Michelle Golden of Golden Practices has an excellent post about the real cause of lost clients in professional services firms. As her post notes, the 'reasons' law firms think they lose clients aren't the real reasons - they're just the factors clients name after the fact. The real reason is the failure to follow Golden's three step solution:
- Listen/ask/ask more
- Mutually establish expectations (written is good)
- Meet them
As Golden points out, if something unexpected occurs that prevents you from meeting those expectations, the time to have the conversation with the client is sooner, not later, so that expectations can be revised. And if it's too late, apologies are in order.
Although the complications, obstacles and progression of a particular type of matter may be 'routine' to us as lawyers, our clients are in foreign territory. It's easy to forget that clients don't know what to expect unless we tell them. But it's vital to set those expectations up front - and to continue having that conversation throughout the engagement.
When reading Michelle's post, don't miss the comments - there's an excellent discussion of price - one of the oft-cited reasons why clients leave. Because most law firms set their fees using a billable hour model, often those complaints about 'price' can be linked to a failure of expectations. Although clients are aware of the rate, they have no idea of the cost of the services until after they are performed and the bill is received. Offering a clear idea of the price up front can avoid many of these problems.