Editor’s Note: The author of this post leads the legal support function to Microsoft’s U.S. Central Region Enterprise & Partner Group and is based in Chicago.
By Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation
A lot has been written and discussed lately about some of the customer service challenges that various companies with high-profile brands have had with their customers. We are all consumers and many of us can probably share a frustrating story (or two) that we have experienced with a financial institution, restaurant, airline, cable provider, telephony company, retailer and entities across many other industries.
Increasingly, technology companies like my company have been championing the importance of embracing a “customer obsession” mindset. For our legal profession what does it mean for lawyers – whether you work in a law firm, in-house or for the public interest – to have a customer obsessed mentality when serving clients? Here are some best practices to employ to delight your clients, build their trust and truly be customer-first.
Listen, Listen, Listen & Learn
Lawyers need to talk less and actively listen to what their clients have to say. Take the time to immerse yourself in your client’s business, ask probing questions and have a “learn it all” mentality versus a “know it all” mentality in your interactions with them.
Simple, Short & Constant Communications
Embrace the mode, frequency and style of how your clients want you to communicate with them. If business professionals are your clients, speak in their “language” and not like a lawyer. Your clients are very busy professionals so when you email them make sure that the length of your email does not exceed the size of the screen on your non-handheld device. Live direct communications are also always better than long emails and memos.
The Need for Speed
Always have a “time is of the essence” mindset when serving your clients and respond to them very promptly – and better yet, immediately. Consider developing a meaningful service level agreement with your clients. Even if you are super busy (and who isn’t) one of the worst things you can do is to ignore your clients.
Be in for the Long Haul
View your client in a similar manner that we view our own 401(k) plans. We want our clients to come back to us time and time again to seek our legal advice so be sure to invest in building a long-term and deep relationship with them. Try to get to know them not just on a professional level – but also on a personal level.
Have Customer Empathy
When your legal team convenes internal meetings to discuss matters be sure that you always invite and save a place for lawyers that can properly represent the voices of your clients. Carefully consider and listen to those critically important voices. Also, think about hiring lawyers who once worked in your client’s “shoes”.
Know When to Make It Right
Lawyers are humans and sometimes we make mistakes. When a lawyer makes an error, not only should he/she surface it quickly to the client, be accountable for it, and remedy it – but he/she should also consider doing something special. For instance, if you are a law firm lawyer do not charge your client for fees associated with your mistake and/or provide monetary credits that can be used to offset the invoices for future legal services.
Go Above and Beyond
Being a serviceable and competent lawyer is not enough if you want clients to actively seek your legal counsel again and again. Lawyers that provide high-value added and custom legal services that are tailored to an individual client’s needs are viewed as being more indispensable to their clients.
Actively Seek Feedback
Make it a practice to consistently ask your clients for feedback – especially upon the conclusion of a project or matter. Don’t be shy in simply asking how can you can serve them better? It is said that feedback is a “gift” and you are fortunate if your client is willing to invest the time in sharing meaningful feedback to you. Once you obtain any constructive feedback be sure to embrace it and act accordingly.
Always Say Thanks
Be sure to continually thank your clients for the opportunity to serve them and provide their professionals with appropriate praise. Remember that you can never thank and complement your clients enough as we all serve at their pleasure. In our digital-first world consider sending personal handwritten thank you notes to your clients as that is a classy gesture and will distinguish you from others.
A foundational element of being customer obsessed is building trust. Best of luck in earning that trust with your clients!