Client Service Is Not One Size Fits All by Lisa Goldstein
"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." -Bill Gates
I was in the checkout line at Target when I heard the cashier state, Have a nice day honey, to a middle-aged female customer. The next customer was a young woman in her early twenties. As she paid for her purchases, the cashier said, Have a nice day sweetie. Finally, it was my turn to check out. The cashier repeated, Have a nice day sweetie. Although I replied, Thank you, you too, I couldnt help but feel somewhat offended by the overly familiar term of endearment.
I am sure that the cashier believed that she was giving exceptional customer service. Some customers might actually appreciate being referred to as sweetie. However, I cant imagine that Targets customer service training incorporates referring to all female customers as honey and sweetie.
The thing about good client service is that it requires more than cookie cutter solutions. What one client believes is good service may be completely inappropriate to another client. For example, lawyers know that clients need to be kept informed regarding their matters. Good client service dictates that the level, type and delivery methodology regarding client communication will vary depending upon the client, however.
In a recent roundtable discussion, Ramona Romero, manager of litigation for DuPont, expressed that she does not want to hear about every detail of a lawyers minor success via a personalized telephone call.
Keep your clients perspective in mind. Although you may be very excited about your recent defense verdict in a case valued at a million dollars, the client who is juggling company exposure of hundreds of millions of dollars may not be that eager to learn about the gory details of your win.
How can you determine what is good client service for your clients? The simple answer is to ask each client questions such as the following:
-How often would you like to be contacted regarding your matter? (Even if the clients company has written guidelines regarding this; your actual client may have additional information to provide)
-Would you prefer that I contact you via email, telephone or letter?
-How detailed should my reporting be?
-How would you like to be addressed?
-What would be a successful outcome in terms of budget for this matter?
-Should I consult you before I make any changes in legal strategy?
-What is an acceptable time period to return your call?
-Do you like to go to dinner or lunch with your legal team?
-Can you accept gifts?
Most importantly, the thing about bad client service is that clients dont usually tell you they are unhappy with your service. Instead they just take their work to the competition. For that reason, you should proactively conduct formal or informal client surveys after each matter concludes. Also, be prepared to make changes if you learn that the client is not happy with any level of service. The goal is not to always be perfect, but to improve according to your clients needs.
Remember, its much easier to grow your business with an existing client than it is to retain a new one. Exceptional client service will pave the road to your rainmaking success.