Don’t you love it when someone replies to your text or email right away. How about returning your call in two hours?
Well, there is now empirical and anecdotal evidence that one of the most important things you can do to keep customers happy and grow their business is to be highly responsive.
In-house consultants who choose outside law firms say responsiveness is the most important factor in their decision, according to a 2017 Thomson Reuters survey. ABA research says 42% of cases take law firms three days or more to respond to voicemails or forms filled out at their firm. . “The qualities of responsiveness and brevity are what I appreciate most,” Elena Cohn, associate legal director for AdventHealth, stated in a 2017 article on the ABA website. “When I send an email asking for an update, it’s likely because internal stakeholders need to know Case as soon as possible.Even sending a quick email acknowledging my concerns and offering a quick update is much better than ignoring the request and finally responding to it several days later.In the world of in-laws, several days is too long.Cohn is the majority when it comes to feeling this way towards the response of the outside attorney.
Anecdotally, recently several of my clients—lawyers in medium-sized firms (30-50 attorneys) who don’t work for large firms—told me that they were getting new clients simply because their competitors, who had businesses, weren’t responding. These are the lawyers across the street who are losing clients to you.
What do these lawyers do, or rather not do?
They don’t put in place easy procedures to make sure they meet the customer’s expectation of response.
The most important thing to remember is this: The response is determined by the client – not by you, their attorney. The customer’s opinion is all that matters.
Here are my suggestions to ensure that you and your employees/team are as responsive as possible:
Tip 1: In your first meeting with the client, discuss the response. Make sure you understand how the customer will determine your responsiveness and reach. Ask specifically what they will be looking for. I have clients who pledge in this meeting to return all client communications within 4 hours. Promise only what you can actually do and what you will do.
Tip 2: At your first meeting with a new client, discuss their communication preferences. What’s the best way to respond to her — text, email, phone, overnight mail, Pony Express (catch you!)? Once you ask, make sure everyone who touches the customer is aware of their preferences. Also introduce the customer via Zoom or in person to all of your staff who are part of your customer service team.
Tip 3: Hold a team meeting to discuss what the client said and what they want.
Tip 4: Create a simple plan to get back to the customer the way you agreed. Make sure everyone on the client’s team knows this. You may need to make changes to things like the number of rings your phone rings before entering voicemail (some lawyers set it to 10 rings!). Give them examples of how you can respond to the customer in a positive way on your behalf. Practice this. Talk to the receptionist, describe your customer, and give them instructions on what to do if they call or visit.
Tip 5: If your customer sends you an issue but you’re on another customer’s deadline, do at least three things: first, respond to the customer and tell them you’re eager to handle the matter, and second, give them a realistic response with clear, honest expectations about when they’ll see some action on it. Third, ask if this is an emergency, so you can properly understand their exact needs now and help them quickly.
Tip 6: Regularly ask the client, “How am I?” and “How’s my team doing?” Get feedback. Check to see if they are satisfied with your level of response and communication. Ask if you are too responsive and sending too many emails or texts.
Tip 7: Do the mystery shopping yourself to make sure the “machine” works the way you told your customer. I have done “mystery shopping” with several attorneys, at their request, to see how quickly they can respond to inquiries from potential and existing clients. It’s amazing to me that many of my inquiries went into a dark hole. Either my call or email was never answered, or a member of staff – who had no idea why he was contacting me, poorly and ineffectively “checked in” with me. I could hear the fear in his voice.
One of my favorite examples of a law firm that has put its money where its mouth is for years is the employment law firm Lanier Muchin in Chicago. For at least a decade, the firm’s website has carried a two-hour pledge: At Laner Muchin, we are the only law firm in the country that answers clients’ phone calls and emails in two hours or less. No exceptions. In our 70 years in business, that’s how we’ve always done it. We did not set this standard because it is easy, it is not. We do this because it is important to our customers. Which makes it important to us. That’s it. Two hours. Hurry up, if you need us. Contact us anytime if you have an issue that requires immediate attention, and we’ll be there for you. There is no voice mail sanitizer.
The firm offers a challenge: “Call your current law firm and call one of our attorneys. If our attorney doesn’t return your call in front of your attorney, we’ll buy you lunch and donate $100 to your favorite charity. My understanding is that so far they haven’t lost the challenge.
You can also be the lawyer who sets standards for responding to clients, referral sources, and leads, and in the words of Bonnie Wright, or something close to it, “gives them something to talk about.”
Put these very simple but important ideas into your practice. I am happy to exchange ideas with you. Responsiveness is the key to growing your business and increasing profits. This is serious stuff in the bottom line!
Send me an email to (email protected) About other business development topics/tips you’d like me to cover in future columns.
Stacy West Clark We’ve been successfully helping Delaware Valley attorneys and law firms increase revenue exponentially for more than 25 years. It has been recognized as one of the best legal marketing consultants in the region. A former attorney with Morgan Lewis & Bockius, she was the firm’s first global director of client relations in the 1980s and 1990s. www.stacyclarkmarketing.com