In law, where the product you are selling is information, the client expects that you know what you are supposed to know in order to achieve the desired legal outcome.
The client assumes (hopefully correctly) that you would not take his case if you don’t know what you are doing. The reason the client retains you is not therefore, your legal acumen, but the degree to which you separate yourself from the pack in one category: helpfulness.
Helpfulness separates your firm from others.
Using the evaluative criterion of helpfulness, a client begins separating your firm from the competition during the initial phone call. Your ability to answer questions, provide information and follow up is critical in converting prospective clients to paying ones. If you don’t answer the phone calls, then your most important hiring decision is your receptionist. This person is the face of your firm and the first “helper” the client meets.
That’s why at Minick Law, our front desk is known as the Help Desk.
Your front desk receptionist tells the potential client your firm is not helpful if he:
- Is rude or short with the client (i.e. doesn’t have time for the client)
- Goes straight to pricing (i.e. doesn’t have time for the client)
- Can’t answer simple questions (i.e. isn’t competent to handle serious matters)
- Doesn’t explain the next steps for the client to take
Many clients are gauging your office’s helpfulness on primarily one question during the initial phone call: do you have time for them?
If you don’t have time to speak with a client about his case prior to his paying your office money, a client will not be confident you will give him more time once he has paid your office. Many clients will go into a ten-minute breathless explanation of their case as soon as they call your office because they don’t think they will be able to get their story out otherwise.
You’ll win or lose a client on the first call.
A person with a legal problem is highly concerned that if he does not communicate every detail of his case something will go wrong. A good legal receptionist knows how to ask the right questions so that the potential client has the confidence he needs to feel like his situation will be handled correctly.
Your office wins the first impression battle by not rushing or shushing the client during the initial phone call.
You must create an atmosphere in which the client perceives that lack of personal attention will not be an additional hurdle he must face in an already frustrating and confusing legal situation.
Creating a culture of help is the cornerstone of your legal practice because there are a million ways to improve the help and service you provide to clients, i.e. the way you make a client’s life easier.
This culture of help is not some gimmick or façade; it must be genuine: make people’s lives better. Period.
6 ways you can make your client’s experience better:
There are countless ways to make your service and your client’s legal experience better. Just look at the initial phone call and examine ways to improve these areas:
1. How easy was the client able to get in touch with you? Did they have to leave a VM? Go through an auto-attendant? Be put on hold immediately?
2. How much information did the receptionist provide to the client?
3. Did the person answering the phone call ask the right questions to get the necessary contact info and case details?
4. What next steps was the client given? Consultation/meeting scheduled? Request for important information or documents?
5. What information was sent to the client following the initial phone call? A confirmation email with a follow up consultation? An informational video about the client’s legal dilemma?
6. What was the client’s perception of the intangibles of the receptionist? [Ex. Intelligent or confused, friendly or rude, confident or unsure, compassionate or judgmental, etc.]
These things matter and they can be improved to the betterment of your clients. Put the microscope of helpfulness on every aspect of your client interaction and case management process. What are the solutions you can find to the problems that face your client?
While outstanding helpfulness during the initial phone call will increase your conversion ratio on new leads (i.e. prospective clients), outstanding helpfulness throughout your representation will result in client-based referrals. Create an experience that that is so focused on helping your client, that your client will not be able to keep the experience to himself. Create a client experience that needs to be shared.
Lawyers have an advantage in shattering the expectations of their clients when it comes to helpfulness: most people think lawyers are heartless, money sucking liars.
Show that you are not only more helpful, friendly, and compassionate than other lawyers, but that you also best your client’s doctor, accountant, plumber, dentist, and hair stylist in these qualities. Make your level of helpfulness unforgettable.
Here are some additional ways you can create a culture of help:
I have previously written about creating a culture of help but here are some of the ways to build such a culture:
Don’t complain about clients (or better yet don’t complain about anything), especially in front of your staff. A whining office will quickly deteriorate into an office incapable of being helpful.
Instead: go the extra mile for a client, especially in front of your staff.
Include your staff in both forming and carrying out the mission of your business. Make every member of your team feel integral to the success of your office, because . . . they are!