Many years ago when I moved to Columbus, Ohio, I needed a brake job on my car. I went to the dealer, and also a small shop I heard about. The mechanic’s quote was actually higher than the dealer, but I decided to use him anyway since his reasoning was sound. However, when I went to pick up my car, the cost of the repairs was nearly 25% cheaper than he had quoted because the brake shoes were less than he thought.

Okay, I’m never going back to that guy, right? Huh! I probably sent him 15 customers in the next several years (he should have paid me a commission), and I never asked again for an estimate of repairs in advance.

What brought this story to mind is an article in Trey Ryder’s recent newsletter suggesting that if lawyers instilled similar loyalty in their clients, they “would not even think about hiring another lawyer.” His story is also about his car and the value his dealer added to their relationship. Trey’s ideas for lawyers involve adding value to the client’s experience by “how fast you respond to clients, how accessible you are, the services you offer, and your staffing and client resources.”

Getting back to my mechanic story, consider this idea. Knock 10% to 15% off an invoice and let the client know you did so because the matter took longer than you thought it would or should? The client’s trust in you – and loyalty – might just grow exponentially. Do you think? 

  • I think the root cause of this is that psychologically consumers don’t trust car mechanics. The goal is to instill trust in your prospects, not to lower your fees – that’s buying trust and is a short-term play.
    The mechanic gained your trust by being honest about his product and service, not by giving you a discount. There’s a bright line there, and lawyers need to understand the difference.
    Tom’s response: I certainly take issue with “psychologically consumers don’t trust car mechanics.” They are no different than others, like lawyers, trying to get consumers/clients to part with their money. You are correct, it is all about trust not a discount. In Trey’s case it involved adding value to the relationship. Nonetheless, offering an unexpected “discount” clearly can build trust with the scenario I mentioned..