Client satisfaction isn’t enough.

Things certainly have changed since the pre-recessionary days of the early 2000s. We can name some of the changes easily:  more competition, more attention to and negotiation of fees, less day-to-day work distributed to outside counsel, more effort to use technology to make legal work more efficient in both time and money.

When I speak with a lawyer who’s interested in becoming a private client, one of the things I probe around is what distinguishes him or her from other lawyers in the same kind of practice. The answers usually revolve around past experiences of some kind, enhanced skill, or lower fees due to increased efficiency or a better fee structure. No doubt those factors are important. But because just about every lawyer highlights some version of the same distinguishing factors, they may not be particularly unique or appealing.

You know what makes Amazon different from other retailers? Lower prices, sure. But more importantly, the customer experience. Let’s look at three phases of the experience:

  1. Finding the product I can place an order in multiple ways. I can type a product name or description, I can scan a product’s UPC, I can take a photo of the desired product using my smartphone and search for it, I can dictate the name of the product I want to buy, or (at least in some cases) I can hit a pre-programmed button to reorder common goods. Ordering is easy.
  2. Receiving the product Because I’m a member of Amazon Prime, I can have almost anything I want delivered in two business days. Sometimes my order is available for delivery on the same day at no extra charge. I can track the delivery, and in those rare instances in which a package doesn’t arrive as promised, Amazon will send a replacement at no additional charge. It’s easy to get what I want from Amazon.
  3. Returning the product If I don’t like the product I receive or if I’ve simply changed my mind, returning it is typically as simple as making a few clicks and printing a return shipping label. I don’t even have to take the package to a shipper: UPS will pick up the package from my home or office. So easy!

It’s easy to do business with Amazon, so I do a lot of business with Amazon.

Would your clients say it’s easy to do business with you? Do you let them know what to expect in your work together, both substantively and procedurally? Is it easy for them to reach you? If you’re unavailable, is it easy for them to reach someone else on your team? Is it easy for them to receive and pay your invoices? And beyond easy: is it pleasant to work with you? The simpler your make your client’s experience, the better your client is likely to feel about working with you.


How can you improve your clients’ experience?

You must adapt.

Do you know what is the biggest stumbling block for lawyers who want to grow their practices? You might think it’s being too busy, dislike of networking, or fear of asking for business. And those are all good guesses, but incorrect.

Lawyers who want to grow their practices most often stumble over their marketing plan. Several problems are common:

  • Failure to make a plan
  • Failure to make a realistic plan
  • Focusing the plan too broadly or too narrowly
  • Relying too heavily on a single marketing effort

But by far the biggest problem I see is in how the plan is (or is not) implemented. A strategic marketing plan must be a living document that’s regularly consulted and revised in accord with changing circumstances. Making a plan is the first step, using the plan is important, and knowing the heart of the plan well enough to adapt your strategy is, as Charles de Gaulle indicated in the quote below, critical.


How well do you adapt your plan as circumstances change?

Be Fully Present

How often do you find yourself doing one activity and thinking about another?  Perhaps you check email while you’re talking with someone. Or you might catch yourself in a networking conversation, nodding along as someone speaks and you’re mentally composing what to say when it’s your time to talk.

There are two reasons we do this “here but not here” behavior: either we think we’re making good use of the time by multitasking (as in checking email during a conversation) or we’re uncomfortable and trying to get more comfortable (as in preparing our comments while someone else talks). Most of us have also had the experience of getting “busted”: the person who’s talking realizes we aren’t listening, or we make an error because we’re juggling two (or more) tasks simultaneously.

Why not try being fully present with what you’re doing? If you’re in conversation, close your email and put your phone on “do not disturb” so you can direct all of your attention to the discussion. Let go of the need to compose your side of a conversation while someone else is talking: listen with your full attention and then respond. If you notice your attention wandering, take a deep breath to bring yourself back.

Conversations tend to be more effective when you’re fully present.   (Imagine that!) You’ll find that you catch not only what’s said, but also nuances that should perhaps be explored—including that great conversational tidbit that will turn a ho hum networking conversation into a relationship that leads to business or other professional opportunities.

You will also develop stronger relationships when you’re fully present. Especially at a time when we’re all so accustomed to playing second fiddle to a smartphone, finding someone who is genuinely engaged in conversation is enormously appealing and memorable. (Politics aside, you’ll notice that Bill Clinton and others who have the interpersonal “it factor” are always said to make those around them feel like the only other person in the room. That’s the power of being fully present.) And strong relationships bring all kinds of dividends, from growing your social circle to becoming a trusted advisor.

As Malcolm Forbes said, “Presence is more than just being there.”  Being fully present focuses all of your senses on the task or person at hand.  It’s a learned skill.  Try an experiment: resolve to be fully present for a couple of hours a day and see what you notice.

Get more referrals!

Think about the last three referrals you received. Were they good referrals? Did you receive them recently? Are they part of a regular flow of referrals that you receive?

If the answer to any of these questions is no (or if you couldn’t think of three referrals you’ve received), it’s time to pay attention. An “all referral” business is a dream for many professionals, but only a few succeed in reaching that goal. Many get referrals here and there and have to weed through a number of bad fits to find a few good referrals, and even more suffer the pain of hearing about what would have been a great referral, had your contact only thought of you.

I recently ran across the blog post 5 Marketing Tips to Build a Referral Based Business, and if you aren’t thrilled with the referrals you’ve receiving, you must go read it now. Even though this post is not directed to lawyers, the principles are the same

A 6th tip I would add (and in fact would argue is critical): add value whenever you can for clients and contacts alike. When you add value, you become more memorable, perhaps generate a “wow” reaction, and build relationships. You may possibly tap into the law of reciprocity, which holds that when someone does something nice for us, we seek to return that favor.

What will you change to increase the likelihood of getting a frequent stream of good referrals?