Client Service as a Smile and a Handshake
When I saw this month’s topic, the definition of client service for my law firm, I quickly thought of a thousand things. Everything from a prompt return phone call or e-mail to being as efficient as possible to be a good steward of my clients’ money came to mind. The next thought from most of these was “boring!”
We’ve all heard the mantra that client service and prompt communication equals customer service. We’ve also heard that law firms are not Amazon and therefore should not take a retail approach to customer service. These are platitudes for a reason. Namely, they are true. Folks voluntarily spend money at Amazon and Best Buy, they generally call lawyers, particularly litigators, only reluctantly and only when things get bad.
Clients come to us in most instances because they have what is in their world is a huge challenge or problem. Their issue may be one of many similar issues (in my case construction related) that our clients are facing, but to the client, the issue is the biggest they’ve seen. For that reason, I do not think that lawyers should treat clients as commodities. Our clients keep the lights on and depend on us for both counseling and expertise.
For the above reasons, I felt the need to point out that a smile, a handshake, and eye contact that says “Right now your issue is as important to me as it is to you,” is actually an element of customer/client service. I know, this seems a bit hokey, but I firmly believe that one aspect of counseling that is lost many times in the “see a problem, solve a problem” world of law practice (particularly for solo and small firm lawyers like me that often take a MASH unit approach to things by necessity) is the “counselor” designation often listed after “Attorney” when lawyers are discussed.
Allowing clients to vent and to let their problems be heard by someone that they know will not judge them, but only the problem, gives clients the peace of mind in the turbulence of their current situation that they’d lacked. While no lawyer is a licensed psychologist, he or she is there to listen. After listening, giving a client the assurance that, while no result is guaranteed and that their case has an issue or two, the problem is in good hands is, to me, as big a part of customer service as a prompt return phone call.
To sum up, much like the phone is often underused in this tech infested world of ours, a simple smile and a handshake needs to be used more as a customer service (and not just client intake) tool.