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Can we predict consumer behaviour within professional services?

Choosing a law firm – can we predict consumer behaviour?

What are the factors that would influence why a potential client would choose a certain firm over another?

On the surface, this might seem like quite a straight forward question.  Indeed, at a rudimentary level, we can even try and predict this by asking clients before they have even decided that they need a service. 

We ran an exclusive panel question with consumers which asked which attributes would be important to them when considering a law firm for the first time, either for personal or business purposes.  The results indicate that two thirds of potential clients (private and business) state that the perceived cost of fees would be an important consideration when choosing a new law firm.  Perceived levels of trust and having specialist knowledge are also key attributes in the decision making journey. Intuitive stuff. 

Considerations when choosing a law firm

So that’s the answer right?  Well, yes and no.  The major downfall to this type of analysis is that complex decision-making in the real world is affected by different parts of the brain.  The consistent theme throughout the burgeoning literature on behavioural economics is that there are errors made by consumers that are both predictable and consistent. 

The majority of human decision-making is controlled through processes that are subconsciously automatic and not particularly deliberative or structured. This could be particularly significant with distress purchase in the private legal services field. 

To obtain a more comprehensive answer to the original question we therefore need to understand the full set of ‘behavioural biases’ in a decision making journey. By this, I mean the factors that cause either consumers or B2B decision makers to misjudge important facts or take an inconsistent set of decisions.  

Some obvious factors in this sector are ‘projection bias’ and the ‘framing effect’ which already influence how financial services marketers help package attractive products to their target markets e.g. taking out a loan without considering future payment difficulties. It would be interesting to see more ethnographic and/or qualitative research which is needed to better understand how these biases play out in the legal services field.  

Dave Ruston, Associate Director

This entry was posted in Research, B2B, B2C, Qualitative, Professional services, tagged Professionals, Behavioural economics, Responses and posted on July 15, 2015


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