Law is just one more service industry business. Except, lawyers like to think—unlike food services, for example—specialized knowledge and expertize put them above the old adage, “the customer’s always right.”
Clients don’t know best, only their counsel does.
But what would happen if a law firms put client needs at the center of their business development decisions? It turns out, such a law firm would generate more business and more profits—not a bad business plan at all.
Clients who see their primary law firm as best in client service spend twice as much on these legal services, according to a BTI Survey of Client Service Performance and Client Needs.
And, due to increased morale, productivity, and word-of-mouth referrals, these client-focused firms also rake in 30 percent more in profits than their traditional counterparts, according to the same survey.
Law administrators might argue that their firm does—in fact—put clients first!
However, much more is at stake in order to create a true, client-focused culture than just the aim to please.
First, good service has little to do with the good practice of law.
Take, for example, our model restaurant, Chez Esquire. The waiter might bring you exactly what you ordered. What’s more, the meal may even exceed your expectations. Nevertheless, the high quality of the food does not play into the high quality of the service.
Think about what’s involved with superior service: attentiveness, predictability of needs, friendly attitude, and helpfulness.
A waiter must be attentive, filling water glasses or refilling coffee before anybody thinks to ask. In the same way, a lawyer must share information readily, not simply when its demanded.
Frequent updates on a client’s case or weekly case status reports make for exceptional customer service.
Predictability of needs can also help a firm stand out in a crowd.
Anticipating what kind of savings or IRA account, maybe even real-estate venture, that a wealthy client would want (before he knows he wants it) will increase client satisfaction. It will also increase the amount of business you transact (your firm has, for instance, a wealth management department to manage the task).
Next, don’t underestimate the value of a smile. Clients, like restaurant patrons, know when service is being delivered sincerely, and when somebody’s secretly spit in their food.
So, deliver news in person or over the phone with polite candor and consideration.
Finally, helpfulness does not correspond an attorney’s knowledge of the law. It’s an attorney’s ability to know options within the law, and to present a client with multiple scenarios.
Helpfulness also includes an attorney’s understanding of a client’s business. With this knowledge, an attorney should tailor decisions after the specific needs of a client’s company, whether that be in alternative billing practices or pre-trial negotiations.
Like a nicely paired wine, there are levels of affordability. A sommelier can certainly recommend the best, richest bottle in the lot to a man who can barely afford to taste it. But, by suggesting more than one, the wine expert has the power to transform an awkward, overpriced first date into a successful, lasting relationship.
To ensure that your service surpasses expectations, law firms should create a Client Service Improvement Team who guarantees:
- Information about clients and cases are shared internally to create customized services
- Clients have easy access to information about their own case
- Clients are contacted more frequently
- Lawyers are trained to be helpful firm ambassadors
- Clients are surveyed about how service could be improved
- Based on surveys, law firms put clients’ needs first in business practice
Integrate your clients’ voice into your firm business plan and the profits will speak for themselves, loud and clear.
Reference: Stock, Adam L. “Breaking down barriers: Becoming more client focused.” Allen Matkins. Novemebr 24, 2011. [LINK: http://www.slideshare.net/allenmatkins/breaking-down-barriers-creating-a-clientfocused-law-firm-culture]