Mastering the art of client communications
From your local gym to your annual tax preparer – think about the businesses that you have an ongoing relationship with. How often do you receive communications from them? What form do those communications take? In an increasingly digital world, it’s challenging to break through the noise. However, businesses that take the time to develop a thoughtful client communications strategy can reap the rewards.
As an attorney, consider how you currently communicate and connect with clients. Do you tend to reach out when you have news to share about a client’s case, or are your communications limited to responses when clients reach out to you? What about after a client’s matter is resolved – do you keep in touch? In a competitive legal market, how and when you communicate with clients matters.
Conduct a communications audit
As you consider your current client communications approach and modifications you may want to make, it’s critical to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. For most people, the legal system is a foreign land comprised of confounding rules and arbitrary deadlines. Clients come to you because they have problems they cannot solve. From anxiety and fear to regret and anger, they are often experiencing a range of emotions that make effective communication challenging.
Given these factors, it’s best to be proactive in your communications when possible. This means anticipating clients’ questions, concerns, and needs and providing the answers and guidance they need to feel confident in both your ability to help them and their decision to retain you. Proactive communication can build and foster trust – helping clients feel that their needs are being met. It can also result in clients feeling more positive and satisfied with the services you provide.
In the legal world, however, unforeseen issues are bound to arise, and a proactive approach isn’t always possible. In cases where issues crop up unexpectedly, a direct and prompt response can go a long way towards quieting clients’ concerns and maintaining a positive attorney-client relationship.
Put your communications plan into practice
To craft an effective client communications strategy, it’s helpful to separate clients into three buckets: clients with new matters, those whose cases are underway or nearing completion, and those whose matters have been resolved. Let’s explore how to effectively communicate with each.
- New clients – It’s important to provide new clients with the facts and details they need to feel informed and empowered. However, be careful not to overwhelm them with too many details. At the new client stage, it’s helpful to provide a general overview of how a client’s case may progress and how you will work together throughout the process. To avoid potential communication problems down the road, it’s best to be candid and set realistic expectations. It’s also wise to be upfront and determine how and when you plan to communicate with clients.
- Existing clients – As clients’ cases progress, keep them informed about and engaged in the process. Some matters may take months or even years to resolve, and you don’t want clients to feel like their case is on autopilot or that they aren’t a priority. Let them know when you file documents related to their case and if important milestones are approaching. Continue to be proactive in your communications and check in regularly – even if it’s just to inquire how a client is doing or if they have any questions.
- Former clients – After a legal matter is resolved, how can you stay top-of-mind and encourage former clients to play an active role in your business development efforts? Make sure you have a strategy in place for keeping the lines of communication open with former clients. It’s best to take action in the immediate wake of a matter closing. Ask clients to provide an online review of your firm and invite them to connect with your firm via social media.
The real payoffs of developing a client communications strategy
Clients’ communications preferences won’t all align. There will always be some clients who want and need more frequent communications and others who are less engaged. From text messages, emails, and video consultations to your firm’s blog, e-newsletter, and social media – be flexible and tailor your communications to clients’ preferences. Having a variety of client touchpoints at your disposal can help you connect with more new, current, and former clients and, ideally, lead to more positive online reviews and referrals for your firm.