Customer / Client Service For Law Firms: The Ultimate Business Development Tool
Customer / Client Service: The Ultimate Business Development Tool For Law Firms
When it comes to achieving outstanding business development success, who is the most important person in your firm? Your Managing Partner? Your Head of Business Development?
No … the answer is ‘your customer’ / ‘client’!
As I got up to speak recently at a seminar on customer service as a marketing tool for law firms, I overheard a mutter … “here we go again … another lecture on being nice to clients … what a waste of space. This is a very expensive and flawed attitude!
Firms who understand the power of this ‘being nice to clients’, basic truism and who place the customer’s needs and ‘feelings’, at the centre of every decision and interaction, are the ones who will establish a differential advantage over their competitors, be able to charge the fees they deserve and have a commercially successful future. Make no mistake, in this competitive legal services market … ‘customer service’ is the ultimate business development success platform.
Simple you may say, but if it is so obvious, why is it that so few firms get it right?
- 68% of firms have no active policy for keeping in touch with clients after a matter has been concluded.
- 45% of firms still have limited information about their own clients.
- Approximately 70% of firms don’t carry out regular or decent client satisfaction studies.
- Less than 30% of firms have active systems for cross selling and only 10% train staff in this.
- Less than 10% of firms factor inter-personal skills into their staff recruitment criteria.
- Less than 10% of firms provide training for their partners and staff in customer services techniques, strategies and personal skills.
- On taking incoming new telephone enquiries, in almost a third of calls neither party knows who they are speaking to.
- Only around 25% of firms have a structured system to foster recommendations and referrals
So here are the top 6 things you must understand or learn:
1. Customer service is about every aspect of a firm’s business
Customer / client service is much more than a separate series of ‘things to do’, dreamt up by a few of the partners who ‘get it’ and then left to the marketing team or practice manager to run.
Customer service is a way of thinking. It is a ‘mindset’ to be embedded in the focus and philosophy of the firm, that drives every decision, communication and interaction.
2. Customer service should be experienced as an emotion
The aim of great customer service is to ‘influence’ clients and others to ‘feel’ positive about the firm and its brand.
People make their decisions to choose you, return for more, or recommend you, based totally on how they ‘feel’ about the firm. If you want to encourage and foster these wise decisions, then your strategic focus needs to be on what you need to do, or say to influence their ‘feelings’.
3. Great customer service wins you new business
Customer / client service is not just about being ‘nice’, it will win you bucket loads of business.
For example, sometime ago I was asked to help a family department in a mid-sized firm, increase their conversion of enquiries for private divorce work from a pitiful 13%. Callers were dealt with by untrained staff who treated potential clients as though they were a nuisance. Callers were often emotionally distressed. They were processed. There was no real conversation, empathy, rapport or interest.
I showed them how to deal with these enquiries with a ‘customer service’ driven focus. Within a few months the conversion rate was 82% … and the firm an extra half a million pounds better off!
The same results and techniques have worked in all other work areas too.
4. Great customer / client service will bring you increased repeat business, facilitate cross selling and turn your past clients into your sales-force
When are you next in touch with past clients after a matter has been concluded? If you don’t know, or care, I can tell you now you are leaving cash on the table!
Keeping in touch to build a relationship and to make sure that they know of your full range of services, will keep them coming back. This of course is providing they were satisfied with your service to begin with.
For example, using the right keeping in touch and cross selling techniques … I have seen:
- a 60% success rate on getting past wills clients, back into the office to do more business.
- 50% of residential conveyancing clients make wills and then 72% of them will invest in a Lasting Power of Attorney, if approached and asked in the right way.
Many of the same ‘customer service’ techniques and skill set can be used for other work types too, with equally impressive results.
5. Clients will judge you by ‘service delivery’ and not just the your legal work.
You need to be able to differentiate between the technical quality of the legal work and ‘service delivery’.
When did you last hear … “your drafting skills are impressive?”. Clients will not judge you just by your legal ability, but by how they were made to ‘feel’. How were they greeted? Did they feel you supported with the right level of empathy and personal interest?
6. Customer / client service training is a ‘must’ and not an option.
Remember, people buy people first! Your people need to understand that good customer service includes certain personal skills. These include empathy; taking a real interest in clients; putting yourself in their shoes; going out of your way to help; managing their anxieties and feelings. All these and more are personal skills and techniques, that can be learnt and improved.
Copyright Professor Ian Cooper 2018
By the way, I don’t have space to get into the pointless debate over the ‘customer’ or ‘client’ phrase. Please just accept for the time being that these words are interchangeable.