Do Law Firms Need a Chief Experience Officer? Yes! A CXO at Miles & Stockbridge P.C. Explains Why

In this episode leading up to my 100th episode of The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show next week, I speak with Edwin Bodensiek, the Chief Experience Officer for Miles & Stockbridge P.C., a law firm in Baltimore Maryland. We discuss why and how this role can be embedded in a services firm, and the unique blend of branding and “CX” that Edwin brings to this role.

Edwin shares how reading the newspaper and summarizing the stories for his father at a young age got him interested in the news and in a career in journalism and communications. His career path led him to marketing, where he learned the importance of framing things and about brand identity. Over time, Edwin began to see how branding and reputation management played a role in customer experience. He used his knowledge of marketing in CX as a way to think about how to fix the root of a problem through addressing a company’s culture.

When Edwin transitioned into law, he tells us that having the chance to be the first CXO in law was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Through a connection of his wife’s, Edwin was hired by someone who was looking for their first CXO and was recruited into Miles and Stockbridge P.C.

Client Experience Offers a Competitive Advantage

After interviewing more than 100 partners, Ed Bodensiek needed a compelling way to share feedback. Before the CX plan could be developed, he turned to infographics to create this placemat. Distributed at a firm-wide retreat, the placemat helped to set the stage for the changes to come.

At Miles and Stockbridge P.C., executives realized that in order to have a competitive advantage, you need to be client focused. Though being client focused was an overall general understanding and goal of the company’s, the approach was generally limited to client service. They needed some help defining the client/customer experience journey.

Edwin explains how he assessed the work to be done during the first 3 – 6 months in his role:

  • When he first joined, the company had just convened its first journey group. Again, since they were already interested in improving client services, they were determining how to best handle client cases in the following phases: pre-matter (customer acquisition phase), matter management, post-matter. Matter in legal terms is a reference to the case, not a person.
  • In the middle of putting together a client advisory board, Edwin was able to play a role in the process, which allowed him to contribute meaningfully to improving the customer experience work.
  • He also figured out pretty quickly that it’s easy for people to agree that customer service and experience is easy, but it’s an abstract term that needs to be defined.
  • Edwin spoke to over 110 people to understand their work and how they might describe the ideal client experience. This was particularly helpful for rainmakers (an employee who brings clients to the firm). This took about four months.

Edwin explains that he knew there was pressure to prove the ROI but there was also an acceptance that this type of work would take time, which is always helpful. Having C-Suite alignment really helps improve the transformation process. During a weekend retreat with the firm’s lawyers, Edwin introduced his initial thoughts on tackling a CX implementation through the creation of a visual placemat. The placemat was a snapshot of what he heard in regards to needs by office, practice, gender, and age, with an initial idea of what future improvements could look like. This provided insights into what the clients really wanted from the law firm, and his colleagues were into it.

Going the Extra Mile

Do Law Firms Need a Chief Experience Officer? Yes! A CXO at Miles & Stockbridge P.C. Explains WhyWithin 7 – 8 months of the work, Edwin realized he needed a “launch” moment and budgeted for it. The company held its first-ever retreat in which they shut down the entire firm for both staff and lawyers to attend, on a Friday. They shut down the entire operation, which is not insignificant for a law firm, but clients loved the commitment being made for them.

During this training, the day began with storytelling. Edwin shares that colleagues told poignant stories about impressive customer experiences that positively affected them and increased their brand loyalty. Sharing the experiences helped strengthen the connection between thoughtful service and feeling appreciated.

The development of an internal rally cry, “we go the extra mile,” was also a result of the team training. it would become the embodiment of the firm’s value system. Subsequently, processes were put in place to help people understand what the company’s commitment to going the extra mile really meant. First, there was a kickoff process to explain and ensure everyone understood the client experience commitment; then, clients were educated on how they’d translate the rally cry to their real life actions.

Going the extra mile internally:

  • Visual cues were set in place at the office. The “we go the extra mile” rally cry was installed on doors, windows, mousepads, and screen savers.
  • They began training with a Mile Markers program. Edwin and his team worked with a Center for Transformation of Leadership where they had a Mile Marker course: focus on mindfulness, art of inquiry, presence and how you show up to a client.
  • Developed an internal newsletter, Miles Post. This internal communications letter celebrated success and other internal news.
  • Receptionist was called client concierge, which allowed them to think of their job differently. This client concierge started greeting people while standing up to better foster a human connection.
  • During the compensation process, Stockbridge & Miles inserted a question that asked, “give us a specific example of what you’ve done to go the extra mile for a client or colleague. Leadership got back some really great feedback from clients, and Edwin had a gallery of new stories to help CX orientation come alive. Behavior that creates a bond with clients and customers trumps survey scores and results.

What do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

Edwin says:

  • I would’ve started working on employee experience sooner. You manage your culture through behaviors.
  • Make sure people think about CX as a part of the brand experience, it’s really critical.
  • Think really big about this but be sure to keep it simple.

About Edwin

Edwin BodensiekWhen Edwin (Ed) Bodensiek was named Chief Experience Officer of Maryland powerhouse Miles & Stockbridge in 2016, he became the first CXO in the Am Law 200. In this role, Ed leads the charge on delivering a comprehensive, premier client service experience for the firm. His key focus has been aligning the voice of the client to the firmʼs strategy and services, as well as enhancing employee experience through culture design.

Before developing a CX model for big law, Ed served as head of brand and communications for Select Medical (NYSE: SEM). In 2011, while Ed was building an in-house communications agency for the national healthcare giant, the company’s CEO asked Ed to help design a sweeping change management effort around patient and employee experience. That became the Select Medical Way, the defining touchstone of hot the $5 billion company does business today – with patients and colleagues at its core. Through CX, Ed sees a more authentic way to sharpen organizational purpose and shape customer interaction, before going to market.

I encourage you to check out the Stockbridge & Miles website to see how they’re externally communicating their “we go the extra mile” tagline. I love the introduction video at the top.

P.S – At the end of the podcast I remind you about the goodies you can receive when you pre-order a copy of my forthcoming book, “Would You Do That to Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers.

Note from Jeanne: I want to let you know that we’ve welcomed a sponsor for our show, Customerville. Until now, I have been paying for all of the expenses of the show myself. I love doing these for you – but they cost quite a bundle. This partnership ensures that I can continue these shows that you’ve shared such positive feedback on.  Thanks so much to Customervillle! Enjoy the show!

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