What Little Things Will Make A Big Difference To Your Clients?
Think about the last time you went to see your dentist. (If this weren’t a blog, I’d tell you to close your eyes and picture it.) What was the waiting room like? What about the treatment room? Was the furniture comfortable and in good condition, or was it that standard-issue office furniture? You know the type: an ash veneer frame with sun-bleached wool upholstery in some vaguely southwestern geometric pattern.
How about the selection of reading materials? Were there a variety of content types? Suppose the magazine rack had Runner’s World or Golf Digest. Did you assume your dentist was interested in these topics? Maybe not, but you associate them with that person now at least a little bit.
The point is this: the little things matter.
Your firm might not have a defined waiting room or Muzak piped gently through the walls, but you have clients that are making connections between their experience and your brand. So let’s talk about how to manage that experience to your benefit.
First and foremost, take a look at the people your clients will encounter. If you have additional office staff or employees in your firm, be clear about how people will be greeted and treated across the board. Overt branding like your firm name and phone greeting should be ironclad. Subtle differences like tone of voice and demeanor are also worth exploring depending on your practice area.
Think about what is important to your clients and make these things important to you. Are they looking for an empathetic, consultative relationship or a firm defensive approach? These two examples can even influence the way you greet clients as they walk through the door.
Your personnel can also help your brand by putting the client first when speaking. For example, an intake form should be presented as a way to personalize the client’s experience, not a data-collection tool for your business. Too difficult? Try focusing on asking more questions and using the word “you” more often than “us.”
When assessing your office space, start by considering the variables you can actually control. Use more than just your sense of sight. Start listening for office noise or emergency vehicles outside. Determine a standard temperature that you’re air conditioning must be set to. How often is your office cleaned? Does that include dusting things like light fixtures? It might make you feel like a control freak to think about these things, but they make a difference to clients who are counting on your attention to detail.
Those are just some of the things you can manage, but what about things outside of your control? If your building is damaged or the parking lot is full of potholes, take what action you can immediately. While we’re talking concrete, be aware of major road construction affecting routes to your office. You should already be making reminder calls to clients the day before their appointment. That is the perfect time to remind them to add a little extra drive time if they’re passing through the construction zone.
If you’re meeting a client in a public space, like a coffee shop, get there early and be smart about where you sit. You’re not going to want a noisy cappuccino maker next to you when trying to have a discrete conversation. If this is your first face-to-face, set a business card or letterhead from your firm on the table in front of you. That will help the client identify you in a sea of strangers. (Of course, your appearance will also match your up-to-date attorney headshot, right?)
The final list of “little things” really is a collection of things. Take a look around your office and assess which items are adding to the image you want, and which ones can go. Start with your desk. Obviously confidential information and irrelevant paperwork should be stowed away, but what’s the view from the client-side? If your conversations typically include two parties, a desk lamp off to one side could actually be a real hassle for half of your audience.
What else is around? Odds are you have more “stuff” than you might think and it’s amazing how easily our eyes will skim over clutter in real life. The solution? Take a photograph of your office and look at that instead. The problem areas will stick out like a sore thumb. As you choose what to toss, don’t go so far that you remove all trace of humanity from your office. A family photo or favorite piece of sports memorabilia can build a connection with your clients and set them at-ease.
Finally, imagine how visits to your firm will end. If your clients typically experience a common series of “next steps” you might want to draft a document to reflect that process. Another example might be to explain your firm’s pricing practices at this time. This conversation might not be particularly fun, but it’s probably on everyone’s mind at this point. By stepping into the situation, you’re further cementing your firm as a reliable, honest resource that clients can count on.
As you can tell, this topic is broad and varied. The suggestions here will not apply to every attorney in every setting. The point is to start thinking about the little things more often. Every aspect of your professional environment is contributing to your client’s opinion of you. The good and the bad can add up faster than you realize.