Client Service: Do Your Clients Feel Appreciated?

In October, Lawyerist did a poll about marketing vs. client service, which resulted from the lament of some lawyers that there is too much emphasis these days on marketing and technology and not enough emphasis on lawyers gaining (or increasing) competence and serving clients.

But what does ‘serving clients’ really mean?


In my experience, many lawyers confuse ‘serving clients’ with billing hours on client files. Just because you are working on a client’s file and billing hours does not necessarily mean that you are providing high quality client service or satisfying your clients.

Lawyers complain that their clients do not appreciate them or understand all of the work the lawyer is doing on the client’s behalf. They lament the fact that their clients do not thank them for their hard work. But perhaps they should be thinking about thanking their clients instead.

In his recent post reviewing Total Attorneys Virtual Receptionist service, Sam Glover made an excellent point: “[i]t is nice to feel that your business is appreciated.”

A law practice is a service business. Sometimes the reason a client is loyal to your firm is not that you are the best lawyer in town or that you got them a result that no other lawyer could have gotten, but that your client service exceeded their expectations. Although technical legal competence and good results are important and are certainly worth striving for, the truth is that many clients cannot tell the difference between good lawyering and bad lawyering. Clients have no way of knowing whether the same result could have been achieved with another lawyer.

What clients do see and understand is client service. Most of the time, that has nothing to do with your legal education or your technical legal skill. The only thing that matters is the client’s experience with your firm. Service is about how you make the client feel. Do your clients get the impression that you care about them and you take care of them?

If you are a great lawyer but the client’s experience is that you are not giving their matter the time and attention it needs, your legal skills do not matter. If you get the best possible result for the client but your receptionist is nasty to them when they call your office, the client is unlikely to feel appreciated.

Client service matters. You do not have to be the lowest priced option to get the business, and in fact, people will pay more for a higher level of client service.

How can you surprise (and even delight) your clients? One way might be to send clients a ‘care package’ or other thank you for choosing you as their lawyer, like the package Ruby Receptionist sent Sam as an unexpected ‘thank you’ for his business. What’s better than getting presents? And that goes double for presents that are completely unexpected. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. It truly is the thought that counts. A simple thank you, whether in person or in writing can go a long way.

Since it is holiday time, it is worth mentioning that client appreciation isn’t limited to the holidays, and it does not just mean sending clients a holiday card (particularly a pre-printed holiday card with no personal message) or even a holiday thank you gift. Instead, show your clients appreciation and respect from the moment you meet them until long after their matter has been completed. Show it in everything you do for them and in every interaction they have with your firm. Make client service your number one priority.

Not only will your legal marketing pay extra dividends when you express appreciation regularly, but your practice as a whole will be better if you thank your clients, too.

Bottom line? If your client does not believe that you appreciated them, they are not likely to come back or to refer others.

(photo: Shutterstock)

Practice Management

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  • http://constructionlawva.com Christopher G. Hill

    Great thoughts Allison. One of the reason that I like my area of practice is that I like my clients. This allows me to feel good about helping them out on a regular basis. Getting to know your clients can only help to increase the level of client service.

    While I’m a big proponent of tech as a tool for practice management and streamlining, the personal touch is still a great way to go.

    • http://lawyermeltdown.com/ Allison Shields

      Thanks, Chris. I agree – even if you use technology tools, the bottom line is that clients need to feel that they are being taken care of. The personal touch makes an even bigger impression now than ever before, in part because of the prevalence of technology tools.

      Allison

  • http://www.PAinjurycase.com Dave S.

    Thanks Allison. My view is that clients are marketing priority 1. They are the best referral source. Do right by them and they will refer people they know.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      You mean clients are priority 1, I’m sure. No need to modify that with marketing. If you treat them well—both in delivering legal services and in general—they will send referrals.

      • http://www.PAinjurycase.com Dave S

        Right, I should’ve worded it better, but meant that Clients are Priority 1 and in the end, by doing a good job for them, they will be loyal and refer people to you.

    • http://lawyermeltdown.com/ Allison Shields

      Dave,

      Clients are priority #1 and they can be marketing priority #1, too – taking care of clients brings referrals, but if done properly, marketing to clients can bring them value and help get you additional business – whether from those clients or from additional referrals. After all, if your marketing includes an educational component or if it informs clients of additional services you provide that might aid them in reaching their business or personal goals, it’s a win-win.

      Allison

  • http://www.casemanagesoftware.com/ Syd

    Very interesting article indeed. Alison the way I don’t think there would be much difference between a doctor and an attorney. Ask me how ? A good doctor will listen to the patients, emphasize, follow up when needed. In a nut shell the human touch. When a lawyer service the same way, it changes the dynamics. The clients can be more forgiving seeing the attorney did his/her best. This goes with most service business. I fully agree the serving a client does not equate to a billing time or results. Sometimes, a very case be won quite easily and it does not often mean it was solely because of the attorney. Just like a good doctor cannot cure a patient sometimes but he can still be considered a good doctor.

    my 2 cents!