Why Should I Consider Elevating The Client Experience?
Most lawyers have made an investment of time and energy in building a brand. If your brand includes excellent client service, a negative experience with your firm can diminish your brand and result in the loss of clients and a negative perception. Clients who have positive experiences with your law firm will speak well of you and refer you additional clients.
What Is Innovative About Elevating The Client Experience?
The client experience has always mattered but has always been a subject where innovation matters. The pandemic has resulted in a world that is more digital and remote than in the past. The change creates the opportunity to think about elevating client experience differently.
What Matters with Respect To The Client Experience?
In any business, the key to creating a positive client experience is to meet or exceed client expectations. To meet client expectations, you must be clear about your clients’ expectations. To help clarify client expectations, engage in conversation with your “ideal” clients as to why they have stayed with your firm. Alternatively, or additionally, seek out some individuals whom you would love to have as a client and ask them what their expectations are when working with law firms. Be open to hearing about positive experiences and the areas that are suggested for improvement.
Develop a Client Experience Strategic Plan
I have always been fortunate to be able to readily “make rain.” It came so easily to me that I never really thought about how I did it. In working with a coach on structuring my law firm, the coach said to me: “Mary, what if you actually thought about how and why you have been successful in developing client relationships and make that a strategic plan to shift your practice in an intentional manner to provide clients a higher level of satisfaction, which will result in you being more satisfied?”
The Elements of a Client Experience Strategic Plan
First, consider your business objectives. What do you want your practice to look like?
Second, identify the client type that you need to attract to achieve your business objectives. What would an ideal client be? Where can you find them? And, most importantly, what would be the expectations of such a client?
Third, design the experience that you want to deliver. What type of interaction do you want your clients to have with you and your law firm?
Fourth, decide what type of employees you must have to deliver the client experience that you want to provide. Identifying firm core values and evaluating whether a potential employee fits the firm core values can help you bring together the right team. Fifth, consider how technology can help you to build a client experience that will have clients thinking of your firm as “the firm.”
The Client Experience Begins with The First Contact
A client’s first contact with your law firm can begin with a visit to your website. If your website is difficult to navigate, slow or doesn’t engage the potential client, the client will move on to the next website. A very basic guideline is to be sure that contact information is easy to find. Evaluate your website on a regular basis. Keep it up to date and modernize it regularly. Design the website with your ideal client in mind.
Much-discussed lately is the use of chatbots on websites. An ill-conceived approach to using chatbots is likely to have the same effect as a rude in-person receptionist. To the extent that chatbots are used, carefully consider when a chatbot should engage a client and to what extent, and whether the use of the chatbot is going to create a positive client experience.
The first contact with a client may still come through a phone call to your law firm. If clients have difficulty reaching a human, they may well hang up and call another firm. Just as your website should be easy to navigate, your phone system should be as well. I love our Voice over Internet Protocol system, but it has taken some effort to get the system to work in a way that will provide clients a positive experience.
A Positive Initial Experience Is the Start Of a Journey
Once you have created an opportunity with a client, proceed on the journey in a way that results in a relationship. A longtime truism is that clients want to feel heard, valued and appreciated. Clients want communication, and they want it to be timely. They also want communication via their preferred method. In the current world, that includes a lot of options.
Law firms can use technology to enhance the communication journey. As part of the intake process, ask the client their preferred form of communication. Record that information in a readily available client contact sheet in your practice management system or customer relationship management system. The fact that different clients want to communicate differently can pose a real challenge for lawyers. For me, I can’t keep track of three phone lines, emails, notifications, texts and people knocking on the door and be effective at managing client issues. Fortunately, technology offers a solution in that you can have voicemails and texts and various forms of communication forwarded to your preferred communication forum.
Clients Want Proactive Customer Service
A client wants to be recognized as a distinct individual and receive personal service. Elements include the law firm having correct contact information and details about the client’s business or affairs.
It is tempting to send mass newsletters to all clients, but it’s not generally effective. I once had a client say to me, “I don’t understand why a lawyer would expect me to read a newsletter covering 10 topics and figure out what applies to me. Doesn’t my lawyer care enough about my business to tell me when the LLC rules change?” After that, I designed a database that tracks unique characteristics about clients. When a rule change occurs that applies to a particular client, they get a personalized update on the legal issue. Consider using automation to assist in personalizing client communications.
Clients Want to Know Their Data Is Secure
Clients are reasonably concerned about sharing the personal information that is required for legal services. Clients want to know how their information will be stored, used and protected. Law firms must invest in cybersecurity and data protection. The topic is beyond the scope of this article but is well covered in other articles and columns in Law Practice.
Clients Want Transparency and Honesty
The value of transparency and honesty in building relationships should never be overlooked. In an era of email and social media, be the lawyer who stands out using communication forums with integrity, class and respect and in a manner that builds the initial client contact into a relationship.