A recent New Jersey Law Journal article by John R. Kirk discusses what Apple can teach law firms about engaging with clients. According to Kirk, it’s all about asking customers the right questions. A similar question can be applied to providers of e-discovery services.
Kirk begins his article with what he calls “The Egg Theory.” In the 1950s, food companies engineered cake mixes so that all customers had to do was add water to make a cake. The thought was that by making it easier to make a cake, more customers would buy the mix. The result, however, had the opposite effect. According to Snopes, between 1956 and 1960 cake sales actually decreased. The reason: customers did not get satisfaction from making a cake if they only had to add water. The solution: require eggs in the mix.
The example provides an important lesson. That is, even the most innovative idea may not have desired results if the user’s experience is not fully appreciated. Customers’ interactions with a product will influence whether they will want to buy a product or service. This is why the user interface is so important in all aspects of client services.
Conduent is famous for the invention of the Graphical User Interface (which would later revolutionize home computing). Nowadays, however, the user interface is much broader than a screen, keyboard and mouse. It is the intersection between clients and services. This interface should be something that users enjoy, benefit from and would use again.
In the world of e-discovery, the user interface is usually considered to be the technology platform that attorneys use to run searches, review and analyze documents (with the provider’s project managers and client services team on the other side of the screen, assisting virtually). However, the true user interface is much more than just a screen. It is face-to-face (and other types of) communication that gives the client visibility into the operations of a vendor, and provides day-to-day client support and technical expertise to ensure a good experience. This is sufficient but not enough. The user interface should ensure that the client’s overall experience is exceptional.
A user interface that allows for an exceptional experience is one in which the e-discovery provider collaborates closely with the client, anticipating before they themselves know what they need and being a strategic partner. Understanding clients’ wants—now and in the future–in meeting their litigation needs should be an e-discovery provider’s number one goal. Importantly, ongoing feedback from the client should also be the driver of innovation. Without client feedback, innovation will unfold in a vacuum which could produce unwanted results even with the best of intentions, like the invention of a self-making cake that no one wants to eat.