Client Service Ideas That Really Work

Three keywords in building a strong practice: satisfaction, service, and value. Get these right, and chances are pretty decent that you’ll see repeat business (where feasible) and referrals. Get them wrong, and you may not like what you see.

A long-time favorite blog post 7 Good Customer Service Ideas That Work offers insight into how to get things right when it comes to the service you provide clients and ensuring that they’re satisfied with that service. My favorite points are:

  1. Provide an effortless experience: consider at every step how you can simplify every aspect of working with you so that it’s effortless (or as close to so as possible) for your clients. Examples might include providing checklists and clear directions to help your client gather necessary information or documents relevant to the matter you’re handling or including directions to your office and a link to Google Maps on your website. The less your client has to work with you, the better.
  2. Be kind! Inject small, meaningful gestures as you interact with your clients. Imagine the impression you’d make if the CEO of a snack company came to visit your office and found a refreshment station with water, coffee, fruit, and the snacks manufactured by the company. The same station would be nice for other clients as well, especially if you offered a cold bottle of water as they were leaving on a hot day. Grand gestures are not required; thoughtful ones are.
  3. Remember, “you don’t close a sale, you open a relationship.” In other words, “[o]nce your [client[ has come on board, make sure you really look after them.” This is, perhaps, nowhere more important than when you have introduced your client to a colleague who will be handling a new matter outside your area of practice. And if there’s one thing that the pandemic and its effects have shown us, it’s that connection matters. You don’t have to become best friends with your clients, of course, but the relationship is at the heart of all productive engagements.

The post has four other points that are worth checking out. Even more importantly, ask yourself: what can you do to improve your client service in a way that increases your clients’ satisfaction and the value they receive?

How To Use Social Media Effectively

If you’re using social media for business development purposes, you know that it can be a strong opportunity – or a black hole that will steal hours and energy and return absolutely nothing in the way of business results. As with so many other tools, your results have nothing to do with social media itself but rather with how effectively you use it as a tool.

If you’d like a primer on how to use social media well, read 17 Tips for Getting Your Small Business Started With Social Media Marketing. Some of it won’t be 100% on point because it’s primarily intended for entrepreneurs who are selling a product or service via social media, which is not the case for most lawyers even though the end-game goal is the same. Despite being 17 Tips, it’s a quick read that makes key points about how to use social media strategically and time effectively.

Can you grow your practice without using any social media? Absolutely. Can your efforts be magnified with appropriate use of social media? Almost certainly. Especially if you’re creating or curating content that your potential clients and referral sources will find helpful, social media can help you increase your reach without blowing a lot of extra time. 17 Tips will get you started or help you correct the course. Go read it… Now.



How Can You Maintain Your Clients’ Trust?

I was recently talking with a friend who is an extremely savvy business owner. She set up an LLC a number of years ago and, now that she’s expanding that business in a new direction with a partner, she consulted with an accountant to determine what sort of entity, if any, she and her new partner should establish. The accountant made the almost offhand comment that she always recommends that a business with $X in net profit should be an S-corporation to take advantage of certain tax savings. My friend was horrified that her previous accountant had clearly dropped the ball because her business had exceeded the $X net profit for many years now.

Look beyond the specifics and even the realities here: my friend had confidence in her first accountant until the new accountant offered a different approach that was purported to be much more favorable. Though she’s business-savvy, she doesn’t know which accountant is correct. Both positions seem plausible… How should she judge?

How often are your clients put into a similar position, in which they’re unable to evaluate your advice with independent knowledge and understanding?

 Some clients are legally savvy in your area of practice, which has its own pluses and minuses, but here’s the real question for today: how can you avoid losing your client’s confidence if she can’t make her own judgment about your advice? 

  1. Explain your advice, and make sure that at a minimum your client understands the basis for your advice. If additional information comes from another source, your client will have something to hold onto with the explanation you provided rather than being left to question your advice simply by virtue of shiny, new advice.
  2. Where appropriate, follow up with your clients and offer an updated review of their situation. Depending on your area of practice, you might even have a simple self-test to help your clients determine whether changed circumstances might require a fresh legal look. Note that changes might be based on changes to a client’s circumstances (as in my friend’s example) or they might be based on changes in the law that may affect a larger number of clients. Should you charge for the review? It depends on the amount of time your review will require and the volume of clients, among other issues.
  3. Consider whether you might send periodic mailings with some guidelines to scan for legally relevant change, such as, “If your net profit grows to more than $X, we should re-evaluate whether a different structure might be appropriate.” This is the least effective of these three approaches since it leaves the ball entirely in your client’s court, so consider a scheduled personal outreach to check the guidelines you provided.

Each of these approaches may garner more business for you as your clients’ circumstances change, and that’s valuable for you. More importantly, however, they offer protection for your clients going forward and decrease the chance that a change will unintentionally trigger your clients’ distrust. Once a seed of doubt is planted, you’ll find it difficult to recapture your clients’ confidence even if your advice is still applicable and on the mark.

Although these three tactics may be helpful to put into place, there’s one habit that will take the cake, regardless of which tactics you do or don’t use: connecting with your clients on a regular basis. Early in the pandemic, I advised my clients to touch base with their clients, just to see how they’re doing. To care about their clients.

Obviously, the ability to do that depends significantly on the volume of your practice. If you have a high-volume practice (patent prosecution for small companies, perhaps), you may find It impossible to check it with all of your clients. However, no matter the size, volume, or complexity of your practice, you can certainly identify key clients or key referral sources and check in with them. When you connect with your clients, they’re less likely to be distracted or poached by fresh advice—at least, without talking with you first.

Oh, and those tactics… You do realize they too are all about connection, right?

What do you need to put into place to protect your clients and yourself?

Client Experience Matters

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, strategic and business acumen, 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.

The key question is always this: what makes you different from other lawyers in a way that really matters to clients? Let’s look outside the law for a moment to see how this question plays out.

Take Amazon. Yes, Amazon gets a bad rap that’s often deserved, but Amazon’s customer experience was for quite some time completely different from that created by other retailers. Customers have come to rely on having that experience in a variety of ways, as proven by the copycat retailers who’ve adopted some or all of Amazon’s playbook. Let’s look at three phases of the Amazon customer 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. Finding what I want and placing an order is easy.
  2. Receiving the product Because I’m a member of Amazon Prime, I can have almost anything I want delivered in one or two business days. 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, I know what to expect, and I can be sure that reality is lining up with my expectations.
  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 usually have the option of returning the item (unpackaged) to a UPS Store, a designated retailer like Kohl’s, or to an Amazon facility. Or, in many instances, UPS will pick up the package from my home or office. I’m even willing to buy large items like a mattress because Amazon has streamlined that process as well, often granting a refund without requiring me to return the item. So easy!

It’s easy to do business with Amazon, so I do a lot of business with Amazon. Sometimes I don’t feel great about it, and I make a special effort to support my local businesses, but the ease of doing business with Amazon has made me a loyal customer.

That experience is about more than the ultimate product I receive. Of course, the product matters, but the reliability of getting the product I want is what often matters most to me as a customer.

Back to law: of course the ultimate outcome of a matter you handle for a client is absolutely critical. Your work product must be right, and it must come as close as possible to attaining the client’s goals. But that’s just one part of what creates client satisfaction or loyalty. The experience of getting to that end result is often what creates the bigger impression. You want clients to say that you accomplished what they needed and, equally importantly, that the process of reaching that end result was easy, predictable, and as pleasant as possible.

What would your clients say about their experience in doing business with you? Do you let them know what to expect in your work together, both substantively and procedurally? Do you meet your promises to them? Do you keep them up-to-date on their matter, on a regular basis, in a way that’s helpful for them? Is it easy for them to reach you? If you’re unavailable, is it easy for them to reach someone else on your team, or do they know who to contact? Is it easy for them to receive, understand, and pay your invoices? And beyond easy: is it pleasant to work with you?

The less friction and more predictability in your client’s experience working with you, the better your client is likely to feel about working with you, and the more likely they’ll hire you again and refer you when the opportunity arises.

How can you improve your clients’ experience?

Your BD Plan Must Be A Living Document

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.

The advent of the pandemic and its lockdowns proved this point beyond any question. If your business development plan called for speaking at or attending conferences or frequent face-to-face networking, the viability of your plan changed almost literally overnight.

A secondary change is beginning to occur now, as cities are reopening. Perhaps you adjusted your networking and conference plans so that instead of meeting in person, you met via Zoom. And maybe it’s time to shift that again: face-to-face meetings may be possible but some of your contacts (or perhaps you) won’t be comfortable meeting face-to-face or without masks just yet. Since creating connections is the goal at the heart of all networking, you may want to find ways to issue invitations that offer a variety of ways to meet so that you can connect while respecting everyone’s level of comfort.

And, of course, the availability of networking is only one example of a change in circumstance that will necessitate a change in your plan. The law may change. Business or economic realities may affect your practice. You may experience personal challenges that prompt you to re-examine your plans. In other words, life happens and it’s up to you to make sure to adapt your business development plan accordingly. 

How well do you adapt your plan as circumstances change?