There is a very high degree of professionalism and expertise required in law, and the dedication and training go beyond most professions, writes Darrell Hardidge.
The ability to communicate and build trust in a challenging environment is a unique skill. However, like any skill, it requires understanding the basics and applying a simple 1 per cent weekly improvement. The constant improvement process ensures a steady and predictable outcome when the principles are applied.
From over 250 in-depth client experience interviews, the number one improvement clients wanted was the standard of lawyer communication.
The key issues aren’t difficult to resolve; in fact, they’re very simple. Surprisingly, it starts with email communication, answering them in a timely fashion and ensuring they are acknowledged (if important) was the key concern. Returning phone calls was another and especially acknowledging information had been provided. A simple solution was to ensure an EA could step in and update clients and confirm the next step on behalf of their lawyer or advise that it was being worked on.
Another simple improvement was the frequency of communication. A major frustration was the follow-up process; clients having to chase up information, and not being informed of what’s happening, causes a lot of angst. A company we support in service excellence adopted a simple strategy around mastering communication. The application wasn’t so easy, but has proven to be a total game-changer. Their rule is “no client ever contacts us twice regarding an issue”. They focus every effort in being proactive with their clients and removing their key frustration of not knowing. They created a process to ensure clients are proactively responded to, thus reducing time wasted back and forth on messages.
There are many benefits for a law firm to make communication the number one priority of their client experience process. Another key challenge is to manage the emotion experienced by their clients.
When clients have an emotional charge on a situation, they can often be unrealistic to what a reasonable time frame is for action and responses. There is also the challenge with managing the time it takes for such communication. What two lawyers would discuss in five minutes can take half an hour with a client as the emotions can impact effective communication.
In many service-based business models, communication and knowledge is their currency of trade.
Therefore, the higher the standard, the higher the value it becomes. A powerful and simple solution that can change the game which is often overlooked is having a process to ensure high-quality communication is delivered in an optimal fashion. This can create massive wins for a law firm.
Engaging a team member who has a primary responsibility to communicate the basics on behalf of a lawyer will remove a lot of frustration and ensure their clients feel informed. The time lawyers waste on low-level communication will be dramatically removed and enable them to be far more effective and focus on highly urgent and important tasks while still delivering an experience their clients feel is of high value.
Often the costs of having this additional human resource is misguided and misunderstood. The benefits and the speed to which efficiency can be improved far outweighs the associated costs. For lawyers, their time is the commodity, and the more effective and proactive it is, the more they are literally worth in trade.
Make your law firm’s point of difference be the highest standard of proactive communication. This will ensure less stress, more productivity and build a reputation of being highly efficient. Different is always better, but better is always different.
Darrell Hardidge is a customer experience strategy expert and CEO of customer research company Saguity.