Creating an Exceptional Client Experience

happy client11 Creating an Exceptional Client Experience

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In my last post, I talked about creating a client acquisition system. But business development does not end there.  Your retention is just the beginning. How you treat the client from your first consultation through your representation and beyond will not only determine whether the client is happy with your work and will pay your bills, but it will also dictate the way in which your client discusses your services with others, whether they return to you for legal services in the future, and whether they refer additional business to you.

A simply ‘good’ experience might create a satisfied client. But an exceptional client experience will create a client-evangelist who is essentially an unpaid marketer for your firm.

So how do you create an exceptional client experience?

Every client expects their lawyer to be competent and to do the best job possible for them. In most cases, your legal expertise and the result you obtain for the client is not what is going to ‘wow’ them. There are innumerable ways you can wow your clients, but today’s post will focus on three of the basics.

Exceptional client experience begins with exceptional communication

One of the main complaints from clients (and main sources of grievances against lawyers) is that lawyers do not communicate often enough, do not explain things well to clients, or are difficult to reach.

Lawyers can sometimes get too caught up in working on the client’s matter and trying to get everything perfect that they forget to communicate with their clients during the process. Most clients (yes, even business clients) come to lawyers  during difficult times, and often emotions run high. Clients are anxious. They want to get their problem resolved effectively and efficiently. If they do not hear from you, they will assume the worst. Keep your clients informed.

Find out your client’s preferred method and frequency of communication. Do they prefer telephone calls, regular mail, email, a web interface where they can view what is happening on their matter in real time? How often does your client expect to hear from you? Are their expectations realistic? If not, can you explain why and come to some agreement?

Get clients involved and give them the tools they need to succeed

What role do your clients play in the success of their own matter? How can you equip them to be successful in aiding you in their representation or, perhaps more importantly, in effectively using the services that you provide? Are there steps your clients need to take during or after the representation in order to maximize the benefit they receive from your representation?

For example, when creating a trust, give the client the tools and information they need to fund the trust. When drafting a will or other estate plan, provide the client with information about what the executor needs to do and what steps to take at the time of the client’s passing to ensure that their wishes are carried out.

When you deliver legal documents to a client, give them a plain English ‘cheat sheet’ or bullet point explanation of what is contained within the document. To help your client to keep a record of doctor’s visits or limitations resulting from an accident, make it easy and ensure you receive all of the information you need by giving the client a form to complete.

Instead of agonizing over which provisions to include in a draft document, send your client the draft with the potential options and explain what those options  mean to the client and to the outcome. Let them be involved in deciding what to include and why. Explain to them how taking different courses of action might affect not only the outcome, but the length of the engagement and the fee to be charged.

Give clients a roadmap

No matter how well you explain the legal process and the steps involved in a client’s matter, chances are the client is going to have questions along the way. They may not remember or be able to absorb everything you told them at the beginning of the matter or during the initial consultation. Rather than getting frustrated with clients’ repeated questions, provide clients with a roadmap of their engagement. Timelines, flow charts, diagrams or other visual aids can greatly increase a client’s understanding of the process and be a resource for them to turn to before they come to you with questions.

Not only will these methods keep your clients involved, but they will help make your work more visible, more tangible and more valuable to the client.

Legal Marketing, Practice Management

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  • http://skipassets.com Peter Pitorri

    Outstanding advice! But there is a catch to this: when a lawyer communicates with a client, the lawyer charges the client for the time spent on the client’s behalf. Indeed, if I communicate with a lawyer by email to inquire about the status of a matter, the lawyer charges me for the time she or he takes to read, process, and answer the email. Law practice management always exercises the dictum, “All time spent on behalf of a client is billable.” As a provider of legal support services to attorneys, I champion the idea. But suppose I start charging attorneys for every phone call or email to my attorney clients? Would they champion that idea?

    Peter Pitorri
    Pitorri and Associates, LLC

  • http://legalease.blogs.com Allison Shields

    Peter,

    Your response assumes three things: first, that all lawyers charge by the hour, second, that all lawyers charge clients for every single communication, and finally, that additional communication necessarily means additional time or an increased fee. None are necessarily true.

    I advise lawyers to charge their clients on a basis other than hourly wherever possible. Where they must charge on an hourly basis (or where the client requires it, which is sometimes the case), lawyers can offer great service without increasing the fee. One of the ways mentioned above is to give clients some information that they can refer back to so that the client can check there first, without having to call the lawyer. If the lawyer sets up a password protected interface or extranet where the client can go for access to file information and regular status updates, or if the lawyer keeps the client informed on a regular basis, there may be a reduced need for those status request emails.

    Sometimes, communicating with a client earlier in the process actually resutls in less time spent overall (and therefore a lower fee) because problems or questions are identified earlier, the document is more tailored to the client’s needs earlier in the process, etc.

    On the other hand, if a client agrees to an hourly fee arrangement and that client also indicates a preference for or requests a particular level of service, method or frequency of communication, that client must be prepared to pay a fee commensurate with the service provided.