In the modern mobile electronic device world, reviews of restaurants and businesses are posted even during a bad service event. Bad reviews that are floated out to the world are hard to get rid of in this electronic environment. Yet professionals, and not just lawyers, seem stuck in an old world approach when it comes to such things as their “customer” relations.
Professional services of various types come after many years of specialized training. In itself that may affect the professional view of the value of their services. Many, by my observations, seem above the approach of relating to good service as a way of developing more professional business. I am reminded of the 18th Century Honoré Daumier satirical print of the losing client walking alongside the lawyer who arrogantly says: “But you had the opportunity to hear me argue your case.”
Every reader has many examples of businesses you will not re-visit, or your own bad reviews passed on to friends based upon just bad service. Yet I have trouble convincing some lawyers that their best client development tool can be the simple and easy good client service model. Training new lawyers I often use the example of: “How would you want your grandmother treated if you referred her to a lawyer?” Alternatively, think of the things that irritate you when dealing with service providers and stop doing them to your clients, who are in fact your best referral network. Good manners and good sense will be worth way more in results than an entertainment or marketing budget. Many lawyers think the latter constitutes “marketing” of their legal services.
You will really need to start good client relations at the staff level to make sure clients are not being placed on hold, or screened constantly, or called “honey”, or cut off. Would you hang up if you were a potential client trying to reach your office? That should be your constant quality control check.
You the lawyer then need to think more like a service professional and return calls and messages promptly, or with an explanation that you will contact them as soon as you are out of court, etc. Communicate regularly and bill fairly and openly so the client has reasonable expectations of costs and results. You will be eliminating a lot of complaints in the process.
If you took the time to look at routine ethics complaints, you would see this in reverse — lawyer did not perform; did not communicate, overcharged, etc. So an easy fix for lawyers is to start thinking good “customer” service. Even car dealers have caught on to customers rating their work; rewarding their good service representatives; then developing more business from a customer who believes they care. Luxury resorts hire consultants to come in and teach their employees good service. At the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, it is “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” as a staff motto. The maintenance men get downgraded if they do not look up and say “Good afternoon” to you upon passing them at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
So, how hard is it for you and your staff to be polite, considerate, and responsive? Lawyers should tell their clients what they are doing and what it will cost. Seek to understand your client’s business and problems. Thank them for their business and celebrate their good deeds. Common sense indeed, but it is not being done by many professionals.
This kind of enterprise change at your law firm will reduce claims, get you more business, and decrease your marketing costs. Could it really be that simple? Look around your town at the businesses who do well and those that close their doors. It simply cannot hurt, and likely will help, if you seek to improve your “customer” relations as a lawyer.
After this was written, I saw an April 29, 2016 article for Jaffe Legal Marketing Consultants by Joi Scardo. I refer you to this article for “Seven Ways for Law Firms to Improve Client Service”.