Communicating With Clients the “Old School” Way

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Communicating with clients has gotten easier and easier with the ever-increasing popularity of blogs, social media, interactive websites, email marketing and e-newsletters, and other cool technology tools. Almost everyone now has a ‘smart’ phone that allows constant contact via email and text message from almost anywhere. But are we becoming too dependent on our gadgets to communicate?

New technology can certainly improve productivity and effectiveness, and these tools can be very useful aids in creating and maintaining good relationships with clients. We can respond quickly and easily when we have contact information, emails, and internet access at our fingertips. We can email a quick note to a client from anywhere without having to pick up the telephone, and it is certainly easier to convey information to a number of people simultaneously using email or social media than it is to contact them individually.

But these tools should be only a part of your repertoire. If they are relied upon too heavily, may be an obstacle rather than an aid.

Reduce long distance relationships

As a lawyer, you have a personal relationship with each of your clients even if you are in a business-to-business, rather than a business-to-consumer practice. Technology tools are, essentially, tools for long distance relationships. Why are long distance romantic relationships difficult? Because without the personal interaction and one-on-one contact, it’s more difficult to establish trust and intimacy. Absence can lead one partner to feel that they are forgotten, unimportant, or simply not cared for.

While the lawyer-client relationship is not the same as a personal relationship, there are similarities. Clients share the most intimate details of their lives, often at the most difficult times in their lives, with their lawyer. Clients want to feel cared for. They want to feel that their problems are in good hands. They need to build trust.

Although long-distance relationships can survive under certain circumstances, creating distance unnecessarily is inadvisable. Use “old school” tools to connect with your clients on a more personal level.

Use the telephone

Email is often misinterpreted and can be seen as cold or impersonal (especially mass emails). Instead of relying entirely on email, pick up the telephone. Sometimes just hearing a reassuring voice or being able to pick up on audible cues or tone of voice can make all of the difference in your interaction with a client or prospect.

The virtues of ‘snail mail’

Integrate snail mail into your client communications. While reducing paper and ‘going green’ are noble pursuits, sometimes giving clients something tangible and concrete to look at can aid in their understanding of the work you are performing for them. And marketing using postcards or other mail pieces will help you to stand out from the crowd. Wow your clients and prospects with some snail mail or packages. After all, who doesn’t like receiving a gift in the mail?

Meet face-to-face

Finally, do not forget the power of the ultimate ‘old school’ method: face-to-face interaction. Look for opportunities to meet your clients in person whenever possible. The human connection can reap many rewards. Visual cues, body language, and eye contact improve communication and understanding and may enable you to convey information more quickly, preventing the necessity for multiple calls or emails. Personal interaction increases the ‘know, like, and trust’ factor much more quickly than long distance communication.

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  • Wow, face to face interaction. I guess I’m “old school” then. Since starting my solo practice two weeks ago, I’ve had several face to face encounters.

  • Sarah

    Older generations really do tend criticize the dependence younger generations have on technology. I agree with Alison, though. There’s two sides to it. I know there’s always plenty of studies with contradicting results, but I remember hearing about a study that found that social networks actually make people more “meatspace” social. The reason being was that people are more likely to engage in more frequent communication via technology and as a result, building relationships and hopefully to the point where face-to-face interaction happens. Example: Tweetups?

    But to put it in perspective with lawyers again, I think face-to-face interactions should really be where lawyers thrive best – actively interacting and engaging with clients to help you both succeed.

  • Ron Miller

    Writing letters that actually say something of substance are more useful now than ever because they are so rare. Wearing a suit does the same thing. Talking to someone wearing a suit leaves a different impression than in did 10 years ago and wearing a suit everyday (I don’t by the way) gives you more of an advantage in meeting with prospective clients, etc..