Want your practice to bloom like the flowers outside your office?
Give your clients a great experience when they walk inside it.
It’s easy to do. You don’t need a software upgrade. You don’t need a marketing consultant. You don’t have to spend a dime.
All you need to do is take off your lawyer hat and consider the legal experience from the point of view of your clients.
Do they see you as a rose or a thorn? Do they view their time with you as a pleasant stroll through the garden or a painful slog through the muck?
Most importantly, will they come back for more – and will they tell their friends how awesome you are?
Smelling the Roses
You might think your clients are only interested in results. They come to you for a specific purpose, just as shoppers go to Target to buy a specific item. If they walk away with the desired product in hand, life is rosy.
But that’s only one blossom in the bouquet. In study after study, consumers of all types – including those who purchase legal services – make it clear that they want a pleasurable experience in addition to a positive outcome.
They want to be listened to. They want to be treated with honesty and dignity. They want to be reassured and guided.
None of these needs are tied to an end result. They are linked to the journey, not the destination.
Business retailers call these hedonic needs, as opposed to utilitarian needs:
“[H]edonic shopping value reflects the value received from the multisensory, fantasy and emotive aspects of the shopping experience,” says this study of consumer attitudes in the textile industry. “It is subjective and individualistic and it is related with nouns such as fun, pleasure or enjoyment. On the other hand, utilitarian shopping value is a rational, task-oriented, cognitive and non-emotional outcome of shopping. Hedonic and utilitarian dimensions are important because they are present in all consumption processes, involving all shopping experiences and consumer behaviour.”
Here Come the Sunflowers
All clients have a different mix of hedonic and utilitarian needs. Some want a lot of face time. They crave the personal touch. Others are less interested in the touchy-feely stuff. They simply want you to handle their case and call them when it’s over.
The difference might depend on their level of sophistication. Research shows consumers with low incomes and less education are “more sensitive to the hedonic dimension of the shopping experience … than high-income consumers.”
This makes perfect sense, because they are the ones most likely to be ill-informed and apprehensive about lawyers and the legal process. They want more hand-holding. They want to know that you are there for them.
Blooming a Blue Ribbon Practice
Here are five tips for planting the seeds for a stellar client experience:
Give them something they can’t get online. Such as empathy, patience, attention and genuine caring.
Don’t make them wait. According to one study, the number one complaint of retail customers was long waits in check-out lines. Not price. Not quality. The waiting was the hardest part.
Greet them like you mean it. “Imagine having someone in your marketing, business development, or client teams departments greeting clients (especially key clients) when they walk off the elevator,” suggests this law blogger. “Knowing exactly who they are, who they are there to see, and being ready to engage the person or persons in conversation. Personal contact between clients and the law firms that represent them are fleeting. Firms should find ways of leveraging that time and engaging the clients in ways that produce a more positive interaction, and result in a better experience for the client.”
Do a great job for them. You can be the sweetest-smelling flower in the garden but it will mean nothing if you don’t get the work done. Execute and follow through. Embrace your role as counselor. Explain and advise. Offer alternatives. Stay fresh through continuing education.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.