Client expectations are higher than ever. They want answers and solutions and they expect them yesterday.
In today’s 140 character Twitter, 6 second Vine world, consumers expect to get top-notch information quickly and 24/7 on the web via their laptop, tablet or smartphone. No longer are your potential clients willing to wait for you to find the time, at your convenience, to provide them answers. They demand service providers, including your firm, to give them what they want, when they want it, right now or they’ll find someone else who will.
The correct combination of people skills and technology can help you provide this kind of service and more. It’s not difficult to do but truth be told, most lawyers will not spend the time or energy to do what I propose.
By the way, if you think you’re someone special, who for some reason doesn’t need to improve his client experience, or who is excluded from this new rule of commerce, then you might as well stop reading this post and do whatever it is you’re doing and enjoy the journey to irrelevance.
For those of you who “get it” and want to learn how to be that “go to” law firm and provide the type of exemplary service clients are demanding and all clients will expect for years to come, keeping reading.
The Playing Field is Now Level
I think the playing field has finally been leveled. Big law firms no longer call the shots. In fact, because the digital aspect of doing business and building relationships requires almost instant action and personal connections, the big firm bureaucratic gorilla syndrome is already reducing the odds of their long-term survival.
Just as Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press changed everything back in 1450, the internet and social media has doubled down on the information distribution revolution. Everything we once knew about communication and customer service has and will continue to change.
Smart lawyers understand that this is a good thing.
Innovation, connectivity and transparency are not evil words. Easily being able to share the real you with consumers breaks down the old artificial barriers that have prevented human relationships from developing between clients and lawyers. Having the almost unlimited ability to reach out and connect, care, and expand your sphere of influence must be embraced and encouraged rather than be disregarded or complained about.
In this new digital and connected world, doing this with the true desire and intent to provide an outstanding client experience is what separates the average lawyers from the great ones.
So how do you go about creating the exceptional client experience? What approaches and tools can you use and how should you use them?
Human and Digital Tools
First, you need to understand that we’re all in the human business. By that I mean that you’re a human being so start acting like one. Your client is a human being so if you’re not already doing so, start treating him or her like one.
Most of us are sharing our legal expertise to help people solve their legal needs or problems. Those of you representing large institutions and corporations are interacting with people representing these entities. The same approach applies and so in this post, I will not differentiate between the two.
My friend, Bob Burg, recently wrote one of the best how to “people” books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s entitled, “Adversaries into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion.” In his book Bob does an excellent job of showing you how to engage and interact with other human beings to maximize your chances of connecting, building relationships and succeeding in life.
My first suggestion would be to read Bob’s book and use his recommended tools and approaches when interacting with clients in your office and opposing counsel or judges in court. Do the same when engaging others on social media.
You see, success as a lawyer is 10% technical and 90% people skills. Everyone graduates from law school knowing the law but what separates the really successful lawyers from everyone else is their ability to connect and develop rapport with others. I can show you all the online bells and whistles in the world but without people skills, most lawyers will simply shoot themselves in the foot when engaging others using social media.
Making your clients’ experience a special one means you need to engage the client on the social media platforms that they are comfortable with and spend time on. On a daily basis I DM (direct message) with clients, potential clients, reporters and opposing counsel on Twitter and Facebook. I’m answering messages on Linkedin and interacting with clients and friends (referral sources) on Vine, Instagram and SnapChat. Sharing verdicts, testimonials, legal updates and good things my fellow lawyers and friends are doing is not only shared on the above platforms, but also on Pinterest each and every week.
Success on social media is being where your audience is and naturally combining your offline efforts with online expectations. Speaking before an audience about how to give an effective opening statement includes sharing links to Twitter, blog posts, and related videos on YouTube. It’s a synergistic dance that includes everyone and refuses to exclude anyone.
24/7 Client Satisfaction
Using my firm as an example, clients no longer need to call the office to find out the status of your legal matter or when their next court date is. They don’t need to ask for copies of letters and pleadings to be sent to them by snail mail, faxed, or scanned and eventually emailed to them. Best of all, they don’t need to wait a day or two before a lawyer finds time to return their call (they never did with my firm but I’m trying to make a point).
Instead, everything most of our clients need and want to know is made available to them 24/7 via our secure online private client portal. At their convenience and anytime during the day or night, clients can log onto their portal and check their case calendar and upcoming hearings. They can access their case documents online or download to review later while on the go.
Although we’re always available during normal office hours to take calls, clients can use their portal to communicate (think private email) with lawyers and support staff and information and documents can be easily exchanged. Add 24/7 live website chat and telephone answering service and our clients are happy. Very happy.
These additional benefits are all provided to make the client experience with our firm second to none. This extra effort is a relationship building tool that compliments the new consumer’s expectation because of the Internet.
Add to all of this the wealth of information found at our website like full and complete answers to the most often asked questions, podcasts, videos, FAQs, and our clients appreciate the fact that we have taken the time to help them and place their best interest before our own.
What are You Going to Do?
The truth of the matter is that most lawyers don’t do any of this. Implementing just one or two of these tools will allow you to substantially improve the client experience and stand out from all the other lawyers in town.
Do all of the above, with the right intentions and in the right way, and you’ll have put together a business model and foundation that will grow and adapt to change. By keeping the client informed and always giving more than you promise, your clients will understand that you care about them and will return the favor.
Not sure what you should do first based upon your law firm and unique circumstances? Then simply ask your client, “What can I do, right now, to improve my service to you?”
Need to learn more about how to properly use social media to help you reach these goals? Then I’d like to suggest two books both written by friends of mine. The first is “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” (4th edition) by David Meerman Scott and the second is “The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue” by Shama Kabani (2013 update). Read and take action on the information found in both of these excellent books and you’ll be ahead of 99% of your competition when it comes to using the Internet and social media.
I tell other lawyers that if they keep doing what everyone else is doing, then they’re setting themselves up for failure. The better approach is to see what everyone else is doing and then do just the opposite.
Don’t be afraid to be different and create a ruckus. Focusing on creating an exceptional client experience and using technology to compliment your efforts is making a priority on a practice area that most lawyers never give a second thought.
Disruption in this new consumer oriented, instant gratification digital age is king. Being an honest and trustworthy human being and embracing technology to share your song is, in my humble opinion, the right course for long-term and easily sustainable success.
Featured image: “Best Service” from Shutterstock.