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.