Recently, I mentioned the latest book by The BTI Consulting Group entitled The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service in a post about how it is okay to be “inactive” on summer vacation. After taking a look at BTI’s blog post about the book and the other letters of the alphabet (with their pithy suggestions on how to improve client service), I selected six I particularly like:

  • A is for Action… Your Actions to find your clients experience… (Read on)

a for action

  • L is for Listen Listen Listen… Listen until it hurts… (Read on)

L is for listen

  • N is for No… No drives clients crazy… (Read on)

n is for no

  • S is for Surprises… Clients hate them…

s is for surprise

  • V is for Value… The point where your client believes they have received substantially more than they pay… (Read on)

v is for value

  • Z is for Zeal… Your fervor and commitment to client service shines through everything you do and every action you take… (Read on)

z for zeal

The other letters of the alphabet covered in The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service are worth every nugget of insight and merit your time. Take a look at the ways you can enhance your client service.

 

Put another way, how a lawyer services his/her client can be the most important factor in terms of ongoing client relationships. Most clients place a very high value on quality legal services. I am not referring here to the outcome of a legal matter, although that certainly is important. But considering how many talented lawyers are out there, it often comes down to how good a lawyer’s reputation is for providing good service. A lawyer with a reputation for poor service often has poor people skills.

Over the years, there have been many in-house counsel panels at various legal marketing conferences. They’re usually well-attended because lawyers want to know what their clients and potential clients are saying about the services provided by law firms.

For years we have heard that clients want:

  • understanding of their business;
  • better communications;
  • no surprises, especially when it comes to budgets;
  • prompt billing;
  • greater value, including customized CLE;
  • current technology, especially regarding data security.

A post this week on Attorney at Work by Susan Kostal talks about what she heard from such a panel at a recent conference. She suggests lawyers “use soft skills” to become a favorite of in-house counsel. They include:

  • learn what keeps them up at night;
  • learn about their personal life (as appropriate);
  • ask about their work routine;
  • asked what their preferred manner/format for receiving updates (memo, email, telephone, etc.); and
  • have a sense of humor.

I question how soft they really are, since I believe they are vital for lawyers in today’s competitive marketplace.  In many cases they are as important as how smart the lawyer is.

 

 

Are you to blame for the failure of your partners to cross-sell you to their client contacts? Not necessarily, but you could be part of the problem. Clients select lawyers they know, like and trust. Referral sources, including your partners, send you clients for the same reason. Since they know, like and trust you, they transfer those qualities by recommending you.

Maybe your partner doesn’t know enough about you or your practice, especially in a large firm. And, there may be selfish reasons he is protecting the relationship with the client.  In my 30 years in this business, I can assure you that a “bit” of that goes on.  So, you must work on enhancing your relationships with your partners, and making sure she knows enough about your practice and is comfortable that you won’t displace/hurt her client relationship.

According to Mike O’Horo, in a recent article on Attorney at Work, “cross-selling problems are self-created.” He argues, among other points, that lawyers focus on the product they’re trying to sell versus whether the client has a need for such services. The important point is that any attempt to cross sell should be client-centric (i.e., benefit the client), rather than product-centric (i.e., what service can benefit me and the firm). The client must understand that they have a need for such additional services and agree that your firm, rather than another, is the best choice for them.

Cross-selling can often fail based on a client’s unfavorable reaction to the idea.  They may prefer to spread the work around, or they are not convinced the cross-sellee is the right lawyer for the job.  For cross-selling to work, the client must recognize the need for the services, and have faith that the cross-sellor has confidence that the cross-sellee will do a good job.

So, it may not be entirely your fault that your partners don’t cross-sell your services, but, if you don’t grow those internal relationships, you may never find out why they don’t.

There are many ways lawyers communicate with clients. Whether subtly or otherwise, they do so through their actions, as well as inactions. And either way, these “communications” (or lack thereof), all have a direct impact on the firm’s marketing success.

Brian Callan, a practice management advisor with AbacusLaw, sent an email article, with a play on the letters t-r-e-a-t, in which he suggests five ways to treat clients well, so they know you care for them and are working your tuckus off on their behalf.

Callan’s “secrets” to success include:

  • Timeliness and Responsiveness. Get back to clients promptly (in today’s rapid communication world, that means ASAP or sooner) and be responsive to their call/email. Whichever way clients contact your office, I strongly suggest that you return it within an hour, no more than two. If you are not personally able to do so, then empower someone within your firm to return the call/email and inform the client as to when you will personally contact them);
  • Empathy. Clients want to be listened to and understood. Included in that, I would add, is the need to be treated with dignity and respect, rather than treated as a lesser human being because they didn’t go to law school);
  • Assurance. Obviously, lawyers cannot ethically guarantee results or the outcome of a matter. (That is not to say the you shouldn’t assure clients that you will work very hard to get the best possible result for them); and
  • Tangibles. Send clients copies of letters and other documents, and keep them advised as to the status of their matter. (Two state bars I am familiar with report that 80% of grievances filed against lawyers are the result of a lack of communication and/or inattention to client matters). So, demonstrate in tangible ways that you are working hard for them.

Accordingly, if you are not doing all these things as a minimum, you are making critical marketing mistakes.

Have you ever had a bad experience that totally turned you off to ever returning to a store, restaurant, auto mechanic, or whatever.  I have to admit that that has happened to me.  But, have you ever been turned off to a WHOLE city because of an unpleasant incident at its airport?

Patrick Lamb tells a great story on his In Search of Perfect Client Service blog about a women on a cell phone loudly telling a friend about her encounter with TSA.  Lamb was trapped in the conversation since they were both boarding a flight at the time.  Her complaint was that “[t}hey were disrespectful and rude.” (Yes, Patrick, the irony gave me a good chuckle), and because of that she was never coming back to Chicago.  One incident and she was blowing off a whole city.  Like Chicago? That wonderful town!  I’m sure they will miss her terribly.

Of course, in light of the name of Lamb’s blog, his post was indeed really about client service.  And he is right in pointing out that presumably one bad incident, by anyone connected to your law firm, involving a client could seriously jeopardize your relationship, not to mention follow-on work.

Bad client service is really bad marketing.