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March 15, 2014 Dialogue

Excellent Customer Service Will Never Go Out Of Style

By Jeannie Rollo and Carole Conn

Let's not kid ourselves: The dominance, ease, and informality of purchasing goods and services online has heightened and expanded the requirements for excellent customer service. Whether the online activity involves a human being or a fully electronic portal by which to transact business, customers can instantaneously report their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) in online reviews. The tone of that online review can either derail or encourage the future participation of others in that experience. While it is still the case that customer service needs to stand out to be remembered, it is even more essential when that remembered experience can be posted online within seconds for all to see. It is human nature that people remember the very last interaction, so that last interaction had better be good!

We have always known at lawyer referral service programs that we need to provide quality interactions with the legal consumer, be it on the telephone with trained and courteous referral counselors, or online through easy to use referral request forms, FAQs or Live Chat. We also know that the quality and satisfaction of those interactions begins with us and needs to continue with the panel attorney for truly successful outcomes. We have all had the experience where the lawyer referral service is reviewed negatively because there was a perceived problem with the lawyer. The referral service staff has provided good customer service only to be negatively reviewed because the panel member may have failed to communicate effectively with the client, did not provide timely service, failed to listen attentively, did not respond respectfully, or did not provide information patiently and clearly. Some panel members may need a reminder that the reputation and perception of the LRS program also depends on their quality of service. Our repeat business, and their access to more clients, depends upon good customer service.

A sampling of large case outcomes from the New York City and San Francisco LRIS programs helps prove this point. In instances where attorneys had received fees of $100,000 or more, the clients in those cases overwhelmingly had either returned to the LRS (the number 1 source) after having used it before (New York), or were referred by a family, friend, or co–worker who had used the service before or knew someone who had (San Francisco). With changes in screening and follow up with clients, the LRS of Central Texas (Austin) has seen a steady rise in referrals from friends, family, and co–workers, and those who had used the service before.

And while statistical sampling helps illustrate this truth, there is no picture more powerful than an actual client testimonial of what excellent referral counselor and panel attorney service looks, sounds and feels like.

Following are two client testimonials from the San Francisco and Austin LRS programs. A client referred through the San Francisco LRIS regarding issues on the job first called in June 2012; her case settled favorably in November 2013.

When I called the LRIS, I was trying to come up with a better solution for finding a lawyer. The person I spoke to at the LRIS answered my call right away, took me seriously, listened to my situation and got me to the right type of lawyer to speak with right away. They even said I could call back if I needed another referral. Within 15 minutes of talking to the lawyer, the lawyer was looking up information on my potential claim. Other lawyers had taken weeks to review a single sheet of evidence. When you're a pawn in a chess match, it's not the time to learn how to play chess. That's when you need to rely on a good lawyer. My lawyer knew how to maneuver, move by move, with a practical strategy. He kept me informed every step of the way, kept me grounded and always explained what I could expect. In the end, we were a team and I was able to get my life back. I can't thank the Referral Service enough for finding me a great lawyer.

From the Austin LRS, this client called after a flash flood in the Austin area destroyed her home on Halloween night, 2013.

Thank you for the follow up. Our initial consultation with the attorney is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. My initial impression of him on the phone is: "Wow" in a very positive sense. First: I spoke with him directly – not his voice mail Second: He really listened, asked good questions, specified which documents I should email and set an appointment. Third: Since this is a real estate/flood related claim – he is actually meeting us at our home for the consultation, so he can visualize the area that was damaged. I was so stunned when he said he would come over, actually think I stuttered!

In a day, age and town where most people try to do the least for the most, this lawyer has already exceeded my expectations of service. We look forward to meeting with him tomorrow. I will let you know how it goes. Thank–you! (emphasis added)

We could not have said it better!

We worry about the effect the impersonal internet directories and referral sites have on our services. Referral services stay relevant because we offer that compassionate and caring human voice—our customers appreciate that human element. We bring customers back because we establish trust with all of our callers—not just those being referred to lawyers, but to all who reach out to us for help. Excellent customer service will never go out of style.

View the video of "LRIS: Echoes in the Community" - a client testimonial from the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Jeannie Rollo

Executive Director, Legal Referral Service of Central Texas

Jeannie Rollo is the Executive Director of the Legal Referral Service of Central Texas

Carole Conn

Director, Public Service Programs

Carole Conn is the LRIS Director of Public Service Programs