This is part two of a three-part series.

15 Secrets to Developing Client Loyalty

1. Greet Clients Promptly: A survey clocked the number of seconds people had to wait to be greeting in several businesses. Researchers then asked clients how long they had been waiting. In every case, the client’s estimate out of the time elapsed was much longer than the actual time. A client waiting 30 or 40 seconds often feels like he or she has been waiting three or four minutes. Time drags when people are waiting. One of the things we can do to greet clients properly is not to put them on hold and answer the phone on the first ring when you are being paged by the receptionist. The key to greeting clients is simple: don’t keep them waiting.

This is a good time to tell you that one of your best investments is a good receptionist or front desk person. This person can make or break your firm simply by not being a people person. Give this person great latitude to get the calls answered and if the rest of the firm doesn’t fall in line, afford this person an open-door policy with you. I have found time and time again, the person on the front desk knows for a fact whether you are meeting client satisfaction goals.

2. Apply Good Conversation Skills: A good way to create client rapport is to talk to people like they are in your living room. People in general are intimidated by lawyers in law offices. If it your job to make them feel comfortable; they have already been through a traumatic event or they would not be hiring you to start with. Something to use to break the ice would be the weather. For example, “Isn’t the sunshine just beautiful?” or “Some snowfall, isn’t it?”

Some preferred topics of conversation can be considered small talk. Americans prefer to talk about weather, sports, jobs, mutual acquaintances and past experiences, especially ones they have in common with their conversation partners. Most Americans are taught to avoid discussing politics or religion, especially with people they do not know well because these are considered controversial topics.

Look for clues to gauge the client’s interest. You must understand that interaction means both parties have an opportunity to participate. If one party monopolizes the conversation, both sides lose.

3. Avoid Inappropriate Conversation: As a rule, avoid the following:

  • Griping about the firm, the department, managers or staff
  • Passing on gossip or hurtful comments about others
  • Using excessive profanity
  • Starting bad feelings among people
  • Making racial, religious or gender insults
  • Making comments with sexual undertones and/or overtones
  • Criticizing or belittling others.

As a rule, appropriate conversation includes:

  • Making positive and upbeat comments
  • Being supportive of other people
  • Giving others the benefit of the doubt
  • Complimenting freely and often
  • Acknowledgement of people’s accomplishments, birthdays and holidays

4. Build Rapport with the Client: Be a good listener. Relate to what they are going through. Invite feedback.

5. Be Sincere and Show Empathy: We have preached for years that “But for the grace of God, go I,” and we should understand when working with people that they are hurting – some are without jobs, without family. That could be use. We need to be sincere in our dealings with our clients and let them know that we do care, we do feel their pain and we are here to help them.

6. Use Good Phone Techniques: A key to successful phone use is simply to remember that your client cannot see you. Your challenge is to make up for the lost impact of nonverbal communication by using your voice effectively. The best ways to use the phone effectively are:

  • Give the client your name; let the client know who you are just as you would in a face-to-face situation.
  • Smile into the phone. Believe it or not, people can hear you smile over the phone! Some telephone pros place a mirror in front of them while they are on the phone. Always remember to SMILE.
  • Keep your client informed. If you need to look up information, tell the client what you are doing. Don’t leave them holding a dead phone with no clue as to whether you are still with them.
  • Invite the client to get to the point. Use questions such as “How can I assist you today?” or “What can I do for you?”
  • Commit to the requests of the client. Tell the client specifically what you will do and when you will get back to them.
  • Thank the client. This lets the client know when the conversation is over.
  • Let your voice fluctuate in tone, rate and volume. You hold people’s attention by putting a little life into your voice. Express honest reactions in expressive ways. Let your voice tone be natural and friendly.
  • Use hold carefully. People hate being put on hold. It is necessary to explain why you are placing them on hold and break in periodically to let them know they haven’t been forgotten. If what you’re doing will take longer than a few minutes, ask the client if you can call them back. Write down your commitment to call them back and do not forget to do so.
  • Use friendly, common, tactful words. Never accuse the client of anything; never convey that their request is an imposition.

7. Be Polite at All Costs: Always use the words “please” and “thank you.” I know this isn’t brain surgery, but it is important. Sometimes, the simplest things can make a huge difference in clients’ perceptions and this is an area where that is the case. Clients want to be appreciated and treating them politely conveys appreciation. “Please” and “thank you” are powerful words for building client rapport and creating client loyalty. They are easy to say and well worth the effort.

8. Enjoy People and Their Diversity: Every person is different; each has a unique personality. But, the kinds of people who tend to bug us the most are the ones who are not like us. Recognize this, accept diversity and learn to enjoy it. Know that people’s needs are basically the same; similarly, when we treat clients like guests, with dignity and courtesy, it creates goodwill.

Next week, I’ll continue with the last of my “15 Secrets to Developing Client Loyalty.” See you then!