In this day where solo practitioners are almost a thing of the past and firms are merging daily, the determining factor of whether you retain your clients has been and continues to be your client service.  As the saying goes, “People don’t do business with businesses, they do business with people.”  This shows the importance of good client service.  Despite the result you get for your clients, 9 times out of 10, if your firm and your staff don’t provide good (no, exceptional) client service you are likely to lose existing clients as well as missing out on perspective ones.

Because client satisfaction is crucial to developing a successful thriving law practice, what can you do to ensure that your firm is providing excellent client service?  Here are 4 key fundamentals in establishing and developing client service for your firm:

1)     Establishing Client Needs – Every day we all make decisions about the services we select, thus we all are “prospective clients.”  Understanding and establishing the needs of your prospective clients prepares your staff and attorneys with the crucial questions and answers to assist those clients in an efficient, effective and compassionate manner. So ask yourself, how well do you know your prospective clients, current clients, and community? How much time, money and effort does your firm spend on market research?

2)     Establish a Service Culture Firm – Client service is not just one aspect of doing business—It is the reason why you do business.  Your firm exists to serve your clients.  If you’re doing business for any other reason, then you are not likely to succeed.  Every client encounter and interaction has the potential to add a referral or repeat client or to lose one so, you need to ensure that client service is your firm’s top priority. Every firm wants to intentionally avoid negative publicity, but in this time of social media and networking, it truly only takes one Tweet or Facebook post to cause irreparable harm to a firm’s reputation.  Does your firm have a client service-centric culture?

3)     Client Loyalty or “Shiny Penny Syndrome” – As we all know too well, it costs 2-3 times as much to acquire a new client than it does to keep an existing one.  Often times we forget this and walk over a quarter to get to the shiny new penny.  Clients always like to feel special and as if they are the only case you have.  They can quickly be lost when they get a sense that you don’t care about them or their case.  And, unfortunately, one bad experience can lose you a client for life (along with all of their relatives and friends).  In both good and bad times, the lifetime value of a loyal client is much greater than a series of single cases from one-time clients.  Do you have a marketing plan to maintain client loyalty?  Do you focus on client relationship marketing?

4)     Service-minded Staff and Attorneys – Do they get it? – Staff and Attorneys who interact with clients portray the image of the firm in the eyes of the client.  It is important to understand, acknowledge and realize that not all staff and attorneys value the importance of excellent client service.  The key to developing an excellent client centric culture is to evaluate individual behaviors, attitudes and skills to determine who is best suited for positions with the most client interactions and then invest in client experience training.  A single encounter or opportunity can make or break a client’s impression of your firm.  Does your firm provide client experience training for your staff and attorneys?  Do you evaluate your staff and attorneys regularly based upon your firm’s stated culture requirements and expectations?

When you meet your client’s expectations you might have more client satisfaction.  However, in today’s competitive marketplace going above and beyond expectations will ensure client satisfaction and in turn client loyalty.