In this episode with Joey Coleman, we talk about what client experience really is and why it’s important—especially during the first 100 days.
Joey Coleman helps companies keep their customers. An award-winning speaker, he shares his First 100 Days® methodology for improving customer experience and retention with organizations around the world (e.g., Whirlpool, NASA, and Zappos). His book Never Lose a Customer Again shows how to turn any sale into a lifelong customer.
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This transcript was prepared by Rev.com.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Lawyerist podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. And now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street, and this is episode 162 of the Lawyerist podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, we’re talking with Joey Coleman about designing your client’s experience, especially during the first 100 days, so you never lose a client again.
Aaron Street: So this episode launches on Wednesday, March 7th, and if you are listening to it on the day it comes out, then we are currently at a BA tech show in Chicago through the end of the week. And if you happen to be there, you should come find us and say, “Hi,” because we want to meet you. And if you either aren’t there, or are there and just not listening to podcasts for the first couple of days because you’re at a conference and not doing your normal morning commute, then you’re not going to hear this while were there. And so we won’t be able to hang out in Chicago unless you realize to come say, “Hi,” to us anyway.
Sam Glover: But if you are there, look for the Lawyerist t-shirts. Aaron and I will be there with Ashley, our operations director, Marshall, our new editor in chief, and Stephanie, our community director. So there will be five of us there, and all of us would love you to come and say, “Hi,” or hang out, whatever.
Aaron Street: And also, if you’re listening to this on Wednesday, March 7th, the day it comes out, today happens to be a giant day of huge announcement for us at Lawyerist that we’re really excited about, and so if you’re kind of in the Lawyerist crowd, you’re probably hearing about that on Twitter, or our website, or whatever. So today we are announcing the launch of project we’re super excited about. It’s called The Small Firm Scorecard. We’ve been putting tons of effort over the last kind of year or two in secret into this project. Basically, we’ve created a qualitative self-assessment for all small firm lawyers in the country to benchmark their law firm’s across a scale to determine whether you’re building a practice that will be successful and sustainable for the next 10 years, and we have questions about your finances, and your marketing, and your technology, and your HR practices et cetera, all to figure out whether your building what we think of as a successful firm.
Sam Glover: I think it’s going to be really helpful to everyone. And you can find it on the new home page.
Aaron Street: Yes. And so another big announcement today is that we’ve redesigned the Lawyerist home page, in part to focus on encouraging people to take the scorecard. Scorecard is free. It’s available at Lawyerist.com/scorecard, or now easily findable from the Lawyerist home page. There are no strings attached, you just get your score and some recommendations about what areas we think your firm could use to improve. Another exciting announcement that Sam has already foreshadowed is that we have three new team members joining Lawyerist this week, including a new editor in chief, Marshall Lichte. Marshall is a TBD Law alumni and a former podcast guest, and for the first time in 10 years, Sam will now no longer be in charge of overseeing the content on Lawyerist, which is a big deal for us. He’s not going anywhere, obviously, unless this is a really weird podcast episode.
Sam Glover: No, but I’m leaving the content side of Lawyerist.com in really, really, good hands. We’ve known Marshall for a long time, and it was really lucky that he was willing to come join us.
Aaron Street: And so our team as of this week is now more than 10 people, and we’re super excited about that. And then the other big announcement that is dropping today, which I actually can’t say now, because it isn’t concluded while I’m recording this, is that we now know the date and location of our TBD Law Four conference. And so you can go to Lawyerist and find out that data now.
Sam Glover: Yeah, so you’ll be able to see almost all the stuff on Lawyerist.com, or you can meet the new team at Lawyerist.com/about. But lots of cool stuff happening. And come check it out. Come see us in Chicago if you’re there. And stick with us through the next year.
Aaron Street: So lots of exciting stuff. None of which has really anything to do with our guest, Joey Coleman, who I’m super excited about. Joey is another, in what’s becoming a long line of guests who I’ve gotten to know through the mastermind talks group that I’m a part of. Joey is both a kind of former recovering lawyer, and one of the leading thought leaders on client experience, and I think he’s got some really cool stuff to talk with us about today.
Sam Glover: Yeah, so hear from Diana Stepleton from Ruby Receptionists, with a brief sponsored interview, and then we’ll hear from Joey.
Diana Stepleton: Hi, this is Diana Stepleton. I am the VP of partner engagement here at Ruby Receptionists. We are the only live remote receptionist service dedicated to creating real, meaningful connections with callers, building trust, and helping you in business.
Sam Glover: Hi, Diana.
Diana Stepleton: How are you, Sam?
Sam Glover: I’m great, thanks. I’m glad you’re with us again. So remote receptionists now. You used to be a virtual receptionist, what’s up with that?
Diana Stepleton: Yes. Well we’ve been in business almost 15 years, and we’ve always called ourself a virtual receptionist, but we’re finding more and more these days that people call and have a different idea in their head of what virtual means, and they think we are computers or robots or something. And they’re surprised when they find out that we are actually live people answering the phone. So we are somewhat rebranding that to be live, remote receptionist, instead of virtual receptionists. Nothing has changed other than really the definition of virtual in the world.
Sam Glover: I’m now a little bit amused by my mental picture of what people might be imagining when they think of virtual receptionist then.
Diana Stepleton: Yes.
Sam Glover: I feel like when I was considering Ruby years ago for the first time, it felt really like a big deal to get set up with a virtual receptionist, and I now know that maybe I was a little misguided in that, but what is it actually like to get set up with Ruby? Because I think people might be thinking that’s harder than it actually is.
Diana Stepleton: Yeah, it’s actually really quite simple, for us anyway. What our new customers do is they fill out a short form online that gives us some basic information. They have an onboarding call with one of our on-boarders to help figure out how they want their calls handled, just very customizable, and then they forward their phones to us and we answer them. If they don’t have a phone number already, we can actually just provide the phone number for them, and then they don’t even have to worry about the forwarding part. But it’s really very simple. Most of the energy is spent on making sure that we are setting ourselves up to handle the calls the way the new customer would like them handled.
Sam Glover: And you have advice about that too right? So I don’t have to come up with the script on my own?
Diana Stepleton: Correct. We do. So for example, for attorneys, we will often say, “You know, when someone calls a law firm, they expect the receptionist to know certain things, like to have a stated hourly rate? Or do you offer free consultations?” Or those types of things. So we will ask to get those pieces of information so our receptionists can really sound in-house. So when someone calls they, “Of course we know these things, because we’re their receptionist.” So we will guide the new customer through that process.
Sam Glover: And what if what I’m worried about is that it’s going to suck and people are going to call up and I’m going to lose clients? Yeah but I think people might be worried about that, so how do you alleviate that fear?
Diana Stepleton: Well, there are a number of things. One is people can try it out for themselves. We have something all over our website that’s called Experience Ruby. You can find it in a number of different places that call Ruby.com. And it enables someone to simply enter their first name and their last name, their company name or firm name, their email address, and their phone number. And an account will immediately be set up for no charge, it’s just a test account. It will work for about an hour, at least an hour, sometimes a little bit longer. And what it enables people to do is really just play with it.
So do you want to hear what it would sound like if a Ruby Receptionist answered your phone? Fill the little form out and then have someone call you. And Ruby Receptionists will answer the phone and we can transfer calls through to you live, we can take messages so you can see how messages are delivered. It’s not 100%, because a lot of people use our app, we have an iPhone or an Android app, and so a lot of people get their messages in the app as opposed to getting it via email or text, but it’ll be a basic view of it, so without the app.
Sam Glover: So I could actually like have a colleague or a friend call up Ruby as if they were calling me as a law firm and go through the entire process and get connected to me, and I could experience the whole thing?
Diana Stepleton: You can, absolutely. And in fact, you could even play with the receptionist a little bit. And when your friend or colleague calls and asks for you, and the receptionist offers you that call, you can say, “Find out who referred him.” And then the receptionist will go back and ask who referred them, and they’ll come back to you and give you that information, and you can say, “Okay, I’ll take the call.” They’ll transfer them through. Or you can say, “You know what? I won’t take the call. Take a message.”
Sam Glover: So does that really just go through the normal switchboard then?
Diana Stepleton: Uh-huh.
Sam Glover: Oh, cool.
Diana Stepleton: Oh, yeah. It just sets up a test account automatically. And it’s very slick.
Sam Glover: That is very cool. And you have a money back guarantee for the first 30 days. If people aren’t happy?
Diana Stepleton: Yeah. Exactly. So back to your question of what happens if we suck, I would say first of all, people can go out and look on the internet to see reviews of us. People rarely complain that we suck. Even our customers who leave us do so because it might not be a good fit. They’ve decided to hire someone in-house. They’ve merged with another firm who has a receptionist. Any number of reasons, maybe they feel that their call volume is too low to justify the cost. But typically, even when those people leave us, they include a little note that says, “You guys are the best thing since sliced bread. I’ll tell everyone about you. But I’m canceling for now.”
Sam Glover: That’s got to feel nice.
Diana Stepleton: It does. It really does.
Sam Glover: Well, if you’d like to learn more about working with a remote or virtual receptionist, you can get the attorney’s guide to remote receptionists at CallRuby.com/LawyeristPod. That’s CallRuby.com/LawyeristPod. Thanks, Diana.
Diana Stepleton: Thank you, Sam. Talk to you later.
Joey Coleman: Hey everyone. My name’s Joey Coleman. I’m actually a recovering attorney. The first step is admitting that you have a problem, and now I’m a professional speaker. I get the pleasure of traveling all over the world, delivering a message about the importance of creating a remarkable client experience. My expertise is helping companies keep their customers and clients. Companies like Whirlpool, NASA, and Zappos come to me when they want to enhance their client experience. And I’m super excited to get a chance to be on the Lawyerist today and have a conversation with Sam.
Sam Glover: Hi, Joey. Thanks for being on. I told somebody recently that I was a lawyer and that I got over it.
Joey Coleman: Nice. I like it.
Sam Glover: Which is sort of true. But I stayed in the area. So I’m curious though, how did you make that transition from being a practicing lawyer, and I checked out your bio, and you were a practicing lawyer doing criminal defense, working for national security agencies, in the White House, so you’ve been kind of all over the map in various levels of being a lawyer. How do you do that and then decide to focus on client experience? Where did that change happen?
Joey Coleman: Well, it’s interesting. It’s probably one of the most frequent questions I get. How does guy go from working for CIA and the White House and the Secret Service to being a criminal defense lawyer, to selling promotional products, to running an ad agency, to being a client experience guy? And the thread is easy for me to see in hindsight, looking back. It wasn’t as clear maybe when I was actually going through the process originally. But long story short, every job I’ve ever had, the real crux or goal of being successful at that job is figuring out why do people do the things that they do? And what can we do to make them do the things that we want them to do.
So as a lawyer, that was pretty easy. How do we convince the jury to find my guy not guilty? As a marketer, it’s how do we convince a consumer to buy this product? And now as a professional speaker, it’s how do I help an audience understand that adopting the methodologies and the frameworks that I’m presenting to them is something that will help their business and is something that they should do after my talk ends. So the common thread is really connecting all of the people aspect, and that’s really how it all ties together. And interestingly enough, obviously a lot of the things I learned as a practicing attorney have been incredibly useful to me as not only a business owner, but as a speaker.
Sam Glover: So programming note here, we may go back and forth between saying customer and client experience, because obviously when you’re working with a company like Zappos, they think about customers, not clients. And when you’re working with lawyers, you think about clients, not customers. Just so listeners understand, sometimes we’re going to bounce back and forth without really thinking about it. Why client experience? I mean, obviously, clients are at the core of everything that lawyers do, doesn’t that mean we’re already automatically focused on client experience and that’s what we do?
Joey Coleman: Well, that would be nice. And it’s beautiful in theory.
Sam Glover: [inaudible 00: 12: 25] trick question, obviously.
Joey Coleman: Yeah, but we both have been around the block enough to know that that’s just not the reality. And one of the fascinating things as somebody who practiced law and now is immersed in client experience all day, every day, to be incredibly blunt without hopefully being offensive, as a general rule in the industry of attorneys, the client experience is horrid. It’s absolutely horrid. And that’s mainly because most attorneys have never actually been a client. So it’s really tough to understand how to create a remarkable client experience when you’ve never been on the client side of the equation. Secondarily, the typical lawyer, depending on whose research you look at, has anywhere between 40 and 80 active cases at any given time. The problem is for your clients, they have one active case. And so for them, emotionally-
Sam Glover: And it consumes them.
Joey Coleman: And it consumes them, and rightfully it should. Because it’s their life on the line. Especially in the context of when I was doing criminal defense. If the person I was representing got found guilty, I didn’t go to prison, they did. And so it consumes every waking moment of their life, and the problem is I think as practicing attorneys, when the client leaves the room, and we’re done with that meeting, we don’t sit there and ponder on that client and worry about what just happened in the meeting for the next 48 hours. We immediately go to the next meeting. And usually, the interesting thing is we don’t really think about that client again until either the next time we see them, or maybe we’re working on their case, but when we are working on their case, they usually don’t know we’re working on their case.
So they’re left in this thought of, “Well, the only time I ever hear from them is when we’re face to face, having a meeting, or on the phone.” And it’s like, no, there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. And that’s where I say from a communication point of view, the experience is horrid, because we need to be informing our clients much more regularly about where they are in the process, and what we’ve been doing for them.
Sam Glover: Yeah, we’re too busy being annoyed because our clients are calling us to check in. I’m curious, do you have like a tool or a recommendation for how lawyers can put themselves in their client’s shoes and actually try and see something from their perspective?
Joey Coleman: Yeah. I mean, a general tool is just to really strengthen your empathy muscle and to practice kind of seeing it from their perspective. Additionally, make the time to actually spend the time with the client, and ask them questions about how this is impacting their life. So again, it depends on what kind of law you practice. I spent a lot of my time in criminal defense, so that’s an easy and obvious emotional connection. “What’s going on here?” “Oh my gosh, I’m worried that I’m going to go to jail. I’m worried about what’s going to happen to my wife and kids. I’m worried about if I’ll ever be able to get a job after that. I’m worried about how long I would go to jail if I go to jail.”
But the same applies if you’re doing contract law. “Hey, I’m worried that this deal that my lawyer is negotiating, that maybe they skip a point that is really important, and three years from now I get sued and I lose my company.” Family law. “I’m worried that if my lawyer doesn’t do a good job, I might not get to see my kids as much as I would like to on the other end of this divorce.” So part of the idea of stepping into the shoes is to really have the conversations with your clients to ask them, “What are your fears here? What are the things that you’re worried about? What are the things you’re anxious about?”
And they may be, and most likely will be worried about things there’s really not a lot of reason for them to worry. But if we don’t ever take the time to ask that question, and record the answer in the file, and then every time we’re getting ready to jump on a call with that client, or meet with them in person, go back and read what their fears are so that in the call, we can be keeping in mind, “I need to be addressing these, all day every day, in every communication I have with them.”
Sam Glover: I’m curious, how granular do you think about … And I know we’ll dig deeply into this, but when I think about the client experience, I also try to think about things like how will somebody with those fears, and hopes, and whatever, who walks into my office, how will they feel when they walk in? If I’m sitting behind a giant desk in a suit, what does that say to somebody who’s approaching their legal problems that they have in the way that they are? And sort of the non-verbal cues in the way that we communicate, the non-verbal communications that we have, the environment that I’m creating, all that kind of stuff. Is that stuff relevant too? Or are we thinking more about communication styles?
Joey Coleman: It’s 100% relevant. Absolutely. And I think it most … And again, sweeping stereotype here, most lawyers and most law firms have a perception about what they should look like, and then they try to present that without recognizing that that actually may be having the opposite of their intended effect in terms of their client’s emotional state. Let me explain that in the context of experience I had when I was practicing law. I did a lot of high-profile criminal defense cases, where if my clients were found guilty, they’d go to prison for hundreds of years. If they came to meet with me and I was wearing a suit, they would associate with me with the feds who usually had been the ones who had brought them into custody.
Sam Glover: Right, not their friends.
Joey Coleman: Exactly. So what I used to wear a lot in the office were jeans and a sweater. Now, some lawyers would look at that and say, “That’s not professional. That’s ridiculous.” But when I’m meeting with my client, I need my client to be at ease, to tell me everything that’s going on, to give me the full story, not feel that they need to hold back or be on guard.
And then what we would do is we would actually have a conversation before we would go to court where I would actually sit them down and say, “Now, here’s the thing. Tomorrow when you walk into court, you’re going to see me in a way you’ve never seen me before. You’re going to see me in a suit. You’re going to see me using words and phrases with the judge and with the other lawyers that you don’t know what they mean. That’s okay. I’m playing a game. I’m playing a role. And if I have conversations with them the way I have conversations with you in jeans and a sweater, we’re in trouble. You’re in trouble. So know that you’re going to be anxious, but know that it’s going to be okay, because we’re basically putting on a show, for lack of a better way of putting it, or putting in layman’s terms.”
But you’re absolutely right. Even the difference of instead of sitting behind your desk for the initial meeting, have a couch in your office and you sit on one side of the couch and put them on the other side. Sit across from them. Try to eliminate the number of physical barriers between them. Make your office welcoming. Most lawyer’s offices look like they’re one of two things, either a photo shoot for Architectural Digest of boring offices, 2018, or a complete train wreck of paper everywhere and colossal disorganization. Neither of those images is really going to present the best foot forward for a client in terms of what their perceptions of you are. And so I think it’s all about taking into consideration the communication, the environment, what you’re wearing, how you say it, the way you communicate with them.
Are you sending letters? Are you sending emails? Are you doing phone calls? Are you doing in person? What are the different types of communication conversations you’re having? And sometimes the tool and mechanism for doing that, again, either helps or hurts your cause.
Sam Glover: One thing that I see so many people doing, not even just lawyers, but people doing is you’re sitting across a desk from somebody, and you’re talking to them, and they’re taking notes on a laptop. And they may be taking notes, they may be listening intently and taking notes, but what everything about typing on a laptop says is, “I’m doing something that’s more important than what you’re saying to me.” It’s so dismissive, and there’s a physical wall between you and your clients. And I realized that you may be doing a great job taking notes, but what you’re sort of subconsciously telling them is, “I’m not listening.” It’s a subtle, but really striking thing I think that we all get. We all feel dismissed when somebody’s looking at a screen instead of looking at us and listening.
Joey Coleman: Absolutely. I mean, and there’s a couple great workarounds to that. Number one, do it the old fashioned way, write it down. I realized that that reduces productivity, but it increases connection with the client. Number two, have a colleague or an associate or a paralegal or a secretary sit in on the meeting to take notes.
Sam Glover: I like that one a lot, yeah.
Joey Coleman: So you can be very present in the moment. I mean, when I was a junior associate, starting out, that’s part of what my job was. My job was to walk in and not only take notes on the conversation, but take notes on the client emotions. Take notes on how they were reacting to the things that were being said in the situation at a maybe subconscious level, or at a visceral level, and then feed that back to the senior attorneys after the meeting was over and say, “Hey, I think they’re really anxious about this, even though they didn’t say they were anxious about it.”
Sam Glover: There’s a lot of data that suggests that when you take notes by typing, you actually don’t retain it or absorb it, the information, nearly as well.
Joey Coleman: Correct.
Sam Glover: I have a friend, Damien, who can type so fast that he can actually transcribe it, so he is basically playing the role of a court reporter, and then he can go back and study it later. And he insists he’s the exception to the rule, and maybe he is, but I still think that for most of us, actually just sitting there and listening, and maybe jotting down a few notes about the highlights, you’re probably going to have a better recollection later of that conversation anyway.
Joey Coleman: 100%. And in fact, with all due respect to the friend, most lawyers think that they’re the exception to the rule, and that’s part of the reason why the client experience is so horrid across the entire industry.
Sam Glover: If you’re listening, Damien, you know that I think that you might be right about this.
Joey Coleman: And I’m willing to be persuaded as well.
Sam Glover: The exception proves the rule.
Joey Coleman: Totally. I mean, the other thing that I think is worth considering is when I was practicing law, transcription was a really expensive endeavor. Having a court reporter in the room was going to cost hundreds of dollars, and it just wasn’t a practical application in a regular client meeting. What I do in all of my client meetings now, I have an app on my phone that records the conversation, and when I’m done, it uploads it to the cloud. It automatically goes over to a service called Rev.com, R-E-V .com-
Sam Glover: Oh, that’s what we’ll use for this podcast too.
Joey Coleman: And yeah, and for a dollar a minute, transcribes the conversation. And why lawyers aren’t using that and factoring that in, I don’t know. You would have a verbatim transcript, as you well know, Sam, that the transcription rate is in excess of 98% accurate. I mean, it’s incredibly, incredibly accurate. And if you really feel like you don’t want to miss anything, throw the recorder on, have the conversation, and you’re off to the races and use that to take your notes. It will allow you to be much more personally engaged with the client when you’re meeting.
Sam Glover: Just to throw a little [lawyery 00: 23: 27] stuff in here though, I think depending on who you’re talking with and who your client is and what kind of law it is, you may be creating a record that then comes up for discovery issues, and so it’s at least worth thinking about before you do that, but to the extent it’s really just an attorney client communication, I think you’re totally right. It’s a great way to make sure that you don’t miss anything. So we need to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors, and our conversation is going faster than I thought, because I’m really absorbed in this. And so when we come back, we’re going to talk briefly about your book and your idea that it’s the first 100 days that deserves our focus, and we’re going to take apart what should be happening during those 100 days. So we’ll be back in just a moment.
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Okay, Joey, I meant to talk about this right up front, but your approach to client experience revolves around this idea of the first 100 days. So why 100 days? Why not 90, or 110? Is it just because it’s a nice number?
Joey Coleman: No. I mean, it is a nice number and it conveniently works that way. Now, the reason the 100 days is so important is all the research shows, and this is research that is cross-disciplinary, across every industry you can imagine, and also international in scope, not just human behavior in North America. What the research shows is that the first 100 days of a relationship with a new client is more dispositive to the lifetime value of that relationship than any other singular factor. And so what we find is that in the typical business, and again, I’m going to segue if I could briefly from law to talk about what the business stats are.
Sam Glover: Yeah, please.
Joey Coleman: Because they’re clear, but then we can apply them to the law. The typical business-
Sam Glover: And anyone who doesn’t think that law is a business is probably not listening to this podcast.
Joey Coleman: Fair enough, fair enough. And we should have a completely different conversation, right? But moral of the story is, a new customer coming to a business, somewhere between 20 and 80% of those new customers will decide to quit doing business with that company before they reach the 100 day anniversary. With auto mechanics, it’s 69%, banks is 32%, cellphones and the draconian contracts we have there that if you break the contract early, you have to pay huge penalties, 21% of people break the contract before the 100 days anniversary.
And so what we find is that this first 100 days is really important. Balance that against the fact that most businesses spend all their time in marketing and sales mode. “How do we fill the funnel? How do we prospect? How do we get some people to try our product or try our service?”
Sam Glover: Yeah, they’re on negative days.
Joey Coleman: Right. And they’re focused on all, what I would call, the day zero activities. The before day one when they actually raise their hand and say, “You know what? I’ve got a problem. I believe you can help me with that problem. I want to hire you.” Now that the chase is over, in the typical practice, there’s a lot less focus on maintaining the relationship, because we feel the hard part’s done. We already got the date. We’re good to go. And anybody who’s been in a personal relationship with a significant other knows that yeah, the dating period is fun, but once you say, “I do,” if you don’t continue to double down into that relationship, you can start a stopwatch as to how long that relationship is going to last. The same holds true for lawyers.
Sam Glover: And I heard you say, “Lifetime value,” and I know that, or at least I suspect that that’s the sort of word that causes say, criminal defense lawyers, to tune out, because they think, “Well lifetime value. I only represent my clients once.” But what hear you saying is that-
Joey Coleman: Then respectfully, Sam, they’re actually not criminal defense lawyers, because I had many what I will call perennial clients that always seem to have challenges.
Sam Glover: Right, okay fair enough.
Joey Coleman: But no, I get your point. A lot of lawyers would say, “Well, we represent them once, then we’re done.” Here’s the problem. The lifetime value if you’re only viewing it in the scope of this particular issue with this particular client, you’re missing the point. What we’re talking about is not only getting their business and any business they might ever have. And most lawyers I know wish they had more clients who were proactive, that were hiring them for the strategy, or that we’re hiring them to help before they were waist-deep in a storm. And instead of being reactive, being proactive.
So first of all, you can start to shift your clients to do that behavior. Second of all, if your client has an issue, I guarantee they have at least two or three friends who in the next five years are going to have that same issue, whether that issue is a business contract law issue, whether it’s a criminal defense issue, whether it’s a family law issue, whether it’s a real estate law issue. You pick the area of the law, and I guarantee, because birds of a feather flock together, they have other people that will behave that way. When I was a criminal defense lawyer, what was awesome is not only did I get great referrals from my former criminal defense clients, I got great referrals from law enforcement.
Now, that would seem counterintuitive, but the thing is, is the police officers and the deputies and the highway patrol folks that would see me in court, if one of their family members or friends got in a bind in the criminal justice system, they were calling me. So this lifetime value is based on the relationship, not the transaction.
Sam Glover: And well, what I also heard you saying is that they’ll decide whether to stay or leave, and so the lifetime might just be the lifetime of that representation. If you’re not completing your criminal representation in 100 days, or any representation, if you’re not focused on that, they may hire another lawyer and fire you within that time.
Joey Coleman: Totally. Totally. Or, even worse, they may stay on the officially having you represent them, but they’ve checked out emotionally, and mentally, and now when you finally do get to trial, maybe a year or two later, they are so burned out and done with you that now you spend more time fighting your client than you do fighting opposing counsel.
Sam Glover: So I assume there’s a way we should be thinking about those 100 days. So what should we be doing at which points during that time?
Joey Coleman: So every client goes through eight phases in their client journey. Let me break those down for you briefly. The first phase is the assess phase, where they’re scouting out a couple different lawyers, trying to decide who they want to work with. Then they move to phase two, where they admit that they have a problem and believe that you, counselor, are going to be the one that’s able to help them with that. So they sign on the dotted line for some representation. They then go into the affirm stage. This is what is common parlance known as buyer’s remorse.
We’ve all heard the phrase, and yet I’d be willing to bet that less than 1% of your listeners have a specific practice within their representation of clients designed to address the buyer’s remorse that every client feels the day they walk out of their first meeting with you where they’ve decided to hire you as their lawyer. We then come to the activate phase, phase four. Activate is when things really kick off. This could be an initial client meeting. This could be some discovery, again, depending on the area of law you’re practicing. This is where the relationship really starts to take off. And most lawyers are good at that first meeting.
But then they fall apart in the next phase, phase five, which is acclimate. This is when you’re holding the client’s hand, helping to acclimate them to the slow grind that is the legal process. Lawyers are conditioned in three years of law school to spend a lot of time talking and not a lot of time doing, and then all of the sudden have everything matter for one three hour exam at the end of the semester. The typical human being is not used to this. They’re wondering two weeks into the representation, “Well, when are we going to go to court?” When if you’re doing your job properly, you’re probably trying to avoid going to court at all.
So it’s all about acclimating them to doing the type of business and navigating the course of the legal system the way you need to. Then we come to phase six, the accomplish phase. This is where the client accomplishes the goal that they had when they originally hired you. It could be the signed contract, it could be the completed real estate deal, it could be the end of the divorce, it could be getting a not guilty verdict. Whatever it may be. Most lawyers spend a lot of time thinking or projecting what they think the client actually wants to accomplish without ever even asking them. So we need to ask early on in the process so that when we come to the accomplish phase, we can acknowledge that we’ve achieved our goal.
We then come to the adopt phase. The adopt phase is where the client says, “I am so feeling this relationship. I’m so loving this relationship that this is going to be my lawyer from here on out. I’m never going to shop for another lawyer, even if I have something that has nothing to do with the area of law we worked on. I’m going to come back to this lawyer for a referral.” This is wonderful and this is what most lawyers are hoping to get, but few are putting any effort focusing on.
And finally, we come to that last phase, phase eight, which is advocate. This is where not only has the client adopted their relationship with you, but they are zealously advocating for your abilities and your skills to all their friends, family, and colleagues. And this is where your business really takes off, because suddenly, referrals become a huge piece of your operation. Those are the eight phases. Every client has the potential to go through all eight, but they’re only going to go through all eight if you’re holding their hand and walking them through each step along the way. Every relationship you currently have with the client, you could think about those phases and decide, “Well, where do they fit?” And based on which phase they’re in, they’re going to have different emotional needs, different practical needs, different types of messaging that you’re going to want to direct to them, to help them recognize where they are in the process, to hold their hand, and to get them to the next phase.
Sam Glover: I suppose, like if people are at all thinking about say the net promoter scale, these are your 9’s and 10’s. And if you’re getting 9’s and 10’s, and you might just be lucky, or you probably do have a deliberate way of addressing these, even if you’re not thinking about them in these eight phases. But it sounds like these eight phases are a program for thinking about how to build promoters.
Joey Coleman: Absolutely. It’s not only a program for building promoters, but it’s a system that you can apply to deliver a consistent client experience in every interaction. The problem I see with most lawyers and law firms is there are some clients that get the white glove, Ritz Carlton treatment, and there are some that are just churn them and burn them. Let’s get them through, let’s crank this case out, we’ve done this before, we know how it works. We can get to the end of this in three months, six months, a year, whatever it may be.
The problem is there needs to be a philosophy around client experience that is adopted across the organization, not just by the senior partners, but by everyone in the firm, down to the person who’s at the reception desk. And that’s not a criticism, but most firms are structured that way that that person has less status. The reality is that person is going to probably have more in-person, relevant interactions with your clients than the senior partners are.
Sam Glover: Oh, sure.
Joey Coleman: And so what are you doing to make sure that everybody on the team understands where the client is in the journey, and is constantly reinforcing the emotional importance of where they’re at so that we can navigate them to the next phase.
Sam Glover: Yeah. I mean, you’re building consistency, or establishing an expectation that’s tied to your brand, and you’re crafting the kind of reputation you want to have among your clients and referral sources. Because the difference, like Zappos doesn’t treat some people great and some people shitty because they didn’t pay enough on their retainer, and so we’re just going to string them along for awhile. There’s a consistent experience that they want their customers to have, and I know … I mean a lot of law firms that, those have come to our TBD Law Conference, some of the insiders that we have, are really starting to focus on this client-centric, consistent experience, but you’re totally right that a lot of lawyers just, “No, I treat all my clients the way I would want to be treated.” Which is a nice sentiment, but doesn’t actually mean much unless you actually have a system for delivering it.
Joey Coleman: Well, and it doesn’t work that way. I understand that a lot of … And it’s not just lawyers. A lot of businesses say, “We value our …” How many times have you been on hold and heard a message that said, “We apologize for the delay. We’re experiencing unusual hold times. Rest assured that we value your business.” Hey, you know what clowns, if you really valued my business, you’d hire more people to answer your phones, okay? Because I always get that message, no matter what time of day I call, no matter what day of the week I call, I get the same message.
So I think what … I mean, we were talking at the beginning of the conversation about how do we step into the client’s shoes. I think a big piece of client experience is really being able to look in the mirror and do an honest assessment of the experience your clients are having. And I mean every client. Not just the best ones. Not just the most vocal ones. But are all of your clients referring new business to you? Because if they’re not, there are things that are broken. Are all of your clients giving you those 9’s and 10’s for scores? I mean, a lot of lawyers aren’t even asking the questions. A lot of lawyers just figure, “Well, we got the not guilty verdict. We got the contract signed. You must be happy. It’s over.” Well great, that’s a recipe for long term success. “You must be happy because we’re done working together.” Oh, good luck on future business there. Never going to happen.
Sam Glover: Yeah. So what are the tools lawyers can use to get the most out of these phases? And by the way, if you weren’t taking notes quickly enough, Joey’s website is easy to find because it’s his name .com. JoeyColeman.com. And you can get the starter kit for the first 100 days, which I assume has all the things we’re talking about in here, right?
Joey Coleman: It does. So yeah, at Joey, J-O-E-Y, Coleman, C-O-L-E-M-A-N.com, you can download the first 100 days starter kit, which basically walks you through the eight phases, and then also applies the six tools, which goes to the question you just asked, Sam.
Sam Glover: Yeah, can you give us a preview?
Joey Coleman: Yeah, in each of those phases, you want to be communicating with the client. And I believe there are six tools you can use to communicate. Those are in-person interactions, emails, phone calls, physical mail, videos, and presents. Now in-person, email, phone, and mail, those are things that lawyers are already doing and have been doing for 50 to 100 years. So everybody’s pretty familiar with those. But what I will say about those is think a little bit about how you’re using them. Most lawyers I know are sending updates to their clients via the mail.
On one hand that’s good because there’s not a lot of competition in the mailbox now, and so it’s getting attention. On the other hand, if we’re worried about the perception that the client has of feeling distant from us, a standard form letter that goes out to every client saying, “This is when your next hearing’s going to be, this is when the next deposition’s going to be,” is not something that’s going to give them the emotional comfort that the otherwise should have. So you want to look at-
Sam Glover: Well, on the other, other hand, I don’t even check my mail more than every two or three months.
Joey Coleman: Yeah, yeah, so they might not even get it, depending on the situation and depending on the circumstance. So you want to look at those four tools you’re already using. Two tools I’d love to talk about briefly are video and presents. Now, we’ll get to it folks. I know some of you are already getting the heebie jeebies. Just be patient, we’re going to get there. All right, on video, you have in your pocket or in your purse a cellphone that has a video camera on it that is more powerful than the video cameras that were being used by network news just 30 years ago. You film videos, probably, or receive videos from friends and family all the time. When’s the last time you shot a video and sent it to one of your clients?
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Joey Coleman: Now, I understand there may be some issues that we get into depending on where you’re barred and what jurisdiction you’re practicing in, however, video communications are the future. That is where it’s at. People pay attention to them more. The typical response time for an email they’ll tell you is somewhere within the first 24 hours to 48 hours the client sees the email. In a text message or a video message, the response time is less than two minutes. I don’t know about you, I like the idea of my message getting straight to my clients as quickly as possible. So shoot videos and sent them to your clients.
You don’t want to obviously disclose anything substantial about their case, but even just a little video that says, “Hey, Sam. Just wanted you to know, spent the afternoon working on your case. Feeling really good about the progress we’re making. I’m going to send you an email follow up later this week kind of outlining next steps. But before I left the office for the day, just wanted to sent you this quick little video. I’m thinking of you, buddy. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to get the outcome you want. I’m on your side. This is all going to work out just fine.”
Sam Glover: It’s like, okay, I’m a very tech-forward person, but that feels weird to me. Like I think if my attorney sent me a personalized three minute video, I’d be like, “What? That’s a goofy thing.”
Joey Coleman: And some of your clients will feel that. But most of your clients will feel like, “Holy cow, this attorney really cares about me. He took the time to actually shoot and send a video? I’ve never shot and sent a video to someone I do business with. This is amazing.”
Sam Glover: Maybe.
Joey Coleman: And you know, here’s the deal. Try it. Test it. I understand you might be skeptical, but like any lawyer will tell you, being skeptical of something that you have no data for, or no precedent for-
Sam Glover: Oh, 100% behind that, yeah.
Joey Coleman: -is kind of unfair-ish, right. So go ahead and shoot some. Send them off. See, my theory is send a minimum of three videos to clients, and I guarantee you will get some incredibly positive response. Now, you may not get any response, but you’re not getting any response to the physical letter you’re mailing either. You’re not getting any response to the emails you’re sending with updates either, right? So if nothing else, give it a chance so that they remember what you actually look like and can pick up on a little bit of the emotion, because when we’re communicating in the written word, emotion is really hard to discern, whereas in a video, emotion’s really easy to discern.
Sam Glover: Yeah, and what does kind of resonate with me is I fucking hate voicemails, and so if you sent me a video saying, “Hey, I got your voice message, but I’d rather spend that time recording a quick video for you,” that actually might work for me. Because I’m much more likely to watch and listen to the video, first of all, and I fricken hate voicemails. And the best you’re going to do if you leave me a voicemail is I’m going to read Apple or Google’s garbled translation of it and delete it.
Joey Coleman: Sure, fair enough. Well, and this actually brings us back to that original question, how do we step into our client’s shoes? A question you should be asking every client in the very first meeting where you agree to work with them is, “We’re going to need to communicate with you regularly in this relationship. What’s your preferred form of communication? Do you want an email? Do you want a voicemail? Do you want us to schedule an in-person meeting? What would the best way for you to be able to keep up to speed on what’s going on in your case?” Then do it.
Sam Glover: And I would say like your client doesn’t get to be the boss, but you should take their preferences into account and accommodate them if you can.
Joey Coleman: Totally, totally. I mean obviously, if they say, “I want to have an in-person meeting for every single update.” You can say, “Well guess what, that’s not actually practical.” Or, if you’re billing hourly, we can do that, but you just need to realize that that just increased the cost of your representation fivefold. Some clients will say, “Okay, I’m fine. That’s what I want.” Great. No worries. But again, I think we spend so much time, and I realize you just said it kind of off the cuff, Sam, but I want to address it because I experienced this so much when I was practicing law.
We have this belief, I think, as lawyers, that what we’re doing is really difficult work, it’s very hard work, we had to go to school for a long time, we had to pass a bar exam, being in practice is challenging, it’s stressful. And almost a belief system that our clients should be deferential to us, or should appreciate what hard work we do for them. On one hand, I can understand that line of thinking. However, if that is your go-to belief about your clients, you’re going to lead a pretty miserable life.
Instead, the go-to should be, “They’re going through more stress and more emotional headache and heartache right now than I’ve experienced in a long time, and I have dozens of clients that are in the same state. What am I doing to empathize? What am I doing to sympathize? And what am I doing to make sure that they actually feel like I care?”
Sam Glover: So say more about presents, because you mentioned that as the sixth tool, and that-
Joey Coleman: Yeah. Yeah, and that’s the one that gets everybody anxious.
Sam Glover: Yeah, I want to know your definition.
Joey Coleman: Because they’re like, “Oh, there’s ethical rules. And what are we going to do?” So here’s the thing. A present is an unexpected surprise.
Sam Glover: Oh, presents, with a T.
Joey Coleman: Presents.
Sam Glover: I gotcha.
Joey Coleman: Yeah, presents, like gifts. Presents, right? So what are you doing to physically gift your clients? Now, what most law firms do is they send a fruit basket, or Starbucks gift cards, okay? If your grandmother for Christmas gave you a fruit basket or a Starbucks gift card, you would not be happy. You would not feel the love. And we say, “Oh, we take care of our clients like family, and they mean the most to us.” But then when it comes time to giving them presents, we treat them like the worst family member that we have.
What you should be thinking about in terms of presents is not the cost of the gift that you’re giving them, but the value to the recipient. So for example, a present could be … One of the things we did back when I was practicing criminal defense that could definitely be categorized as a present is we would occasionally represent minors who were at the high school football game and had an open container violation, they were drinking beer in the parking lot and now we’re taking their case and we’re helping them out. And usually, in those scenarios, mom and dad were the ones paying the bill, but it was the minor’s choices that created this situation.
And so what we would say with every minor we represented is, and we’d have their parents in the room and the child, and we’d say, “Okay, here’s the deal. Mom and dad are paying for this. That’s their commitment to this relationship. What you’re going to do, young squire, is you’re going to start doing study hall at our office every day from 3: 00 to 6: 00. So when school gets out, you come down to our office, you sit in our law library, and you’re going to do your homework.” Now, the parent’s eyes would light up as if we had given them the greatest gift in the history of the world.
The kids would obviously roll their eyes, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” And we say, “No, no, no. This is an element of the representation. If you do not do this, you are fired as a client. And we’re not helping you out of this.” What we found is that parents loved it because we were keeping their kids out of trouble. The kids eventually came around to love it because their grades would go up, their parents were happier with them, their teachers were happier with them. Life got better. And so a present doesn’t have to be something that you buy at a store and give them. It can be a gift of time. It can be a gift of attention.
By the way, a lot of law firms got into, back in the 90s, especially in the 2000s, into the promotional products game of putting their logo all over stuff. Okay, let me be very clear on this. If you give someone an item that has your logo on it, that is not a gift or a present for them. That is a gift or present for you because you’re hoping they’ll wear it and that will be a walking billboard to market your firm. I’m not opposed to using promotional products, and they certainly have their place, but don’t think that it’s a gift because it’s not.
Sam Glover: Although, I did use to steal coasters from all the big firms I did depositions at because I liked having a collection of nice leather coasters from big firms.
Joey Coleman: Absolutely. Absolutely. But were you excited about the name on it, or were you just excited about it that it was a high-end leather coaster?
Sam Glover: Oh, a little bit, but it wasn’t a present either.
Joey Coleman: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Sam Glover: No, I like that. That goes to something we’ve talked about before on the podcast which is realize that lawyers tend to be myopic thinking about, “There is a legal problem and I have the solution to it,” rather than, “My client has a problem, one aspect of which is a legal problem that I was trained to solve in law school, but there’s a bigger problem that I can help solve.” For example, if somebody comes to you to probate a will, they actually don’t just have the problem of needing a will probated, they have a problem with distributing the estate and figuring out what to do with their emotions and grief and all of that stuff after they’ve lost a loved one.
There’s a bigger problem that you could help solve, and it sounds like a big component of that could be thinking about your concept of presents. Or when you were talking about young minors who had problems bringing their grades up and making sure they did well in school is another aspect of that. That’s solving the whole problem, not just the legal problem.
Joey Coleman: Exactly. We need to think holistically about our clients. You said it spot on, Sam. They have a legal problem, but tied into that legal problem are a bunch of emotional problems, or a bunch of mental problems can even be physical problems. These are all things that are weighing on them, and I think the very best lawyers are the ones that are addressing every aspect of their client, not just the pieces that line up nicely in a court of law or in a deposition.
Sam Glover: Well, that feels like a nice note to end on, so Joey, thank you so much for being with us today to talk about client experience. And if you want to know more, go to JoeyColeman.com. You’ll find the link in our show notes. If you sign up for the starter kit, Joey will also let you know about when his new book launches. And he says you’re not going to get a ton of emails, but he wants to be able to tell you about that. And the book is going to be called, Never Lose a Customer Again. It’s going to go in depth on all the stuff we’re talking about today. And it’s going to include 46 different case studies of small and large companies. So if you’re a little bit interested in the book or learning more, get the starter kit and then you’ll find out about the book. And thanks again.
Joey Coleman: My pleasure.
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Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.