Dishing on the Importance of Good Client Care

by JD Supra Perspectives
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My husband and I recently had dinner at a local restaurant we enjoy frequenting. The casual atmosphere, dimly-lit back deck, local brews, friendly service and its welcoming attitude to our beloved fur-child (AKA our dog) are all part of its appeal. It’s a local, non-chain spot, hidden behind other independent shops, a CrossFit gym and an art studio. They anticipate our needs before we do -- drink refills? More napkins? Dog bowl refill? Extra condiments? -- and we have told more than a few of our friends about it.

You may be surprised to hear, however, that we aren’t crazy about the food.

I don’t mean that we hate the food. We don’t. The food of traditional pub fare, a menu filled with fun burgers with interesting toppings, French fries, fried food and BBQ, is fine. But it truly isn’t anything to write home about. In fact, many of the dishes are pretty basic and not anything we couldn’t get elsewhere.

So why do we continue to support them with our time and money?

We enjoy the experience. We appreciate their attentiveness, good service and their constant desire to make our experience with them a good one. Could we get similar food somewhere else? Sure. But would we receive the same level of customer service, ambiance and willingness to welcome and love on our dog? Not that we have found.

Your clients, whether consciously or not, react to good service in the same manner. Remember these points when considering your service to clients:

1. Your Menu is Not Unique

Take a moment to think of your competitors. Do you know other firms who offer the same “legal menu?” Probably. Providing good, quality work for your clients is of the utmost importance – obviously, both your client’s and your legal interests depend on it – but do not downplay the importance of providing a great experience. A client can go anywhere to have a simple matter taken care of, but making sure they are happy with the work, comfortable with communication, understanding of the issues and trusting of you and your firm will ensure their return when additional and more complicated matters arise.

...a client likely knows the desired outcome of a matter, but not the various options to get there. They will look to you to provide practical counsel

2. Think Two Steps Ahead

Just as our restaurant seems to anticipate empty cups and a lack of napkins before we find ourselves in need, consider what your client’s current landscape may mean for their future legal needs. Is their industry quickly picking up business? Are they on a downturn? Are there legislative issues that may affect their work in the future? A client may be able to anticipate some of these, but knowing that you are also keeping an eye to the future with their interests in mind will provide additional peace-of-mind and an exceptional level of service. In addition, a client likely knows the desired outcome of a matter, but not the various options to get there. They will look to you to provide practical counsel, proven roadmaps and solid legal work.

3. Check on Your Clients, And Do It Often

Have you ever sat at a restaurant in need of something from your server, only to wait for what seems like ages for him or her to come check on you? Sure, you could get up and search for help but isn’t attentiveness part of the experience you’re paying to receive?

Similarly, don’t force your clients to come searching for you because you aren’t checking in often enough. If you are working on a matter for a client, occasionally updating them on your work is something they expect from you. Feel like you have nothing to report because everything is going well? They want to (and should) know that as well. As many emails as your clients receive in a day, don’t you think they’d love one from you letting them know one of the items on their list is running smoothly?

4. People Like Surprises, But Not on a Bill

You mention that it’s your child’s birthday and before your bill arrives, the restaurant surprises him or her with a big slice of chocolate cake and a warm “Happy Birthday” cheer. Great, right? Now imagine seeing that same slice of cake on your bill. You’d likely be a little upset.

Your clients are no different. They may seem to appreciate the conference calls or some extra work here and there, but make sure that anything that will show up on a bill is clearly communicated, and preferably ahead of time. Surprises are great, except when they come in the form of a bill. 

What are you doing to ensure that your clients return for your help the next time a legal need arises?

Do you anticipate what they will need before they need it? Do you help find ways to save them money? Are you able to communicate that you understand what is important to them? Just as having great food isn’t the only requirement for a great restaurant, being a good lawyer requires more than high quality legal work. It’s a great experience that brings repeat business.

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[Morgan Lewis is Society 54’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. Morgan prides herself in her ability to provide a practical approach to tackling just about anything – that is where she shines. And, details. She doesn’t miss one.]

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