Clients In Code: They’re Speaking. Are You Listening?
Clients are the key to your success, and not just your short-term “I got the bills paid this month” success – your long-term vitality and viability as a business.
It’s not uncommon for attorneys to subconsciously take clients for granted. It’s not that they don’t appreciate or value them. It’s just that lawyers know the service they provide is essential for their clients, so regardless of whether they realize it, they often just assume people will find them. That’s a completely understandable mindset when you’re selling a need-to-have product.
However, that view of the legal market is an oversimplification and a dangerous one at that. The truth of the matter is, there is an oversupply of attorneys out there and consumers with a legal need aren’t always able to readily distinguish between what they see as very similar providers.
This creates a scenario that is repeated far too often – an attorney who just assumes clients will keep coming in doesn’t take heed of what her clients are trying to tell her, and suddenly finds herself with an empty appointment book and no idea where she went wrong.
For the purposes of reading this post, don’t react to it by saying “Well, I listen to my clients, so this doesn’t apply to me.” Everyone thinks that, and it isn’t always true. Instead, study the three phases of your client relationships listed below. Then, if you can be open and honest with yourself, consider which elements you handle well and which could stand to see a little improvement:
- During the courtship phase: This may be the easiest time to tell what a legal consumer is looking for. Through their stories and questions, they will reveal their needs, priorities and concerns. Here is where you can match your words to theirs and, hopefully, close more deals. Now, if your prospect clams up, tread lightly. He or she may not have many questions, but the answers to the few he or she asks are important. This phase may be short (with so many options, consumers have no reason to stick with an attorney they’ve lost even a small amount of interest in), so make sure your responses are concise and impactful.
- While they’re clients: When you have successfully landed the client, and are working on her case, the questions will probably stop and statements will probably begin. We’re socially conditioned to take in and digest questions, but we have an easier time glossing over statements. The key here is to try to determine what’s prompting the remarks; the client is telling you how your firm is doing without actually saying it. Pay special attention to any themes you sense developing. If you hear more than once or twice that it’s hard to get ahold of a human being at your firm, you probably need to revisit your intake process.
- After the case is closed – Client recommendations and online reviews can have a massive impact on the future of your firm. You owe it to yourself to stay aware of what’s being said about you online. Many law firms shy away from online reviews because they associate them with entertainment and hospitality options, like movies and restaurants, or because they’re afraid of negative or inaccurate reviews. That reluctance would have been okay a few years ago, when online reviews were still emerging, but now they’re a fully developed resource consumers use for just about any type of purchase. Hesitation is no longer warranted. Listen for satisfaction levels and willingness to leave a review, but don’t stop at intent. If a happy client says “I will” when it comes to reviews, send him or her a link to your online profile to make it easy for them.
As a final thought, consider this: As human beings, we never truly finish developing our listening skills. It’s just the kind of task for which there is no finish line.