Your customers' expectations are changing: you should too

Andrew Cooke, general counsel at esports giant Fnatic, explains why service delivery in the modern age is a whole new ball game.
Young people sit at two rows of gaming computers - they wear headsets, the chairs have headrests and the room is lit by green neon light

Fnatic is the world’s leading esports (professional video gaming) performance brand. Our corporate footprint extends across 19 time zones.

We connect with tens of millions of social followers, and we are proud partners with megabrands like ASOS and BMW.

We sit at the intersection of elite sport and technology, at the peak of an industry which is by far the most consumed and revenue-generative form of entertainment: gaming.

As you would expect from a youth-oriented, digitally native brand, our colleagues are generally under 30.

Our youngest team members, and most of our esports pros and creators, fall into the ‘Gen Z’ bracket, born between 1997 and 2012.

As a cohort, this group experiences service delivery in a way which is fundamentally different to generations that grew up in a world without widespread use of the internet.

To give a simple example: as adults, my colleagues have never lived in a world where ordering a takeaway or a taxi required you to speak with someone. They have never lived in a world where goods and services turned up whenever they turned up.

Crucially, this level of convenience is their base case – it has not been an upgrade to their service experience.

Put another way: the level of service they get today from app-based providers is the worst it will be in their lifetimes.

Service delivery of this type is a function of the dramatic shift in our lives resulting from the introduction of smartphones and high-speed mobile internet.

Winning brands in this world facilitates a customer experience which is simultaneously incredibly tailored and incredibly frictionless.

Of course, these winning brands have often achieved their successes by intentionally disobeying (sorry: disrupting) rules.

The value of a brand like Uber or Tesla directly correlates with its success in quickly bringing a compelling product to market at scale, and iterating it once already in use by consumers, often as a direct result of customer feedback.

A generation of tech product entrepreneurs see risk management as bureaucracy – as Mark Zuckerberg put it in 2010: “Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”

Private practice to in-house

A year after Zuck’s directive – two years after Uber was founded, and about two years before Deliveroo came along – I moved in-house.

At the time, what I thought my customers wanted was heavily influenced by my experiences in private practice.

So, for example, I understood that ‘face time’ for a customer – hands-on, one-to-one engagement – was a key element of offering a premium service.

‘Face time’ told the clients that you really cared, and that you wanted to understand their needs in empathetic, granular detail. In fact, the more lawyers you could stack into a room for a meeting, the more the client understood that you cared for them.

A second element of premium service related to influence. I understood it was critical to perception of my capability that I was ‘in the room’. (Being ‘in the room’ was often a result of how much ‘face time’ you put in.) This state of being was an upgrade to the traditional ‘trusted advisor’ positioning for general counsel.

No longer would general counsels passively await the engagement of their strategic genius. Instead, lawyers attended conferences and read white papers dedicated to the tactics general counsel should use to participate actively in executive level discussions as a peer to other c-suite execs.

The difference between my approach coming into in-house, and the approach needed to meet and exceed the needs of consumers in 2022, is stark.

Everything I thought I knew about meeting the needs of customers, and what they wanted from a legal team, was completely wrong.

As a lawyer, you may not be in a cutting-edge industry or have colleagues that are predominantly millennial. But how you procure services as a consumer today will be how you expect your contractors to behave tomorrow.

Lawyers, whether in-house or in private practice, must respond to this reality.

Next steps

So, how to react?

First, it’s time to accept that face time (at least as part of regular service delivery) is dead. Face time does not scale and it does not provide solutions.

Your clients exist in an Uber world, and they want their solutions on-demand.

You cannot throw people at this problem. The only way to meet the expectations of Uber generation customers is through technology and process.

Second, lawyers need to let go of outdated notions of influence. Anyone that provides a service which anticipates and addresses customer needs will become indispensable and, by extension, influential.

Seeing yourself and your team as a product, and then making that product as attractive as possible to the customers of that product, will have a greater impact on the business you advise than wasting your time elbowing your way into the ‘right’ meetings.

Yes, you may have to subordinate your ego. Yes, you may have to listen to your customers and what they want, rather than what you think they want. But that’s how great products succeed.

Changing your thinking, and the way you deliver services, may not be a simple transition. But – having made that change myself – it’s worth it.

At Fnatic, we track team happiness weekly. And I’m proud to say that Fnatic Legal is, objectively, the happiest team in the company. How many legal departments can say that?

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