Two ideas regarding client satisfaction – unclear linkage to behavior and tipping points

MIT Sloan Mgt. Rev., Vol. 49, Summer 2008 at 53, discusses customer satisfaction and two specific problem areas. “The linkage between satisfaction and customer behavior and positive financial outcomes has tended to be modest.” To my knowledge, no one has ever tried to show that corporate employees who have higher levels of satisfaction with the law department use their department more, use it better, or try to improve the relationship. Since our industry lacks a common metric for client satisfaction, we cannot say whether satisfaction has any positive effect on performance, such as a decline relative to less satisfied clients in total legal spending as a percentage of revenue.

The second difficulty mentioned by the article concerns how much satisfaction has to improve for it to have any impact. Satisfaction metrics for consumers do not behave like other numbers — their relationship to behavior tends to be nonlinear. Put differently, even if a law department ekes out improvements in satisfaction scores, will that make any difference in the behavior of its clients? Probably not, until a tipping point is crossed and behavior changes significantly.

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