What’s Your Law Firm’s Client Experience?
Do you remember what it was like to be a customer before the internet as we know it? By modern standards, it was outright ignorance. Maybe you had a good referral on a dentist from a coworker or your family doctor. If you were shopping for a car, you might have read up on some reviews in the paper or Road & Track. All in all, though, it wasn’t a time when consumers walked into stores or offices with a fraction of the information they have today.
Back to the present and my how times have changed for your law practice. Today’s consumer has access to more information about your law firm in their front pocket than their parents could have gathered in a year.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if this is good news or bad.
Either way, it should influence how you think about your client experience.
(Disclaimer: The overall experience of working with your firm is cumulative and includes so much more than what I’ll cover here.)
As always, put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Today’s legal consumer is likely walking through your doors having done a fair bit of research already. They may have looked into their legal issue and come to a conclusion about the process they’d like to pursue or the outcome they’re hoping for. Another client might have a preconceived notion of your intellect based on your volume of awards. Still others might sit down across from you expecting a particular bedside manner because of a particularly compelling online review.
Lucky you! You’ve earned a slew of new clients and each one has an expectation that you have to get to address. My advice? Think ahead. Try to anticipate the types of clients you’ll be facing and develop a plan of action in response.
Here are a few examples to get you started.
“I’ve looked into my case, and…”
We’ve all had this client. This person comes in for an initial consultation armed to the teeth with information about their case. Unfortunately, there’s something important they don’t have: an understanding of the law and legal processes.
Delivering a positive client experience in this case means walking a knife’s edge. On one side, is misinformation that must be corrected if you’re going to resolve the client’s actual legal need. On the other, a human being whose ego and legal situation probably are a bit fragile. Pointing out the flaws in their plan aren’t going to win you any popularity contests. They might even cost you a client. Assuming you want their business, your client experience must first be one of gentle reeducation. Learn what is driving their assumptions about their case and then guide them to a more accurate understanding of the situation.
Pulling this off may have as much to do with your soft skills as your legal acumen. And since charm school isn’t really an option, you might find it beneficial to prepare an FAQ or web page that dispels common myths or misperceptions you often face. Use a customer-friendly format. A document like, “What to Expect from Our Law Firm” can explain your processes in a positive, customer-committed light while also correcting common errors your past clients have made. The nice thing about this option is that it protects a person’s ego. Your audience can read this document on their own time and not be forced to sit across from you while you prove them wrong.
“I read about you online.”
Some people love their research. They’ll dig into product reviews until they’re absolutely confident in their decision. With these clients, just assume that you’re “behind” them in terms of understanding who is sitting across the table. The key here is twofold: Manage your reputation and start listening.
Making good use of your online reputation is just so fundamentally important that I won’t go into detail on the subject here. (Look here and here for some recent posts on the topic.) In this context, managing your reputation means knowing what’s out there. By keeping a watchful eye on your grades, you’ll lower the chances that a future client will catch you flat-footed.
A lot has also been said about the importance of listening to your clients. When it comes to those folks who have studied you online, listening closely to them may help reveal their perspective on you and your ability to resolve their issue. Listen for indicators of both skepticism and optimism. The former may reveal that you need to do some investigating into your reputation. The latter, could indicate that you’re well on your way to closing the sale. Speaking of…
“I’d like to hire you.”
Here’s the optimal scenario. A prospective client used their phone, their friends and their time to come to the conclusion you want. They’re ready to hire you. If you’ve got prospects saying things like this to you, it’s time for the white glove treatment. Welcome them proudly. Ask them how they found or chose your firm. Their answers could reveal where to continue investing your marketing efforts or who you can thank for a referral.
Try to determine what these clients hope to receive by working with you. If you’re not a good fit, make sure that you manage their referral process in a way that reflects well on you (both for the consumer and your fellow attorneys). If you are a good fit, move them to a closing conversation, one that matches your abilities to their stated goals. Don’t repeat your qualifications at this point. The client has already evaluated you and made a choice. Now it’s time to reinforce that decision by energy showcasing how great you are to work with. These clients are primed for a great customer experience. When they’ve made the decision to come to you, don’t give them a reason to think twice.
Obviously, you can’t know for certain where your next client will come from or what he or she will expect of you. But if you dedicate yourself to being prepared for the most common examples, you’ll be in good shape to deliver a client experience that leaves your audience consistently satisfied.