Make Money Mondays: Improving Client Service

Retail industries have long recognized that great customer service goes a long way towards retaining clients, encouraging favorable reviews and increasing overall revenues.   In fact, there’s a great article from Small Business Trends  that offers ten examples of customer service from brands that went the extra mile.  Now, not all of these ideas from the retail industry are readily transferrable to law practice. For example, the article describes that Nordstrom’s trademark customer service practice is to say yes to customers regardless of request – which won’t work for lawyers for two reasons. First, in contrast to a store that can accept returns and resell an item,  lawyers – whether they bill hourly or flat fee – collect compensation for services, can’t get their time back if a client seeks a refund and therefore, are more constrained in their ability to return fees. Second, lawyers must also abide ethics rules, which means that they can’t pursue spurious claims merely because a client asks for them. 

But just because lawyers may be more constrained than hotels or department stores in the type of client service they can provide doesn’t excuse lawyers from not attempting to offer great client service. And the article offers a list of practices that any lawyers – even those strapped for money or cash – can implement to improve customer service.  Moreover, not only do these practices benefit clients, but they make life easier for lawyers!  Here are a couple of examples:

Accessible FAQs, self-service content or self-ordering kiosks – Many law firms have FAQs for substantive legal problems, but nothing to advise clients about what to do when common problems arise in a case – such as what to do if a spouse for whom a will was prepared dies, or how to fund a trust or what constitutes an emergency in a family law or criminal case that would justify an emergency phone call.   And as clients become more comfortable with DIY tools, lawyers can accommodate them through  self scheduling platforms  for initial consultations or follow-up appointments.  Another great customer service tool is an online client portal which allows clients to access files on their own. 

Focus on building long term relationships  Retail companies that have high rates of customer satisfaction focus on long term relationships.  There’s no reason that law firms can’t adopt the same approach. To build long term relationships with clients, lawyers can make use of toll bridge arrangements or subscription plans  which offer clients ongoing support long after you’ve completed a given matter.   And again, these ongoing services are win-win for lawyers and clients – lawyers collect a recurring stream of revenue, and can take a more proactive, or preventative approach to clients’ legal problems – which in turn reduces costs for clients.

Easy access to customer support  Many solo and small firms may lack the resources to hire a dedicated customer support team. But at a minimum, they can hire answering services like Smith AI  or Ruby Receptionists  where clients will at least gain access to a human. And you can provide these services with scripts to help diffuse common client complaints until you can return the client’s call.

Although consumers expect top notch customer service, they also realize that it costs more – and yet they’re willing to pay to avoid the frustration of dealing with an automated chat bot or trying to figure out a fix themselves. Lawyers should recognize that if they take the time to invest in great client service, they will also attract the kinds of clients who are willing to pay higher fees that will offset any extra cost of improved client service. And that should be incentive enough.

Illustration courtesy of Shutterstock

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