr. Bruno Mascello, Attorney & Vice Director of the Law & Management Department of the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. As he spoke, I couldn’t help but remember the anecdotal “80/20 Rule” that rang true for my grandfather and his troops.
Dr. Mascello’s TED-style talk, entitled “Making Informed Decisions: Beyond Expertise and Discounts,” brought to a largely data-driven audience the welcome insight that while “hard facts” – such as price – are vitally important to the legal procurement and buying process, certain “soft facts” can actually be more important to a company’s overall satisfaction with the legal and legal-related services they purchase. In fact, the relative importance of the soft facts v. hard facts dichotomy to client satisfaction breaks down along roughly an 80/20 percentage split.
In Dr. Mascello’s estimation, legal procurement professionals tend to focus on “20 percent factors,” such as past results, objective expertise, and (not surprisingly) price. However, legal and C-suite professionals tend to focus on the “80 percent factors,” such as past behavior, client service, and relationships.
Of course, legal service providers can’t generate authentic “100 percent” client satisfaction without taking both groups of factors into account. But knowing that one group of stakeholders values measurability and comparability over easy cooperation is instructive. To paraphrase Dr. Mascello, client satisfaction is almost always about service – price is just a side effect. Or as my grandfather may have put it, while talent and good fortune are important, what really generates long-term success is that clients know we will always have their back.
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