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When growing your firm, it’s a difficult balance between maintaining high standards for client service and focusing on the health of your firm as a business.
In the past, focusing on these metrics might have been conducive to building a prestigious, profitable law firm. But, in today’s world, where clients are used to the instant gratification afforded to them by services like Uber, Amazon and Netflix, you need to focus on making the client journey as lightweight and pleasant as possible, if you want to grow your client base.
Simply put: Focusing on client success is critical for focusing on your firm’s success.
That’s because when your clients are satisfied, you begin seeing benefits like more referrals, easier management of long-term relationships, more patience from clients, and greater levels of trust.
These results help your team work faster, attract more clients and improve your reputation. So, how does one create a client-focused law firm?
Successful case outcomes are an obvious ingredient. But, there are other factors that determine the satisfaction of your clients. In this article, we’ll review several ways to improve your client experience so that your firm can flourish.
Put the Client at the Center of Your Thinking
Whenever you make a decision, implement a new process or purchase new technology, stop and think about how it will affect the client experience. Look at it from their point of view.
- Will this improve outcomes for clients?
- Will this make the client’s experience easier?
- Will this build trust with the client?
- Will this reduce my client’s confusion?
- How would I react if my lawyer (or accountant, dentist, etc.) implemented this type of process?
This kind of thinking doesn’t only apply to new processes either. Take a look at your current systems and try to spot areas where you could improve the client experience. Somewhere between the first consultation and final billing, there are usually improvements to be made.
For instance, maybe you’ve noticed some agitation on your client’s side when they have to fill out multiple forms without specific guidance, or when something requires an in-person meeting for your convenience and not theirs.
By identifying small dissatisfactions, you can find opportunities to correct them and be on your way to building a happier client base..
Generally speaking, the world is getting any easier to deal with, so you can help clients by not adding to list of challenging complexities they're dealing with. These days, many people just want to know what's going on without additional hassle.
To accommodate this in your own practice, you don’t need to develop an app, but you should think about how you can provide consistent communication about a matter, or provide clients a way to check for themselves.
Some firms are using secure file-sharing and case management solutions that enable clients to check in on documents, upcoming court dates and other deadlines through an online portal, for example. Improving transparency with clients will also improve their trust in you and your practice.
Be Accessible to Your Clients
First off, you don’t need to be accessible to your clients 24/7 and should have a life outside of work. However, during your business hours, you should have systems in place that help you field inquiries and respond in a reasonable amount of time. No one likes to call a phone that is never answered.Here are some ways to be more accessible to your clients.
Here are some ways to be more accessible to your clients:
Set Expectations for Communication
Setting expectations is the best way to ensure that your clients don’t feel ignored and you don’t feel overwhelmed.
For example, at the beginning of your client relationship you could tell your client that you respond to emails from 9 am - 11 am and 3 pm - 5 pm. Or, you could tell them that you are available for calls in the afternoons because mornings are for concentrated work. If people know what to expect then they are less likely to jump to their own conclusions.
This way you aren’t interrupted during deep work sessions and they aren’t sitting at home wondering why you aren’t returning their calls.
Use More Than One Communication Method
Clients should be clear on how to contact you. Will you allow them to text you? Or do you strictly use email and phone calls? Do you have an answering service, a messaging app, or other tools that they should know about?
Whatever you choose, it’s best practice to give your clients more than one way to communicate with you, and offer some guidelines about what types of communication are best based on specific needs (like a simple question vs a lengthy conversation about a case development).
Don’t rely on them to make contact. Instead, be proactive. Share with them the good and bad news as the case progresses. They will appreciate your attentiveness.
Also, to reduce the number of separate calls and emails, provide them with summaries of your calls in email form. Include some other information for them to check if they are confused. This extra effort will limit the number of follow up questions and save you time in the long run.
Make Their Part in the Process Easy to Understand
It is no fun to be a confused client, nor is it fun to be on the receiving end of hundreds of questions and concerns.
Therefore, it’s critical that you make your client’s role in the process easy to understand and accomplish. They need to grasp what information they must provide, and how to deliver it.
To assess the ease of the client’s experience, ask yourself these questions:
- Are your intake forms clear and understandable?
- Do your forms only ask for the relevant info?
- Are they easy to fill out?
- Is it obvious to the client what information they need to provide?
To improve this document workflow, a lot of law firms are adopting legal document automation technology like Lawyaw, which makes it easier to solve for remote intake and information gathering, which saves time for lawyers and clients alike.
Remember, clients like working with experts. They want a team that makes their lives easy. The right technology and systems can help your team do that for them.
Practice with Empathy
Clients come to you for help with a legal issue, and oftentimes that is stressful or confusing for them. So your clients aren’t just looking for help with a legal issue, they need support, advice and reassurance. You aren’t just their lawyer, but also a confidant, an advisor and sometimes even a therapist.
Contrary to conventional business dogma, where ice-cold personalities get results, you should try to understand the emotions of your clients. This empathy can make you more effective at managing the relationship and outcomes.
The more we care, the harder we try. The harder we try, the better the results.
Health psychologist and Stanford University lecturer Kelly McGonigal talked about the benefits of developing empathy for your clients at the Clio Cloud Conference.
“One of the things people do which turns out to be less helpful than people expect is to try to create an armor. They might think ‘I’m going to go into this situation, this person is going to be crazy stressed, and I can’t let that infect me. I’m going to stay calm and in control’."
"But it turns out when you spend a lot of time with other people who are highly stressed, you have a better chance of dealing well with that stress when you let it be a little bit contagious - so that it activates in you what you care about and what your goals are in the situation. Let yourself connect and feel what the situation is, and then get clear about what your role is so you can shift into effective management of the situation. This will help your client shift gears and join you in problem-solving as well.”
An empathetic approach can help you stand out from the crowd by making your clients feel more comfortable.
Listen to Feedback
No one can provide better guidance on how to improve your client satisfaction than your clients themselves. So, to capture their insights, hold client exit interviews.
You can schedule a phone conversation or send out a questionnaire to help you capture feedback from your clients that can provide insights into where your processes can improve.
Here are some questions to ask your clients in an exit interview:
- Were we easy to work with?
- What was the hardest part for you in this process?
- What did you like about working with us?
- What could we have done differently?
- Did we communicate clearly with you?
- Were we accessible when you needed us?
And lastly, ask if they would be open to recommending your firm to friends and family. Hopefully, successful client relationships will earn you new leads as well.
Furthermore, after an exit interview, you will have built an even stronger relationship with the client. According to this survey of Fortune 500 corporate counsels, over 75% of respondents believe[d] that satisfaction surveys are “critical” or “important” for an ongoing relationship.”
People want to feel heard — so much so that even asking them how you can improve will make them more likely to work with you again.
Track Your Progress
Creating a client-focused law firm is not done in one day. It takes time and is a constant process of evaluation and adjustment.
The best thing you can do to accelerate this process is keeping your head on a swivel, looking for ways in which you can improve the client experience. Then, talk with your team about implementing the changes.
To see if your changes are actually yielding results, check data such as google reviews, referrals, and Net Promoter Score: an index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend your company's services to others.
If you implement the above recommendations, you should be well on your way to forming a firm that your past clients can’t stop raving about.
One way that thousands of firms are saving time to focus more on clients is by implementing document automation solutions like Lawyaw. If you’re interested in finding out more, schedule a call to learn more.