MSN Money has come out with its 2008 Customer Service Hall of Shame "winners." Times are tough and everyone is stretched to the limit. Many of the companies on the MSN list are probably suffering from the effects of the economy as well, and cutbacks have resulted in a loss of customer service. Don't make the same mistake with your practice.
What can lawyers learn from the "Hall of Shame?"
1. According to MSN, communications companies and banks are tops on their list because when something goes wrong with these transactions, customers need an immediate and effective response. Although they could switch companies, that costs time and money and doesn't solve the immediate problem.
The lesson: Although clients could switch to a new lawyer (and may do so later in the engagement or in the future), when things go wrong, it's an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you care about your clients by being up front with them, and sticking with them to find a solution that will work as soon as possible.
2. MSN also notes that many of the hall of shame companies lose points with customers as a result of confusing or hidden fees.
The lesson: Always discuss fees with clients in detail at the initial consultation and throughout the engagement. Make sure clients know all of the expenses that will be involved in the engagement, including things like expert fees, appraisal fees, etc. Tell clients when additional fees or charges will be incurred - before they are incured, and be sure the client understands why these fees are necessary. Whenever possible, give clients a written fee schedule, list of factors that will change the fee and an outline of expected expenses.
3. Companies that rank low on customer service issues don't engender confidence in the marketplace and don't attract investors.
The lesson: While law firms are probably not seeking investors, they are seeking a vote of confidence from current and former clients for cross-selling, future business and referrals. Poor client service jeopardizes the trust, confidence and loyalty that is essential to the attorney-client relationship and eliminates the opportunity for future business.
4. Respondents to the MSN survey noted that the two aspects of customer service that were most important to them were knowledgeable staff and available staff.
The lesson: Make sure everyone on your staff is fully briefed to answer common client questions, and that you provide prompt responses to client inquiries that can't be handled by staff. All staff should know how to direct client calls and questions.
When times are tough, consumers (including consumers of legal services) are watching every dollar much more carefully. They won't stand for being treated poorly when they're spending their hard-earned money. Use this difficult economic time to be creative with client service and find ways to WOW your clients.
Need help with client service initiatives? Want to increase the WOW factor in your practice? Contact me to find out how I can help.