There are some scary customer service statistics regarding lawyers:
- Fewer than 10% of clients who call a law firm will actually get to speak to a lawyer.
- More than 40% of people who leave a voicemail or fill out a web form wait two or three days before they hear back.
- 11% of callers hang up within 10 seconds of calling a law firm because they’re frustrated at not getting to speak with the person they ask for by name.
In short: Most law firms are terrible at customer service (client service, if you prefer). This is a big problem as well as an opportunity.
A bad customer service experience for your clients means you face the very real possibility of losing a client who could stick with you for years.
1. Learn From Other Companies
Zappos is a great example of a company that offers stellar customer service. Zappos makes it ridiculously easy for customers to return shoes, making them well known for their no-hassle customer service.
Good customer service doesn’t just exist in the business of shoes, either. Law firms can also give their clients award-winning customer service. Sadis & Goldberg won awards from ACQ and Corporate Intl. Magazine, in part for its responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, and customer service.
You can deliver great customer service, too, by making every step in your law firm client focused. Your website, your policies, and your employees should make it easy for your clients to get the information they want and need. Clients should never feel like getting an answer to a question is a hassle. When you make it easy for clients to do business with you, there is no incentive for them to go to another lawyer.
2. Understand Life From the Perspective Of Your Client
It’s the Golden Rule of customer service: treat your client like you want to be treated.
Family law, personal injury, tort law, bankruptcy, criminal law, and even estate planning all have one thing in common: They can bring out the worst in people. Even mild-mannered professionals can suddenly become rabid shells of their former selves when they need a lawyer. You see people at their worst, when they are filled with anxiety and fear about the system, getting on with their life, and their future.
To provide the best customer service, you must have a basic understanding of emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication. Those two skills can help you identify the emotions and feelings of your client so that you and your staff can respond with a professional level of empathy.
Occasionally take the time to touch base with your client to see how they are doing during the case. This one small action goes a very long way toward increasing client satisfaction.
3. Customer Service Starts with First Contact
To create the best possible customer service experience for your clients, you have to examine your entire client intake process. Start with the very first time your clients call or fill out a form on your website.
One of the most important things that you can do is to hire the right person to answer your phone and return emails generated from your web form. It’s more than hiring someone with a pleasant voice for the phone. This person needs to sound friendly, go above and beyond when it comes to doling out patience, and they need to be empowered by you to make decisions that can solve problems. Above all, they need to understand your firm is client-focused.
When interacting with clients yourself, use active listening techniques. Active listening will reduce your client’s anxiety and positively impacts your attorney-client relationship.
4. Embrace the Details
When you were in law school, you learned how to pay attention to the details. Those details could make your break your analysis (and your grade). Take that same detail-oriented attitude and apply it to your clients. Not only will your customer service improve, but your clients will place more trust in you. The more your clients trust you, the more they will tell you. The more they tell you, the better you can help them and their case.
To do this, send out emails or make a quick phone call to a client who has expressed some sort of change in their life, such as the birth of a child or any other positive event. Knowing these small details will let a client know you care and increase referrals.
5. Take the Time to Explain Your Policies to Your Clients
During the initial consultation, you should do more than listen to stories and talk about money (although those two things are certainly important). Explain how (and when) your firm returns messages, provides unsolicited updates, and how your client can get their billing questions answered.
This will help set expectations. Bonus points if you include a “cheat sheet” that they can refer to later.
6. Call Clients Back within 24 Hours
Always return calls in a reasonable amount of time. All phone calls should be returned within 24 business hours. This even works if you still don’t have an answer for their question. Just touching base can go a long way.
7. Keep Clients in the Know
The number one bar complaint (PDF) is that clients don’t feel like their attorneys keep them informed. So set expectations by informing your clients during the initial consultation how often they can expect updates. Then follow that policy using email, phone calls, or with help from software.
You should also be careful about the language you use when you talk to your clients. Legal jargon can cause frustration and can even come off as condescending. Use plain english to explain updates or progress of the case. If there are terms that you simply can’t replace, make sure that you explain the concept.
8. Embrace Technology
Since customer service starts with the very first contact, make it simple and easy. Contact relationship management (CRM) software can help you streamline intake, stay in touch with your client, and automate followup during the representation and after you have closed the file.
Customer Service is the Key to Growth
It doesn’t matter how great of a lawyer you are if you don’t have any clients. If you want to continue to grow your law firm, you must focus on customer service. Happy clients refer your firm to others, and it isn’t that hard to make sure this happens. It’s just a matter of providing your clients with good customer service.
Featured image: “Professional business people handshaking in office” from Shutterstock.