Interior of a modern waiting room. Clinical with empty chairs

If you know you aren’t giving your clients the first-class treatment they deserve, here are some ideas for making your office more client-friendly.

1. Give Clear Directions to Your Office

Consider what clients have to do in order to meet with you at your office:

  1. Find your office building. Most people will use Google for this, or a map or transit app on their phone. If they take public transit, they may be in for a hike from the bus or train to your building.
  2. Find parking. If your clients drive themselves (as opposed to taking public transportation or getting a ride), they will need to find parking, which they probably won’t look for until after they arrive. If your building doesn’t have its own parking lot, they may drive around or ask Siri for nearby parking ramps.
  3. Find your office in your building. After they get off the bus or park, they will need to find a way into your building, then find your office in the building. If you are in an office building, they will probably use the lobby signage.
  4. Figure out how your reception area works. Once they have found your office, they will have to come in, let you know they have arrived, and possibly wait until you are ready to meet with them. If you don’t have a receptionist to greet and guide them, they will look for signs or cues around the room.

How easy have you made it for clients to get to your office building, find your office, and get comfortable in your waiting area? Keep in mind that for many clients, visiting a law office is one more stressful step in an already stressful process, and they may be filled with uncertainty.

I once worked in an office where there was no receptionist, just a doorbell. On reflection, that was a pretty unfriendly experience for clients. I regularly visit a professional office where there is no receptionist, just an empty desk, a nice couch, and a Keurig. All the individual office doors are closed. I still haven’t figured out what I’m supposed to do when I walk in. Usually, someone eventually opens a door and comes to greet me.

That’s not the kind of first impression you probably want to make on your clients, though. To help set your visitors’ minds at ease, give clear directions to the nearest parking lot or bus stop, to your office in the building, and then make sure someone greets them when they walk in the door.

2. Improve Your Refreshments

Offering guests something to drink (usually coffee) is deeply embedded in the human psyche. But not everyone wants coffee or soda. Consider setting up a drink station in your waiting area so your guests can serve themselves. Here are some ideas:

3. Offer Snacks

It’s hard to think on an empty stomach, so offer your clients a snack to get them through your meeting. A bowl of fresh fruit is great if you can keep it full. Otherwise, subscribe to a selection of snacks on Amazon to stay well stocked.

Parents with children will be especially appreciative.

4. Plan for Children

If you don’t plan for children, they will always be disruptive. But with a little planning, you can minimize the disruption.

Get a treasure chest filled with toys and let kids choose one to keep. Better yet, fill it with small LEGO sets and you’ll be a legend among your clients’ children. (Don’t just keep a box of toys or LEGO to share. That’s a great way to gross out your clients and spread germs.)

Consider keeping a folding tent around, too, and setting it up for kids so they can play by themselves while you meet with your clients.

It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of kid-friendly tablets with headphones, although these days many kids will have their own.

5. Make Wi-Fi Available

Set up a guest network (you shouldn’t give visitors access to your primary Wi-Fi network) and post the password in your waiting area.

6. Offer a Charging Station

Let your clients top up their phone battery with a simple charging station and some universal cables.

7. Offer Better Reading material

Have a variety of magazines on hand, selected to appeal to your typical client. Pick three or four subscriptions from Amazon’s list of best-sellers.

Clean up your magazines at least every other month or so. Keeping old issues on hand just makes your office look crusty.

Experiment: Use A “Mystery Shopper” to Find More Opportunities to Improve

Market research companies send “mystery shoppers” into stores to measure quality of service. You can do the same thing to test your clients’ experience while in your office to help you identify areas for improvement.

Ask a friend your staff won’t recognize to play the part of a client. Give them a one-paragraph legal problem and have them make an appointment with another lawyer at your firm (without telling that lawyer, of course). If you can, record their interactions with your receptionist, website, staff, etc. If you can’t, debrief them right away while their memories are fresh and ask detailed questions about what they experienced throughout the process. Ask them how you could improve the client experience.

You’re bound to spot at least one or two things you can improve.

If you are a solo with staff (on-site or outsourced) or an office where you meet with clients, you can still use a mystery shopper to see what your client experiences up to the point they would meet with you.

A mystery shopper is a window into the client experience. You may not like what you find out, but every problem you fix will make your clients happier they came to see you.

3 Comments

  1. Kristin LaMont says:

    Sam – such good ideas and we are making a wish list of improvements now.

    I completely agree about the kid’s toys and the “gross factor.” We keep our goodie box with the receptionist and he offers toys to kids, but I like the idea of toy packs to give away.

    We have a dalmatian dog (Lucy) who “works” in our office. All the kids and most of the clients ask for her by name. Ikea sells stuffed dalmation toys at a very low cost – so we’ve decided to buy in bulk, name them “Lucy” and kids can take “Lucy” home with them.

    Thanks for always inspiring us to be more thoughtful lawyers.

  2. Penelope Gardner says:

    I offer small Hallowe’en size Playdohs and sometimes a small box of Crayolas to take home, plus my secondary waiting room is full of kid-sized Ikea furniture, toys etc.

  3. Michael Caccavo says:

    Respectfully, I disagree with numbers 2, 3 and 7.
    My disagreement with 2 and 3 is that clients are there to see me, to talk to a lawyer, not to have refreshments. I found most often, when I had coffee or some other refreshment to offer, clients rarely took any. Many bring their own coffee or drink, and they don’t need to be snacking while we’re talking (I do have a jar of M&M’s on the conference table which some clients like).
    As for number 7, I generally keep reading material to a minimum, and try to keep most of what is available either the monthly newsletters I send out from my office, or magazines that have some relevance to my practice area.
    I think the best advice is to not make clients comfortable in the waiting room, but to be sure they spend as little time there as possible! Get them into the meeting with you, before they have time to settle in with reading material and wonder about refreshments. LOL.
    Something to amuse children is a good idea. And client/guest WiFi and a charging station are nice conveniences.

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