In Customer Service, Same-old Same-old Never Gets Old

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Customer service is an old concept that has been given a new coat of paint in Colorado.

In Steamboat Springs, according to a recent New York Times article by Ian Mount, the entire town engaged in customer service training in order to stem somewhat lackluster survey scores about the town. Although the town already considered itself friendly, the training made it even more customer-centric and appealing.

Customer service is not a new idea; it's an old one — but an old idea that never gets old. Every business that wants to be successful needs to understand that basic concept, and the business of law is no exception.

Make sure the client is No. 1. Think of the department stores or other retail outlets where you like to shop. You keep going back primarily because of the customer service, right?

Lawyers, likewise, need to take a customer-service approach to dealing with clients. That may be a new concept for lawyers brought up on the idea of “client control,” which basically means that the attorney is the boss and the client better stay out of the way.

Client control is an antiquated concept and has no place in the modern practice of law. Today's lawyers need to realize that the client is the boss. When that shift in attitude occurs, clients intuitively sense and appreciate it.

Attorneys can show their clients how much they are valued by following a few simple rules. They may seem simple, but their simplicity can cause lawyers to take them for granted — and overlook them.

  1. Return phone calls.

    Sounds simple, doesn't it? Yet the single most frequently registered complaint with state bars across the country is the failure of lawyers to return phone calls.

    I know one lawyer who has a very large, successful practice and who keeps getting return clients. I asked him how he did it, and he let me in on his secret: He makes a point of returning all telephone calls within four hours.

  2. Make sure your staff knows their names.

    One of the worst things a client can experience is being asked to spell his name when he calls his own lawyer's office. By simply knowing who your clients are, your staff will make them feel welcome — and important.

  3. Communicate regularly.

    Since clients typically have an involvement with the law only once or twice in their lives, they really do not understand the process that you live with day in and day out. That is why it is important to let them know what is happening by communicating with them regularly.

    The communication can take the form of copying and sending to your clients all relevant documents pertaining to them. It also can take the form of regular status reports; even if there is nothing much to report, you can tell the client that you are on target and that things are going as projected.

  4. Visit.

    You can learn a great deal about clients and prospective clients by visiting them in their environment. In many instances, the spoken word is only one part of the communication process. In order to really understand clients, you need to learn about the territory in which they live and work. That is particularly true of business clients.

Understanding your clients' industries and businesses will allow you to use their terminology and better understand their issues. A client feels better about dealing with an attorney who knows about the issues that pertain to his particular situation.

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