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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?