10 Ways Your Law Firm Can Provide a Successful Client Experience
Providing clients with an experience they will remember should be a priority for every law firm – and the overall experience is just as important for existing clients as it is for new clients or prospective clients. While it’s not always possible to successfully resolve every matter (let’s face it, a client may not view a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict as a “win”), you can deliver top-notch service that will strengthen relationships, create loyalty and ensure clients retain the firm for future work.
To do this, you need to think about the entire client journey – from the first point of contact, to the initial meeting and the client intake process to the legal issue, the solution or resolution of the matter, and billing. During this process, your client may deal with a number of different people at your firm and it’s important that each and every person is trained to make client service a priority and an integral part of their job. To make this successful, you need to create and implement a client experience strategy that will be woven into the fabric of your firm’s culture.
Here are 10 tips for developing a client-centered mindset that will ensure your firm is remembered for the level of service it provides:
Evaluate Your Initial Point of Contact
Whether it’s your website, an online event or a phone call, start at the beginning and evaluate a client or potential client’s first point of contact with your firm. Does your website provide a compelling value proposition and differentiate you from your competitors? Is the site designed so visitors can easily find relevant information and the correct lawyer to contact? How does it support your Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts? When meeting prospective clients outside of work, do you and your staff have an elevator pitch that answers the question “So, what do you do?” in a way that creates interest in what your firm does? Is your receptionist trained to listen, empowered to answer questions and quickly put each caller through to the appropriate attorney? An individual’s experience with these initial points of contact is the first essential piece of client service.
Review Your Client Intake Process
The client intake process can be time-consuming for both the firm and the client. Review your current process and determine what you can do better or what can be done more easily. Consider implementing technology that can help you streamline the process. The client intake should be seamless and effortless to initiate business with your firm.
Outline the process for your client’s legal matter so they know what to expect, and then keep them informed so they know what is happening. Let them know how quickly phone calls and emails will be returned and how frequently they can expect updates. Make the timeframes work for them and, if not, ask what type of communication they want and how often they would like to receive it – then make sure you and everyone on the client team meets the agreed upon expectations.
Listen Well and Develop Empathy
While you and your staff are confident in the delivery of your services, your client may be anxious about the process or worried about the outcome. Interpersonal communications and emotional intelligence play a large role in making your client feel comfortable. Being able to identify your client’s emotions, understand how they feel and act on it – for example, making an extra phone call to check in the day before a critical meeting – will go a long way in easing their stress and will enhance their experience with your firm.
Know Your Client’s Business
Research your client’s business, its competitors, its industry and current trends. Find out if their industry is expanding or declining, learn about the products and services they sell and the solutions they solve, and research their competitors. Ask your client about their business goals and how they plan to achieve them. When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, visit their operations to re-connect in person and learn about any changes they experienced during the pandemic. In addition to learning more about their organization and how you can support them, this information will help you identify new opportunities for business.
Ask Questions and Anticipate Needs
Knowing your client’s business and asking the right questions will help you anticipate their needs. Ask your client what keeps them awake at night. Uncover their pain points so you can develop solutions to solve the issues they face. Find out what is important to them in a law firm relationship and make sure you deliver it. Ensure your staff is trained to meet each client’s needs and understands why it is important.
Be Responsive and Accessible
One of the most important aspects of client service is to be responsive and accessible. Your client’s legal issue is of the utmost importance to them and not hearing back from their lawyer in a timely fashion can tarnish the client experience. Likewise, potential clients expect to hear back from you quickly. The 2019 Legal Trends Report found that 10% of potential clients expect a return call in one hour, 24% within a few hours and 45% within 24 hours. Being responsive can be the difference between landing a new client or having them call another lawyer.
Clients hire lawyers they trust. Establish a connection with each client, whether it’s a common interest, shared values or simply family-oriented discussions. Clients want to do business with a lawyer who is interested in them and their business. Connecting on a personal level shows an interest beyond business and demonstrates to the client that you value and appreciate their business.
Ask for Feedback
You may think your firm is doing a good job, but the only way to know is to ask your clients. At the end of each engagement, ask your client about their experience. This can be done through client interviews, a survey or even an email. Find out what your client thinks the firm is good at and where it might need improvement. After receiving feedback, evaluate any reasonable suggestions and implement changes wherever it is possible.
Write it Down
After developing your plan, write it down. Depending on the size of your firm, this may mean developing a Client Experience Committee that can agree on the components of the plan. Be sure to include individuals at every level on the committee – partners, associates, paralegals, marketing and technology professionals, and legal assistants – this will help you gain perspectives from the entire firm. Once your plan is finalized, roll it out to all attorneys and staff, provide any necessary training and make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.
Developing and implementing a strategic approach to client service will build loyalty and strengthen your client relationships. Clients who have a great experience with your firm are more likely to remain clients for years, and they are more likely to refer clients to your firm. To learn more about creating a client service program, contact Dan McCormack & Associates.