Improve Client Service Through Emotional Intelligence? Yes! Here's How...

JD Supra Perspectives
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Client service is often overlooked as one of the most critical pieces of success for professional services firms, most notably law firms.

When was the last time you enjoyed paying someone a hefty sum for services who didn’t communicate well, was hard to get in touch with, didn’t seem to care that you had an issue, and didn’t bother doing any follow-up after the service was complete?

While most would lean on experience and other credentials to bolster their profile and win business, most experience becomes somewhat negligible when comparing business growth firm against firm.

Your interactions and connections with clients make the biggest difference in whether or not they bring their business to you and, more importantly, how long you keep it.

When it comes to lawyer-client communication, a Legal Trend Report found significant gaps between client expectations and lawyer perceptions. Specifically, 42% of clients want to be updated on their legal matter every week, compared to only 24% of lawyers who think their clients want to be updated weekly.

Additionally, 64% of clients indicated that they’d contacted a law firm that never responded. When you also consider that 79% of potential clients indicated that they expected firms to respond to phone or email messages within 24 hours, lack of responsiveness is a clear area for improvement for many lawyers.

The good news: these gaps are easy to close by leveraging emotional intelligence in your client service.

According to Bain and Company, companies raise their revenue between 4%-8% just by creating an elevated level of client service and interaction through paying more attention to the needs of the client.

While discussion around emotional intelligence typically leans towards wellness and self-care, it can vastly improve your success in business and client service...

Emotional intelligence is one of the most critical, if not the most critical, skills for you to master to enhance everything in your life. While the discussion around emotional intelligence typically leans towards wellness and self-care, it can also vastly improve your success in business and client service. In a simple explanation, emotional intelligence is how you navigate and manage your own emotions, while also engaging with others to develop strong relationships. The higher the emotional intelligence (EQ), the stronger the relationships.

Self-Awareness

The basic explanation of self-awareness is how you feel and acknowledge different emotions. By approaching client interactions with an enhanced self-awareness, this allows you to have more empathy for your clients. When we think about interacting with our clients, we sometimes forget about the pain points that they're going through and how personal and emotional things could be to them within a matter.

Remember, most of your clients are attorneys too, and they are reaching out to you for help and/or answers. Whether it's a smaller matter or a large issue, we need to be more empathetic to our clients to enhance how we connect with them.

To think about it another way, when was the last time any attorney loved saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure?” Now, imagine being in that situation, having your company’s reputation and future on the line, and not being sure what the best route is. When your client contacts you, they’re stressed, anxious, and vulnerable. Greeting them with empathy will forge a stronger bond.

Self-Management

Self-management is the practice of what you do with the emotions you feel in your self-awareness.

Through self-management not only can we take better care of ourselves, but also protect our boundaries and time on our calendar. Whenever I speak about this to executives or teams, I always recommend blocking out five to ten minute segments of time between client meetings, or internal meetings to make sure that you have time to digest what was just talked about, identify follow-up steps and takeaways, and maybe delegate some things to get them off your plate.

... block out five to ten minutes between client meetings, or internal meetings to make sure that you have time to digest what was just talked about, identify follow-up steps and takeaways...

This will keep you more sharply focused on the needs of your clients and what you need to do to take care of their them before moving on to the next discussion. By creating this “passing period” (think of high school) in between meetings, you ward off the potential of having your day cascade into a downward slide of lost productivity.

Social Awareness

Through raised social awareness, or how we pay attention to others, we become better active listeners, not only verbally, but also in observing body language, tone, facial expressions, and other cues in conversation.

As we're listening, if we're just hearing the words and not paying attention to the emotion or other elements of the client’s demeanor in the conversation, we may miss out on critical insights and tips on how our client is feeling.

While this seems like a fundamental element of client service, it often becomes the forgotten piece of the relationship puzzle. Firms and attorneys are quicker to want to tell all about themselves vs. asking questions and actively listening to what the client responds with and how they state it.

Be overly aware about paying attention because we're often multitasking or not paying full attention, especially in the virtual/hybrid environment. Give your client 100% dedicated attention and make sure that you're hearing everything that they're saying and how they're saying it. If you’re unclear about intent or delivery, repeat back what you heard or ask for further clarification. Better to clear the air than go off on a task with a misunderstood sentiment.

Relationship Management

Finally, through elevated relationship management, we're able to enhance the connections that we have with our clients to give them the best experience possible.

The key here is to become the solution provider for the client and understand that your expertise may not be exactly their top priority at the moment. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about a client having services pushed on them or “sold” to them when the more beneficial approach would be to ask “What do you need right now to solve any problems you’re facing?” Realize, the need may not be you, but if you can realize it’s not about you (self-awareness) be of service to your client (self-management) and hear what is most pressing to your client (social awareness) you can help source the solution, making you more valuable to them.

This not only benefits the actual connection with your client, but it gives them an experience that they're going to want to tell other people, because when we feel valued as a client, we want to share the feeling and we want to talk about how wonderful the experience is. That leads to more referrals and allows you to have this verbal referral marketing team going out, talking about you on your behalf to bring more business.

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Rich Bracken is a global keynote speaker & media personality who also serves as Director of Strategic Partnerships for Foundry, a digital strategy and design firm. He routinely speaks with companies, associations, and in-house teams across the country on topics such as emotional intelligence, leadership, goal setting and achievement, change management, and presentation skills. A former legal marketing and business development executive, he has worked with firms to differentiate their strategy and brand to grow revenue through client service and external marketing. Learn more about Rich and connect with him at richbracken.com.

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