Client Service Lesson #5: Communication, Communication, Communication

This is the final post of a five-part series on lessons learned from working with law firm client service teams. To learn more, check out my article, “Lessons from the Trenches: Law Firm Client Service Teams.

Have you ever been stuck on the tarmac during an airline flight delay? To me, there is nothing more frustrating, especially when you can’t get any information about what the problem is and when they expect to have the situation resolved.

Two former colleagues of mine were in this situation a few years ago. As would be expected, when the flight delay was announced, a huge groan could be heard throughout the cabin.

Then the captain came on over the speaker. He said the flight had been delayed. He did not yet know why. He did not yet know for how long.

What he did do was promise to report back every 10 minutes to provide an update–even if the update was that he did not have any new information. And, he followed through on his promise.

My colleagues were amazed at the impact the captain had. The passengers immediately relaxed. They trusted that they would get accurate information. They felt like they were all in it together. All because of strong communication. (Okay, I think a round of free drinks was also involved).

Free drinks aside, communication is one of the simplest and often most overlooked areas of client service. Here are three easy ways to create lasting impressions with your client by providing consistent, ongoing communication.

1) Return Phone Calls Promptly. Responsiveness continues to be one of the single biggest complaints clients have about their lawyers. Return phone calls, preferably within an hour of receiving them. If that is not possible, be sure your voice mail and email indicate when you can expect a call back. Make the habit to return all calls at the end of the day, even if it is after hours.

2) Learn how your client likes to communicate and communicate that way. Some people are most responsive by phone, others by email, text or instant message. Instead of forcing your clients to adapt to your communication style, try adapting your style to theirs. By doing so, you will be recognized as being more responsive.

3) Maintain consistent, ongoing communication with your client during and after the engagement. This can be as simple as a weekly call to let them know there are no new developments but things are on track. It might also be a quarterly check-in to get feedback on how you are doing. Regardless, maintaining awareness with clients is the key to future business and great referrals.

As the pilot in the story above proves, communication isn’t always about letting people know something. Sometimes it is as simple as letting them you are working toward a solution.

So give your clients a call… Buying them a drink every once and awhile won’t hurt either.

Posted on August 17, 2010 in Client Teams, Uncategorized

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