It’s sometimes easy to forget that behind large corporate clients are real people who are driven by emotions and stressors like everyone else. Determining what legal clients really want is a psychological exercise that must go beyond simply providing ‘good service’.
Good service is good service, but good clients come from good psychology
The fiduciary nature of a client-solicitor relationship presents unique challenges in the delivery of our products and services. At its simplest, legal clients want a solution to a problem, and the skill, expertise and timeliness with which a lawyer delivers that solution lays the foundation of a satisfying experience.
Much of the time, however, depending on the lawyer’s area of practice, he or she may be expected to play the role of business advisor, risk strategist or even family counsellor. The ability with which a lawyer is able to perform that complementary role can greatly impact the positivity of the client’s overall experience and continuing loyalty.
A distinguishing feature of lawyers who gain trusting and appreciative clients is the ability to anticipate stressors and emotional challenges that may arise over the course of a matter and manage those situations to their advantage.
Get to know your typical client. What drives them? What are their stressors? What are their fears? What do they appreciate? And what really gets up their nose? Then use this information to prepare clients for likely eventualities, avoid their triggers and be ready to absorb and redirect any negative situations.
Anticipate and manage expectations
The single worst ingredient for good legal service is surprise. A client simply must know what to expect every step of the way, and their trust can only be gained if those expectations are met.
The key here, of course, is effective communication. An unhappy client may complain that the legal service provided was not worth the exorbitant fee. Whereas that same client having received detailed foreknowledge of the volume of work involved and an accurate cost estimate may be quite happy to pay it.
A rule of best practice is to contact and advise the client:
- Before a step is taken.
- When a step is taken.
- After the step has been taken.
In this way, ample opportunity is provided for clients to raise questions and concerns and to clarify their understanding of the process.
Evolve with technology
Firms also need to gain a thorough understanding of the technology utilised by their clients and adapt to suit their needs. Being well versed in new technology not only demonstrates innovation and creativity, it also bolsters the credibility of a firm against competitors who are not as tech savvy.
The legal sector is presently seeing a growing emphasis on online services, meaning clients are less concerned about the physical location of their lawyer, and proximity is no longer a barrier to the procurement of legal service from a firm in a different city or state. Meanwhile, market shifts are causing increased demand for lawyers to offer out-of-hours availability, utilise alternative billing strategies and procure outsourced legal work to minimise costs. In one UK survey, 81 per cent of consumers favoured out-of-hours service.
Staying abreast of your client’s needs and considering how the use of technology at your end could make their life easier will ultimately demonstrate genuine concern for them and their business and promote lasting relationships.