At a recent CLE I heard a speaker say clients hate surprises – but I think that’s only half-right.
What clients hate are nasty surprises. Like when their case is summarily dismissed after you assured them it was a slam-dunk. Or when you don’t return their phone calls after telling them to call anytime. Or when you inform them that unfortunately your fee is going to be three times what you originally estimated.
Who can blame them for hating surprises like that?
Webster’s defines “surprise” as an attack without warning. A surprise is jolting. It upsets our expectations.
But there can be pleasant surprises as well. And these are the ones clients love. Like returned phone calls, discounted fees and unexpectedly awesome case outcomes.
Legal marketing expert Merrilyn Astin Tarlton says the best way to surprise clients is by doing something – or giving them something – that they did not even know they wanted. It will rock their world. They will love you forever.
6 Easy Ways to Surprise and Thrill Your Clients
- Make a house call. Visiting clients on their home turf shows interest and consideration. It also gives you a first-hand look at their business operations or the details of their daily lives.
- Pay a genuine compliment. “Clients grow so accustomed to lawyers finding fault with everything (that is, after all, what they pay you to do) that when you do offer praise, it feels particularly remarkable,” Astin writes. A word of support goes a long way. Tell clients they have a good understanding of the legal issues in their case, or that they did well at the deposition, or even that they always pick great restaurants for lunch meetings. But make it sincere. Phony praise is worse than none at all.
- Solve the problem. Change your mindset, especially with repeat clients. Instead of simply handling their latest traffic ticket or domestic flare-up, talk with them about ways to prevent future problems. Suggest counseling, mediation or special training. This shows you want to help clients succeed, not just clean up their messes.
- Under-promise and over-deliver. Show up early for meetings. Throw in some extra work for free. Finish projects a day early instead of a week late.
- Say thank you. In the rush and bustle of the work day it’s easy to overlook the importance of good manners. But there are lots of lawyers out there and clients don’t have to choose you. Expressing gratitude lets them know you are appreciative. Was the client referred to you? Thank whoever made the referral.
- Request feedback when the case is over. Ask for ways to do your job better. Say you want to give future clients the excellent representation they deserve.
Do these things and you might get a surprise of your own: a caseload full of happy and grateful clients.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Having raised five children, few things surprise him anymore. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.