What is the sound of outstanding law firm client service? 

That’s a rhetorical question inspired by a Wall Street Journal article today, The Search for Sweet Sounds That Sell, which holds hidden lessons for law firms.

It describes how makers of consumer product goods invest heavily to engineer the sounds products make when opened or during use. “Subtle auditory cues can make a big difference to shoppers choosing from several brands, companies say.” Clinique tested “40 prototypes of inner parts of the mascara” so that it would make the right sound when twisted shut. Frito-lay had to pull environmentally friendly packaging of SunChips off the market because consumers did not like the noise it made when opening. A Sharpie has to make exactly the right sound. The list goes on.

The relevance to law firms? Most consumer goods are mature products. Makers invest in both product formulation and package design. Sound, smell, and package design matter – a lot.

I have bad news for law firms: you increasingly look like the makers of consumer goods. You operate a mature business in a slow-growing market where providers compete furiously for consumers clients. Too many lawyers think that product formulation quality legal advice is the only that counts.

Smart lawyers and firms understand that clients also care about packaging and delivery. Client service may not have a sounds but it does have many service delivery attributes. These include responsiveness, transparency, attitude, pricing, and company / industry knowledge.

Investments in pricing, legal project management, technology, knowledge management, and alternative resourcing mean as much if not more to improving service delivery and client experience than they do to legal work. How long before law firms invest in labs to test out different approaches to service delivery?