From fast food chains to high-end retail boutiques to professional advisors, everyone expects (read: demands) exceptional service. And clients of law firms are no exception. When a person’s hard-earned money is on the table, they’re looking for more bang for their buck even if it’s as simple as a friendly greeting or a quick follow-up. Bad service is easily broadcasted to the masses through reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. and can do significant damage to a firm’s reputation as well as deter potential business.
So, what does great client service look like in a law firm? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t start and end with the person who answers the main phone line or sits at the reception desk. Client service certainly starts with the first point of contact but then permeates throughout the rest of the firm to anyone who interacts, directly and indirectly, with a client.
For lawyers, providing good service doesn’t require a huge commitment of your time (billable or not) and will undoubtedly improve working relationships with current clients and may even lead to more business.
Here are 10 easy ways that you can give exceptional service to your clients:
1. Learn as much as you can about your client – after all, it’s about them, not you. Read and research who they are, who their competitors are, and what their industry is like. Understand their needs and challenges and how you can help them. This will allow you to gain their trust quicker when you begin working on their file and may lead to more work on other matters that come up.
2. Ask meaningful questions and listen to the answers. You can learn a lot by asking insightful questions, which comes from doing your research (see #1). Ask open-ended questions rather than ones that illicit a yes or no response. It is important to listen intently to their answers and build rapport through eye contact, a warm smile, friendly face, and repeating what has been said in natural spots.
3. Show that you’re committed to helping and that you actually care. People gravitate towards authentic people – those who are sincere and honest. Although it might feel unnatural or seem unprofessional, it’s perfectly acceptable to “be real” and communicate that you really do care about their issue or challenge.
4. Pick up the phone and book a meeting. While electronic communication is convenient, face-time is more effective for relationship building. You can often gain insights from these meetings that are otherwise difficult to get from emails or phone calls – such as reading their body language and conveying concern or compassion with the tone of your voice and facial expression. Your clients will be generous with their time, all you have to do is ask.
5. Keep it simple and make the process as easy as possible. Every interaction with your client should be productive but efficient, which is easier said than done. Achieving this requires some legwork but will streamline the rest of the process – set clear priorities, expectations, and timelines with accountabilities for each stakeholder as well as desired outcomes and definitions of success.
6. Be responsive by getting back to them quickly and proactively. Respond to phone calls and emails the same day even just to confirm that you have received their message and to let them know when you will get back to them. If something is going to take longer than expected, let them know as soon as you know. No matter who you’re working with, people want to feel included and informed, so it’s important to provide them with regular updates.
7. Be organized for both you and your client. Organization is a key component of good service. It is essential to be aware of all things that need to be done now and later to get your clients to the finish line. Summarize discussions that you’ve had and confirm commitments and deliverables, in writing whenever possible. This will ensure that you are both on the same page and your client will appreciate an easy way to reference important milestones in their matter.
8. Deliver more and go above and beyond. While this might sound obvious, it’s not. Aim to deliver a work product that is as close to perfect as possible. And, always follow through on promises. Go a step further by trying to anticipate your client’s needs and provide useful resources to help them succeed.
9. Measure success and align metrics with clients. Know how your clients – whether a company CEO or a family looking for a will – define a successful outcome. For this, you need to not only understand what their goals are, but you need know what their metrics for client service and success are. Then, create a customer score card for each of them that you can track yourself against.
10. Follow up and ask for feedback. We recommend setting up annual client and post-matter surveys, as well as book regular meetings with your clients. Ask them about your current level of service and what their ideal relationship looks like and then be open to feedback. Keep meetings brief and have your questions prepared ahead of time. Then, determine ways to bridge any gaps and measure for success.
You can start putting some of these tactics into action with the next email or phone call that you receive from a client. Others will require some thought and planning in order to implement effectively. But once you have your own system in place to deliver exceptional service, both you and your clients will enjoy the benefits of more than just free smiles.