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Clients Can Be A Forgiving Lot – If You Ask

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

What kinds of things make clients mad. Here are just a few:

  • Not returning phone calls,
  • Not treating them with respect,
  • Failure to admit a screw up (or worse blaming it on them),
  • Missing deadlines,
  • Not keeping them informed (i.e., treating them like mushrooms), and
  • Not understanding their business.

I agree with Trey Ryder, that clients would be more understanding, if you inform them as to how their matter will be handled. As he points out in his recent newsletter (free copy available on his site), clients don’t realize how busy lawyers can get. Nor do they understand why lawyers can’t or don’t communicate with them as they wish, whether it be returning phone calls promptly or emails. THAT is the lawyer’s fault. You should enlighten clients upfront how you will handle their case/transaction and the process for keeping in touch with them.

In doing so, you can

“…overcome any potential negative feelings because you (1) addressed the subject before prospects raise it, (2) ask for your prospects understanding (in advance), and (3) suggested an alternative way to handling….(phone calls, status reports, etc.).”

So, inform clients at the beginning of a matter how things will be handled, and regularly seek feedback as to how you are doing. You’ll be surprised how understanding (and forgiving) clients can be.

  • Tom, I completely agree. But to take it a step further, it’s important that we communicate in terms that the client can readily understand and integrate. Too often we speak in shorthand, the product of years of experience doing that which we attorneys do so well. But to the client, it’s all mumbo-jumbo. And I’m not talking about legalese, either; rather, it’s a symptom of being “in the trenches” for so long.
    We don’t tell the client that the judge assigned to the case often takes the bench an hour late, or that Tuesdays are a good day because that’s when he or she plays squash in the morning and comes in refreshed.
    That’s the stuff we know, but the client does not. Give the client that insight and you’ll make him or her more comfortable with the process, and more understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

  • Communication with clients is a simple matter of having a defined system to deal with communication and explaining that system to clients. For example, my clients are informed that I only read and respond to email on Monday and Friday (you have no idea how liberating that change has been). This forces clients to assess their priority and pick up the phone if it is more urgent. As a result, I spend more time talking to my clients through a system of phone appointments. Client’s do not simply leave a message with a promise to call them back, a specific time is set at which I will call back my clients.

  • Communication is about properly managing your clients’ expectations and treating them with the same respect that you would expect. I wholeheartedly agree that you should inform clients at the beginning regarding how things will be handled.

  • Good advice. My firm is determined to improve our client care from merely good to great — to give our clients the wow factor. We are about to recruit someone with good telemarketing experience for a role split between client care and telemarketing. In particular we are hoping to telephone every part one month after they instruct us, to see how they feel that case is going — and to give us the opportunity of some very gentle cross-selling. Does anyone have any experience of this or any tips you can give me?