March 15, 2014 Dialogue

LRIS: From the Chair...

By John Norwine, Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service

How Do We Deliver Superior Customer Service?

After nearly twenty years of running the Cincinnati Bar Association, I have seen many, many changes that we needed to make, or were required to make, in order to better serve our members and the public. But, what I have not seen is any diminution in our customer service. I think it starts with an attitude that we want to help in any way we can and that we want our customer, whether a member or the general public, to have a good experience with us.

I asked the staff here what they thought were the key elements of good customer service. Not surprisingly, many of the points made were duplicated frequently as we seem to be in general accord as to what we should be doing for our customers. In no particular order of importance, here is what I heard:

  1. Whenever you can, handle the caller yourself. Even if you have to get the information and call them back that is better than multiple transfers to different staff members.
  2. Personalize your communications with members.
  3. Find words to replace "I can't" or "We don't do that" or even "That is not our policy."
  4. Try to solve the caller's problem rather than just giving them another number to call.
  5. You may be smarter and more sophisticated than your caller, but do not act as if you are.
  6. At the end of every conversation ask the caller "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
  7. Use phrases such as "Thank you for asking that question" or "I can help you with that." Never say "That's not my job."
  8. Even if you have heard the question one hundred times before, you must react as if it is the first time it has been asked. The story is told about visitors at Disney World repeatedly asking "What time is the 3:00 parade today," with Disney employees being trained to politely respond "Why today it's at 3:00."
  9. Give your staff some leeway to make an exception and satisfy a caller or member.
  10. Return your calls—all of them, even the ones that you know will make you get out the Pepto–Bismol and start chugging.
  11. Acknowledge the person's frustration and then ask what you can do to help out. Sometimes we minimize a person's issue because it does not seem important to us, and that is a big mistake.
  12. Smile when you are on the phone...callers can "hear" you smile.

A wise man or woman once said: "If you do not look down on people then the world will look up to you." Or, it could even have been someone not that wise. Regardless, the theory is true that acting as if we are better than our callers or customers is not the way to deliver superior customer service.

This is my last column as chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Services. It has been a fast three years, one made much, much easier by the help and guidance of the ABA staff. The lawyer referral world has an amazing asset in Jane Nosbisch, Staff Counsel to the committee. She is the most knowledgeable person in the country when it comes to lawyer referral issues, so please be sure to consult with her when you have problems or questions. Jane is ably assisted by Assistant Counsel Jason Vail, Program Manager Victoria Shea, and Administrative Assistant Kathleen Hughes. All of these people were instrumental in any successes we enjoyed during my term. And, I would be remiss if I did not thank the editor of the LRIS portion of Dialogue, George Wolff, who has been a mainstay on the committee and the devoted editor of our magazine for many years.

Thanks and good bye.