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What Your Clients Really Think of You (Uh-Oh)

The experience you think you’re delivering doesn’t remotely resemble what the client is actually experiencing.

That’s because you have your lawyer hat on.

You run down the list of things you’ve completed to get the job done, and it's a lot. But the client only sees the tip of the iceberg, what you’ve done during meetings and phone calls. They don’t see all of the research, writing, analysis and paperwork that goes into getting stuff done. It's easy to assume that they know you're doing all this, but most don't.

The result? You have a distorted view that they actually understand and appreciate everything you’ve done. They should be grateful.

One problem: They typically have no clue about the totality of work ... until they get the bill.

The first time many clients have an inkling about what's going on behind the curtain is when they're being asked to pay. And believe me, before they look at the details on the bill, they're flipping to the last page to see the total. Think about that. Can you really expect gratitude for the hard work, when it's a surprise, wrapped in an invoice?

The Right Way to Approach the Customer Experience

Let's talk about doing it the right way.

The customer experience starts at your driveway. Your office door. The first point of contact. You may have spent hours addressing the client’s matter, but all they remember from their brief interaction with your firm is the grumpy receptionist’s attitude.

I often write about how peoples' memory works, because it has profound impacts on your business. There's a memory effect called "serial position effect" - in easier language, people remember the first thing they saw best, last thing they saw second best, and the stuff in the middle? Not so much.

So a grumpy receptionist at the beginning of the relationship. A spine-chilling bill at the end. That's what their memories are naturally going to remember, if you don't focus on this.

Is it Time to Mystery Shop Your Own Practice?

Mystery shopping involves having someone outside of your firm, a non-lawyer, call your firm as if they were considering retaining you.

They can tell you if it was easy or confusing to deal with your firm. How was the phone answered? How did they feel about it? The things that can have a huge impact on the client experience.

As part of this process, create your firm’s client experience timeline.

Draw a line across a piece of paper.

Following the iceberg model, write everything that the client experiences above the line. Everything you do behind the scenes to make that experience possible should go below the line.

Should the client know more about what's below the line? How frequently? What's every touchpoint, every communication they get?

When you lay out this information on a timeline, you’ll have a clear picture of what you do, what you communicate to the customer, and what the customer actually experiences. Then you can take steps to change that experience.

Create A Better Customer Experience

We recommended that an attorney update his clients more frequently about things that are happening beneath the water’s surface. Underneath the little tip of the iceberg that a client normally sees.

Most lawyers - from the client's perspective - vanish for weeks at a time.

We know what we're doing. We're juggling clients, making steady progress, and making sure nothing falls through the cracks. What does each single client feel? "He's forgotten about me."

Not true, but the only truth that matters is the client's perception. We're not talking about whether you're meeting your ethical obligations here. That's table stakes. We're talking about delighting your clients so they tell everyone about you. We're talking about engineering an experience that makes your practice thrive.

There are dozens of things you can do to to solve this. More regular communications. Teaching the client why what you're doing, even if it's technical, is important. Walking them through it. Setting expectations.

Does that sound hard? Annoying? You've already got too much to do? Think about it this way. There's a reason that the Four Seasons gets rave reviews, and the Holiday Inn doesn't. Both have rooms and beds. They get the job done. But one goes out of their way to delight me, remembers me when I come back, and seems to know what I want before I ask for it. And I'm not only going back, and telling everyone else to go, I'm also more than willing to pay a premium for it.

Your clients? Same thing.

For you? More referrals, less price sensitivity, and more client gratitude. Working on your client experience isn't hard. Hard is having a practice without those three things.

Featured image by Chelsea Francis via Snapwire Snaps.

Raj Jha