15 Secrets to Developing Law Firm Client Loyalty: Part 3 of 3
9. Call People by Their Names: People love to hear their names. Think about the times when someone expectedly addressed you by your name … didn’t it feel good? Didn’t you feel less like a number and more like someone who was valued?
People appreciate it when you make the effort to address them by their names. Here are some ways to make the most out of calling clients by their names:
- When appropriate, introduce yourself to the client and ask his or her name.
- Avoid being overly familiar too quickly. It’s normally safe to call people Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones, but could be seen as rude if you call them Homer or Marge.
- If you aren’t sure how to pronounce the name, ask the client.
- If a person has an unusual or interesting name, comment on it in a positive way.
- If a person shares a name with someone in your family or with a friend, comment on that.
People are usually proud of their names and will feel honored when you acknowledge them. Take time to get and use the names of your clients.
10. Listen with More than Your Ears: Most of us are not good listeners. We listen with 25 percent of our potential, which means we ignore, forget, distort or misunderstand 75 percent of what we hear. Hard to believe, perhaps, but true. Such lazy listening habits can be very costly, both to our businesses and to ourselves. Here are some tips on how to be a better listener:
11. Resist distractions. Force yourself to keep your mind on what is being said.
- Be an opportunist. What can I get out of what is being said? How can this information help build a relationship with this client?
- Stay alert. It is easy to daydream if the speaker is a bit boring or talking very slowly, but try to focus. Make the client the center of your attention.
- Listen for central themes, relevant and isolated facts. Too often, people get hopelessly lost as listeners because they focus on unimportant facts and details and miss the speaker’s main point. Judge the content of what people are saying – not the way they are saying it. Clients may not have the right words, but they know what they need better than anyone else.
- Listen as though you had to report the content of the message to someone in eight hours. This forces you to concentrate and remember. It is a good technique to practice.
- Develop note-taking skills. The simple process of typing or writing down key points as you hear them helps you retain what you hear, even if you do not read the notes later.
- Hold your fire: Don’t jump to make judgments. Wait until your client has finished talking.
- Work on listening. Tune out those thoughts that get you thinking about something else.
- Seek clarification from your client until you fully understand their needs. One way to do this is to repeat what you think they are trying to say using sincere, open-ended questions.
12. Dress Neatly and Appropriately: It’s true. People do judge you by the way you look. When clients come in our office, we must look professional and our workplace must be clean and neat. People who see sloppy offices think sloppy work. Don’t think office image doesn’t work. I had a client tell me he hired me because my office looked like I had spent a great deal of money on it and he figured I had to be successful if I could afford to have a nice-looking office
13. Wear Your Smile When a Client Comes into the Office: Always put on your smile when somebody comes into the office. Be complimentary. Complimenting takes only a second and can add enormous goodwill. If you don’t do this very often, get into the habit of saying something complimentary to each of your clients. Safe grounds for sincere compliments are as follows:
- An article of clothing they are wearing.
- Their children.
- Their behavior.
- Something they own.
- Their helpfulness. For example, “Thank you for filling out the forms so carefully, that will help.”
14. Fish for Negative Feedback: What?! Fish for negative feedback?? Exactly. Negative feedback is the kind that helps us improve. In client service, there is no neutral gear – we either improve or we slip backward. The best way to get feedback is to let clients know that you really want their honest opinion – good news or bad – and provide ways for them to tell you.
A good way to do this is to use open-ended questions when people express their ideas. An open-ended question cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” or a one-word response. Below are common questions with one-word answers you hear every day in businesses that can be easily changed to open-ended questions:
Instead of saying: Say:
“How was everything?” “What else can I do for you?”
“Can I get you something else?” “What else can I get for you?”
“Will that be all?” “What else can I do for you?”
“Was everything satisfactory?” “What could we do better to serve you?”
“Did we meet your needs?” “How else can we be of service?”
14. The Grandma Self-Test: Best-selling author and speaker Jeffrey Gitomer passes along this bit of wisdom and I agree with him. This is a sure-fired way to determine how what you say will sound to the client. A way to test your talk is to put “Grandma” at the end of everything you say. Every time you speak to a client, end it with “Grandma.” If it sounds like something you would say to your grandmother or your grandmother would want to hear, then say it. If not, don’t.
For example, how would these sound?
“Sorry, we’re closed, Grandma.”
“What is this in reference to, Grandma?”
“It’s our policy, Grandma.”
Get it? If you wouldn’t say it to your Grandma, why would you say it to your client? There are lots of phrases you use every day that irritate clients, and you may have no clue until you insert “Grandma” at the end. Try it and test yourself – take the five phrases you say all the time and add “Grandma” to the end.
15. Live by the Golden Rule: I have preached this ever since I started practicing law. Simply put, “Treat people the way you would want to be treated.” Because I believe that these rules are so simple, it constantly amazes me that other law firms do not put them into play. I have come to realize that the leadership of the firm has to set the standards, and these rules as the basis of a client loyalty program have to be non-negotiable. You absolutely, 100-percent, must be willing to terminate your highest income producer or your best non-lawyer if they don’t believe in client loyalty. I have done it and never regretted it.
The Final Caveat
The rules and the thought process sound simple, but it truly requires the top leadership to define the program for the rest of the firm. You have to make a client loyalty program non-negotiable with respect to continued employment with your firm. If you allow one person, for any reason whatsoever, to not be accountable, it simply will not work because your other remaining employees will know you do not truly believe in the program.
I have gone to great lengths to implement my client loyalty philosophy in all aspects of my firm including have a Client Advocate available for dissatisfied or concerned clients, creating and living by a Client Bill of Rights, and utilizing Catalyst’s “High Performance Training Classes” for law firms to teach people how to be “people persons.” In no longer hire non-lawyers based on legal experience, but rather based on ATTITUDE – not aptitude. I will not allow ego-driven attorneys in my firm. I do pre-hire testing and I do annual yearly profile testing to see how our people can improve.
The turn on the investment – essentially free marketing through client loyalty – is truly priceless.
In closing, I would have to tell you one other side benefit – the unexpected one. Because we are a true client-first firm, our work culture has changed. We attract the best of the best and we have a waiting list of people wanting to work with us. It is because we are allowing our people and our clients to establish relationships that give mutual satisfaction to each other.
Client Loyalty has translated into firm loyalty with my employees – work production is high, retention rate is above average and there is a genuine positive feeling at the office that makes you happy to come to work.
Only you can decide if you or your firm is willing to change – I can only tell you that it works!
The future of your CRM will be influenced by how often you elect to stay in touch with your past clients and prospects. The more touches per year you have, the more you are kept in front of them for top-of-mind awareness. How will you do this?
- Print newsletters
- Holiday cards
- Birthday cards
- Voice broadcasting
CRM is not a new concept. It has been around since the beginning of time. Some have called it “customer service.” Others have called it public relations. But, no matter what you call it, it may be the only way for small firms to survive in the 21st century. With the larger firms spending more and more on marketing and advertising, we should look at how “mom and pop” operations handled the huge conglomerate Walmart coming into their small communities. Look at some of their strategies to see how to compete and thrive – not merely survive.