In October, Lawyerist did a poll about marketing vs. client service, which resulted from the lament of some lawyers that there is too much emphasis these days on marketing and technology and not enough emphasis on lawyers gaining (or increasing) competence and serving clients.
But what does ‘serving clients’ really mean?
In my experience, many lawyers confuse ‘serving clients’ with billing hours on client files. Just because you are working on a client’s file and billing hours does not necessarily mean that you are providing high quality client service or satisfying your clients.
Lawyers complain that their clients do not appreciate them or understand all of the work the lawyer is doing on the client’s behalf. They lament the fact that their clients do not thank them for their hard work. But perhaps they should be thinking about thanking their clients instead.
In his recent post reviewing Total Attorneys Virtual Receptionist service, Sam Glover made an excellent point: “[i]t is nice to feel that your business is appreciated.”
A law practice is a service business. Sometimes the reason a client is loyal to your firm is not that you are the best lawyer in town or that you got them a result that no other lawyer could have gotten, but that your client service exceeded their expectations. Although technical legal competence and good results are important and are certainly worth striving for, the truth is that many clients cannot tell the difference between good lawyering and bad lawyering. Clients have no way of knowing whether the same result could have been achieved with another lawyer.
What clients do see and understand is client service. Most of the time, that has nothing to do with your legal education or your technical legal skill. The only thing that matters is the client’s experience with your firm. Service is about how you make the client feel. Do your clients get the impression that you care about them and you take care of them?
If you are a great lawyer but the client’s experience is that you are not giving their matter the time and attention it needs, your legal skills do not matter. If you get the best possible result for the client but your receptionist is nasty to them when they call your office, the client is unlikely to feel appreciated.
Client service matters. You do not have to be the lowest priced option to get the business, and in fact, people will pay more for a higher level of client service.
How can you surprise (and even delight) your clients? One way might be to send clients a ‘care package’ or other thank you for choosing you as their lawyer, like the package Ruby Receptionist sent Sam as an unexpected ‘thank you’ for his business. What’s better than getting presents? And that goes double for presents that are completely unexpected. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. It truly is the thought that counts. A simple thank you, whether in person or in writing can go a long way.
Since it is holiday time, it is worth mentioning that client appreciation isn’t limited to the holidays, and it does not just mean sending clients a holiday card (particularly a pre-printed holiday card with no personal message) or even a holiday thank you gift. Instead, show your clients appreciation and respect from the moment you meet them until long after their matter has been completed. Show it in everything you do for them and in every interaction they have with your firm. Make client service your number one priority.
Not only will your legal marketing pay extra dividends when you express appreciation regularly, but your practice as a whole will be better if you thank your clients, too.
Bottom line? If your client does not believe that you appreciated them, they are not likely to come back or to refer others.