Often when talking to one of my law firm clients, I hear stories starting like this: “You’re not going to believe this, but …” “Boy, did I get lucky …” or “Let me tell you about the coincidence that happened the other day.” Whenever I hear comments like these, my ears perk up because I am confident that these stories are believable and not about luck or coincidence. While the outcome may not have been planned, the new business success stories are almost always the result of what I call The Magic Touch! I am talking about the magic we create when we consistently, predictably, and rhythmically practice the art of connecting with our clients.
The rhythm is the result of new habit formation through consistent interaction and communication to overcome the comfort zone of practicing and doing the “stuff” of law. Most lawyers I have met cite lack of time as their biggest obstacle. However, the bigger obstacle is that the practice of law is our comfort zone. In order to overcome these obstacles and be successful, we must create new habits.
A big client complaint is that lawyers are very attentive and communicative when they want the business, but these fade once the client is obtained. We work hard at communicating and demonstrating how much we care to a prospective client. Yet after, we often retreat into our comfort zone of legal work and believe that all our clients expect is quality legal work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clients do expect high quality legal services, but they also want to know that they are valued and more than just a revenue source. We often believe that connecting with our clients is a touchy-feely thing, but “connection” is the outcome of clear, purposeful actions that show the client that we care.
These three key elements are critical to creating a world-class client experience:
- Know Your Clients
- Listen and Capture
- Deliver the Unexpected
Law firms that consistently execute on these elements create a client-centered culture, develop referring fans, and effectively differentiate themselves within a competitive marketplace. They step into the rhythm of business development.
Know Your Clients
Your clients have specific needs and wants. Good lawyers dig deep to understand both. Better lawyers help clients clarify both to make good decisions. Great lawyers identify their clients’ unstated needs and wants then deliver on those even if outside the legal scope.
Often we see our clients as someone with legal needs, but the truth is they have personal problems with legal implications. When a person is injured, loses their job, or is the victim of medical malpractice, legal questions and claims arise. However, at the core of these situations are personal tragedies, risks, and outcomes that could have profound impact on our clients. The same is true in business disputes. We often say “it’s not personal, it’s business,” but businesses are nothing more than groups of people, so it is personal. The legal needs of business owners ALL have personal impacts and implications. Many of our clients have never been involved in a legal dispute. They come scared, uncertain, confused, and vulnerable. We often forget to look past the legal issues and understand the personal impact.
Great lawyers seek to understand their clients’ context: How does this matter impact your client? What are their primary concerns? What may be impacted by this legal dispute? What are the family dynamics? What time factors might impact the dispute and resolution? Without this critical context, we cannot best serve our clients. As a trusted legal advisor seeking to deliver the best overall result and outcome, the key to uncovering this vital context is to ask the right questions and then to listen.
Listen and Capture
Because our clients are not “legal experts”, it falls on the lawyers to ask deeper questions to gain understanding. We must learn to listen for the “golden nuggets” hinted by our clients so we may deliver their unstated needs. As we proactively listen, we gain knowledge about our clients, allowing us to personalize the client experience.
Every time you communicate with a client, there’s an opportunity to listen and learn. What’s going on, what do they value, and what important events are coming up in their lives? These are vital in their lives, but we often miss them because they may not be relevant to the legal issues. Valuing your clients means capturing their real life information.
Tune in to the information your clients share with you daily. Train your team to listen and capture this information. This is the “gold” in building relationships that matter with your clients. This causes them to want to be your client, who value your firm, and who will share their positive experience with others.
Deliver the Unexpected
Many lawyers provide great legal services. Many have a similar background as you. But few lawyers listen and know their clients unexpected wants and needs. This is your path into the 1% of trusted advisors – a category with little competition.
When was the last time you called your client just to check in with no agenda or legal questions? When was the last time you called to thank a client for their business? Imagine how you could set yourself apart by simply caring (giving flowers for an anniversary, sending a birthday card, or writing thank you note). These go a long way and communicate volumes.
By knowing what is going on in your clients’ lives, you connect on a personal level which enhances their trust. This art of listening and delivering the unexpected creates a niche to excel. This heightens trust and, more importantly, moves them from mere clients to powerful relationships. This is all the result of the Magic Touch!
Jeff Nischwitz is the Growth Acceleration Associate at Lawyers Marketing Associates, Inc. (www.lawyersmarketingassociates.com) and the Founder and Chief Acceleration Officer of Think Again!TM (www.thinkagaincoaching.com), a training, consulting and coaching company. Jeff works with law firms and law firm leaders to accelerate their results in four core areas: business development training and coaching, team and leadership development, client experience, and law firm succession planning and future leader development. For more information contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-373-7610.