Have you ever wondered how the “it” firms got that way? How they took it to the next level? Did you always just assume it was because they outspent their competitors on TV, internet marketing, social media and PPC advertising? I hate to tell you, their “secret” is far simpler than that. They got to be the top of the list because they focused not on “client service”, because all firms claim to do that. They focused their time, efforts and money on their “client experience”.
Firms that truly want to grow need to focus on improving their relationships with clients and providing an experience that will get clients talking. We all know the difference between good and bad service, but in order to compete, you have to move beyond this and focus on the overall experience you create for your clients. Successful firms must shift their focus from providing satisfactory client service to creating a memorable client experience that builds loyalty. We call this creating the WOW client experience.
Build Relationships that Provide an Emotional Connection
Rather than focusing on simply providing a service/settling their case, firms will build long term relationships with clients if they focus on the emotional connection that clients seek. Every one of your clients has an emotional need that calls for attention.
Ironically, your client’s main issue is not necessarily just their case or the service you are providing, but usually they are motivated by something more. You have to dig deeper to figure this out. Is it their fear of losing everything they have and not being able to support their family? Is it they worry about not being physically the same? Are they angry and seeking retribution? It is your job and the job of your team to be sensitive to their feelings and emotions and to determine why they really came to you for help. Empathy is key. Failure to connect emotionally will prevent you from creating that bond, and ultimately prevent you from helping them, giving them the right client service, giving them the WOW client experience and creating the client loyalty your firm needs.
Firms need to “anticipate” these “needs” by creating an experience that their clients desire by addressing the emotional connection as part of their interaction with clients.
Here are some examples:
- Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What do they want beyond your services or the settlement? Empathy.
- Understand your client’s needs. Do you provide an experience your client would want if they could ask for anything? Proactively and in an anticipatory manner.
- Anticipate their future needs, down the road. What might they want but haven’t yet figured it out yet?
- What is your client’s emotional need? Ask questions and pay attention to the conversations you have and look for their emotional touch point. If you satisfy their emotional need, you have created an experience that is memorable. And, memorable experiences keep them coming back or at least it makes them loyal and will have them referring others to you.
The 3 steps from “client service” to “client experience”
Identifying where you lie on the client service to client experience continuum is the first step. Once you understand your level of client service, you need to develop action steps and look internally for how you can not only improve in terms of providing an exceptional client experience, but what you can really do to take things to the next level.
Here are the 3 levels defined and what you can do to move your firm from client service to client experience.
- Satisfying clients (this is” just good enough” client service)
This is where most firms reside. They are focused on a single client interaction. These firms are focused on the short term (this one client, this one settlement, this one time) and have a case by case approach to service. They either do not see the importance or do not want to put the effort into developing long term relationships with clients.
While satisfying clients and providing good client service is a necessary component of client experience, firms need to come to the realization that satisfying clients will only get them so far. Client satisfaction with a single case experience simply provides the opportunity to serve that client one more time—and limits their ability to grow and create loyal repeat interactions and a long-term relationship.
What needs to be done to take your service capabilities to the next level?
Start thinking about the long-term ramifications of taking a one-time/one case approach to service. How much of your firm’s profits are based on client referrals? Consider these action steps:
- Start by taking a look at your current “client experience” and look for areas/ways to improve it.
- Crunch the numbers! Are clients coming back/referring you other new clients on a regular basis? What is the long-term value of a client and what is the cost associated with adding a new client rather than getting one from a referral?
- Attempt to answer “why”. Why are your clients coming back/referring other clients and why are they not coming back? Why are they choosing you over your competitors?
- Talk to your employees. Your frontline team members are the ones who interact and make an impression on your clients.
- Talk to your clients. Ask them to take a client survey. But make sure it is focused on how to improve—not simply are you satisfied—otherwise you won’t discover the insights that will help you rise to the next level.
If you want to create a loyal base of clients, you have to satisfy them first. Master client satisfaction, and then work on building a loyal base. Make sure you ask them the most important question: “How likely would you be to refer a family member or friend? Then, perform the Net Promoter Score analysis on the scores you get. This takes time and take effort. You can’t just ask the question and walk away. Especially if you get a score of 1 or 2. This requires action on your part to find out what problem caused the client to give you such a low score and come up with a solution to fix it, fix it and then circle back to the client letting them know that the issue is fixed and how that was accomplished. See, time and effort. And, this whole process won’t be cheap!
- From just satisfying just your clients to creating loyal clients
When firms move beyond satisfaction and focus on developing a loyal base of clients, they recognize that loyal clients generate a strong and sustainable firm. Loyal clients move you from having short term one case/one settlement relationships to long-term relationship loyal clients who refer you to others.
What are you doing to build loyal clients?
- Do you understand and provide an experience your clients would want?
- Are you creating an experience that meets their emotional needs?
- Do you invite/encourage clients/their family and friends to come back if they ever need a lawyer, for anything, not just your particular practice areas?
What actionable steps can be taken to build a loyal client base?
- Implement a Client Advisory Board if you do not already have one. People love to be recognized and asked for their opinions. How do you recognize and acknowledge clients so they feel special and linked to your firm when they have referred you a new client?
- Implement a Client Appreciation Day where you show your appreciation for all of your clients and the fact they selected your firm to help them during their time of need. Thank them for allowing you/your firm to be involved in that way in their life. Show them what an honor it is for you and your team to have had the opportunity to serve and work with them.
- Identify specific actions you can take to exceed expectations with every interaction—not just meet them. Build these into your intentional experience.
- Get to know clients personally. Learn more than just their names—learn about their needs that your firm helps address and how you can help them after the settlement lead a more productive and successful life.
- Let them get to know you more personally. Most people do “business” with “people” not a business. Let them see that you are a person. Also, most people do business with people they like. Show them the things you enjoy and that make you and your firm unique and personable. Show them why they should “like” you.
- Make your clients’ opinion matter. Take their feedback seriously, listen attentively to their concerns and accommodate their needs.
- Regularly track your repeat clients/referrals. Are your clients coming back when they have another case? Are they referring their family and friends? Understand what the key elements are that drive repeat clients and referrals and build on them.
- Tell people about your great client experience. Make it part of your brand, who you are and then your marketing campaigns. When your current clients verify the messages you put out there, it will entice the return of clients and increase new business.
- Get testimonials from current clients who are loyal clients and believe in your client experience. This will encourage both referral clients and potential clients to see you in the same light and begin to experience your firm’s “client experience” before they ever walk in the door.
- Moving from loyal clients to “brand advocates” (a.k.a. “raving fans” or promoters)
A loyal client base will ensure that the same clients keep coming back and keep making referrals. Client experiences that create an exceptional emotional return for your clients will turn them into brand advocates. And, this is where your firm will kick it into high gear and you will start to experience a higher volume of new and passive sources of revenue.
Great client experiences make clients feel like they have received something exceptional. This positive experience you deliver creates an imbalance that disturbs the natural sense of reciprocity. When this happens, it creates brand advocates. They want to reciprocate by promoting your firm—through word of mouth, social media, online reviews, and other traditional means—to balance the scales of reciprocity.
What are you doing to create brand advocates out of your clients?
- Are you focusing beyond your relationship/case?
- What are you doing to engage clients long-term?
- Are you listening to your clients’ real concerns?
- What are you doing to offer outside the box experiences?
If you want brand advocates you have to give them something to talk about. Consider taking these actions to create an army of advocates:
- Look for ways to create value. The only time you interact with them shouldn’t only be when they are working with you to settle their case. Send them useful and relevant information periodically. Email lists, newsletter, and cards that honor special occasions (especially personal special occasions) keep you in your clients’ mind.
- Create a 5-year vision for your client relationships. How does that relationship evolve from their perspective (not yours)? What can you do to become a valued strategic partner in their lives versus simply a provider of a service on a one-time basis?
- Get social! Engage with your clients online and develop an open dialogue with them. Social platforms give your clients the opportunity to interact directly with you/your firm and become an insider versus a client. It also allows them to share your firm with other users/potential clients—the electronic version of word of mouth promotion.
Even “great” client service doesn’t cut it anymore. Firms that truly want to be in a position to grow need to focus on improving their relationships with clients and providing an experience that will get their clients talking, returning and referring everyone they know. If you’re not willing to “settle” for just good or even great client service, because you now know HOW, the time is NOW to create your WOW “CLIENT EXPERIENCE”!
Good Luck and let us know if you need that extra push to get things started. As someone very wise once told me, “when is the best time to plant a tree, yesterday. When is the second-best time to plant a tree, today!” Don’t let today pass you by without taking some action to make a move towards creating your firm’s WOW client experience and starting down the road towards the growth and development you and your firm deserve!
Lauren Currin and her team at LMA have been helping firms for over 9 years create WOW Client Experiences and increase their client and attorney referral bases. LMA has many services and products to help you and your firm take this crucial step in your firm’s long-term growth and development. If you understand the importance of this transition and the impact it can have on your firm’s bottom line, contact Lauren, she will discuss with you the services and products they recommend as well as how they can help implement them and take your firm to the next level!
Lauren Currin – 919-637-9144, firstname.lastname@example.org