A good reminder is often more valuable than a great new idea. We recently received one of those good reminders from a colleague who was recounting his events from the previous weekend. He and his wife celebrated their wedding anniversary at a local restaurant known as one of the go-to spots for special occasions. They had never dined there before, and unfortunately their food was far below what one expects at a high-end restaurant, particularly one that charges high-end prices. We jumped in to offer a little sympathy that the evening had not turned out as expected. However, we spoke too soon. Our colleague was not finished making his point. He explained that as his wife and he were driving home, they realized they had the same opinion about the dinner: Even though the food did not meet their expectations, they wanted to dine there again! Stunned, we asked why. He replied that the service was so excellent, they enjoyed themselves despite the food. The waitstaff had gone over and above to create a great experience, and so our friends were willing to give the place a second chance. He wasn’t telling us the story to complain about the evening. Instead, he wanted to boast about the great service that outperformed the subpar meal.
We all know that great customer (or client) service is important, but it appears to be in short supply these days. All of us have experienced poor customer service with greater frequency during the past couple of years. The Great Resignation has left many businesses stretched thin. This leads to inefficiencies that leave employers with little margin. It isn’t that businesses don’t want to provide great client service, but in times like these it is easy to neglect the things that enhance the client experience, such as prompt communication, anticipating needs, sacrificial service and going the extra mile.
Certainly, the core of great client service in our profession involves the actual legal services delivered. No client should tolerate poor legal work, but the extra steps that we take on top of the delivery of our core services make a difference to our clients. Indeed, as we learned from our colleague, they sometimes can get you a second chance when, for example, the result doesn’t quite meet the client’s expectation.
It is worth taking time to assess whether you and your team’s client service could be better. Strive for great. Start by asking some clients for feedback. That will give you a baseline and some insight.
In talking to your clients, you may learn they are experiencing the same tensions that your firm is experiencing. Perhaps there are opportunities to help a client who is stretched in ways that go beyond the services you ordinarily provide. When you see the opportunity to help clients balance their many challenges, offer your assistance. Even an acknowledgment of what they are facing is a way to enhance your service to them.
Finally, there are also opportunities to lead your team in serving your “internal clients”—those in the firm who rely on you. Imagine the loyalty engendered and the lifted morale resulting from giving a little extra grace to your colleagues when their internal client service to you slips or when you own shortcomings in your service to your internal clients. As a leader, all your employees are your internal clients. They may be working with less help, too.
Our colleague’s anniversary story resonated with us. It reminded us that there is opportunity even in adversity. It reminded us that we don’t have to win every case to have and keep loyal clients. Take some time to consider the opportunities that exist now to step up your client service. Good luck, and let us know how it works for you.