Client Service: Are Your Clients Really Satisfied?

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If you are like many lawyers, you assume your clients are satisfied. Oftentimes, three reasons support their assumption. Their clients don’t complain, they pay, and they come back. Each of these answers seems reasonable as an indication of client satisfaction. In reality, however, they provide little support.

My Clients Don’t Complain

Many of you eat at restaurants frequently, I suspect. I do. Unfortunately, I often receive lousy food, lousy service or both. Do I complain to my server or to the host/hostess? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. It usually depends on just how bad the food or service was, and upon my mood.

Although I am not shy about voicing my opinion, many times I simply walk out of the restaurant without expressing a word of dissatisfaction. When I do that, the owner will assume that I was a satisfied customer. Will I ever return to the restaurant? No. Will I tell my friends about my bad experience? Yes. Will the owner be able to connect the reason that my friends and I never again enter his restaurant to my bad experience? No.

Substitute a lawyer and an unhappy client for the restaurant owner and the unhappy customer. Same result. The clueless lawyer mistakenly assumes that the client is happy.

My Clients Pay and Come Back

Do you have a cell phone? Do you pay those bills on time? Have you been with the same carrier for more than five years? In spite of this, are you really satisfied with your carrier’s customer service? If you’re like me, I sincerely doubt it. I’ve been with AT&T for more than a decade and have had my share of frustrations. So why haven’t I switched? I assume that the others will treat me just as poorly.

Do your clients pay their bills and keep coming back because they are satisfied? Some are, but some aren’t. Why do unhappy clients who have been subjected to poor client service return? The same reason I’m still with AT&T.

When Won’t They Come Back?

Will I ever leave AT&T? Yes; for either of two reasons.  The first is if a competitor is able to convince me that it is a better value than AT&T. At times, I carefully read those full-page ads claiming unlimited this and unlimited that for what seems to be a reasonable amount. I’m such a skeptic, though. No matter what plan I order, I’m convinced that the carrier will end up charging me about $100 a month (with hidden fees or outrageous rates for going over some limit). That’s the amount I pay now.

However, if a carrier were able to somehow brand itself as the “value cell phone provider” (very unlikely to occur IMHO), I would probably switch.

Alternatively, if AT&T screwed up big-time, I would do whatever it takes to switch – no matter the cost of the competitive carrier or the hassle of switching. In other words, I tolerate minor nuisances, but not major ones.

Many Clients Stay Because of Inertia

As you can see, I have been a long-time customer of AT&T for reasons that have nothing to do with customer satisfaction. Similarly, many of your legal clients come back, even though they believe that the client service has been poor, because they are convinced that competitors provide no unique or superior value to warrant a change. In addition, their attorneys haven’t pissed them off enough to justify a switch.

Is Your Practice in Danger?

Probably not. The good news is that most lawyers provide the same value as their competitors. Few make the effort to significantly distinguish themselves. Moreover, most attorneys are smart enough to avoid major snafus.  But don’t delude yourself. When it comes to client service, your clients are rarely as satisfied as you think.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sepblog/3941048713/)

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  • shg

    I would have hoped that after the reaction to your last post, you would have put in a bit more effort to produce something slightly more thoughtful and useful. Instead, more drivel. So clients may or may not be satisfied? This is an epiphany?

    Your analogies are pedestrian and could apply to pretty much anything. Your insertion of your personal sensibilities means nothing to anyone else. Are you the bar by which lawyers should conduct themselves?

    And then, your revelation leads to . . . nothing. There’s no payoff. Come on, Roy, earn your lunch money. Spend an extra three minutes and write something useful and informative. This is just killing bandwidth for nothing.

    • Mr. Greenfield,

      I really want to label you a cyber bully. Because you kind of are. But you admittedly bring the wood (just about) every post on Simple Justice, so you have considerable room to criticize. That said, will you at least give some thought to easing up on Roy? It’s a dead horse at this point.

      • shg

        Notice up at the top left, it says “Lawyerist”? It doesn’t say “Wimpist,” or “Dopist,” or even “Make Me Feel Good About Myself-ist.” Your a lawyer. If you can’t handle a little criticism, then you are in the wrong field. Toughen up.

        Roy was a lawyer before he turned marketer. Now he wants to write for baby lawyers like you, who immediately resort to such inanity as “cyber bully” as soon as someone doesn’t tell you how pretty you are.

        Roy’s no fool. Roy knows he’s posting insipid crap here, Josh, and he’s wondering whether baby lawyers like you are stupid enough to take it. Are you? Are you that stupid as to think this post isn’t a 30 second mail-it-in job for the pathologically useless?

        I worry a great deal about the next gen of lawyers, as I see a bunch of entitled, soft, coddled, narcissistic whiners. And here you are, talking about cyberbullying because I may have hurt Roy’s delicate feelings by not telling him how wonderful his post is.

        Give it some thought and tell me whether you want to be a lawyer or have you tummy rubbed. Being a lawyer is hard work. We get our ass kicked and come back for more. We fight when we have to. We do not whine about it. Being a lawyer can suck. Getting your tummy rubbed is much more fun. So which is it for you?

        And by the way, I’m here to ruffle feathers, Roy’s, yours and anybody else who reads. You don’t have to like it (and many here don’t), but until Sam throws me out, that’s what I plan to do.

          • Josh

            I choose to put on my war face. Do it every day, in fact. But I concede that the occasional tummy rub is indeed fun.

            • Roy is still a lawyer; have been now for more than 30 years. I think at this point, I am enjoying Scott’s comments as much as it seems he enjoys my posts.

              • Ken

                Some of us are enjoying this exchange, and some of us are not enjoying this exchange. This will probably continue, though it may not.

                • shg

                  Did you know that if you click on the little thumb down thing, nobody dies? What a waste of time that turned out to be.

                  • Leo

                    If you click the thumbs up, a fairy gets its wings.

  • Oh, I leave my clients satisfied alright. Very satisfied.

    All my cases end with a very happy ending, if you know what I mean…

    • shg

      You can be so creepy sometimes.