Good customer service in legal is just as critical to success as good customer service in any other field. For every one of you, there are dozens of other lawyers who can do the same job – maybe they don’t do it as well, but potential clients will never know that if you don’t convey the message. Consumers have big expectations – if you want to win someone over, take the time to understand the integral elements of customer service in legal.
What Consumers Want
Good customer service means different things to different people. When a lawyer’s beliefs about customer service differ greatly from a client’s needs, the relationship might never get off the ground.
According to a recent Avvo study about the criteria consumers use when selecting an attorney, here’s what consumers want in the way of legal customer service:
- Polite and friendly support staff
- Responsiveness to phone calls and emails
- The same treatment for all clients
- Clear communication
- Going beyond their expectations
How Consumers Form an Opinion about Legal Customer Service
Someone might be seeking a bulldog of an attorney who doesn’t have time for emotions. Someone else might want an empathetic lawyer who is prepared to listen to all their needs.
Whether a consumer is seeking a merely transactional relationship with their attorney (like defending a DUI) or a relationship that includes emotional support throughout the process (like getting a divorce), they gather information about who to hire by reading client reviews, interacting with the attorney or office staff (often through a free consultation), and judging attorney or staff response time.
Customer Service in Legal is Non-Negotiable
A recent Avvo study found that “excellent customer service” is non-negotiable and it’s the fourth-highest filter choice when consumers are searching for an attorney. Consumers want to feel acknowledged, important, and respected, so it makes sense that consumers place more value in soft skills (e.g., empathy, friendliness).
You may consider awards, referrals, attorney endorsements, and even proximity as decision-making factors for consumers, but these elements are less important than the customer service a lawyer offers.
The Importance of Free Consultation
A potential client wants to end their free legal consultation feeling like they know more about their options and how you can help them. This face-to-face encounter or phone call is your big opportunity to convey excellent customer service. Consumers are seeking answers to questions like:
- Do our personalities mesh?
- Do I feel like I can really depend on you?
- Are you always on call or do you promise a good response time?
- What is your hourly rate?
- Do you offer fixed fee services or take a retainer?
- Will you provide a cost estimate up front?
- Are there hidden fees?
- Do you take credit cards?
- Do you have the time to handle my case?
- How will you communicate with me throughout the process?
Give Your Customer Service Skills a Voice
You have no voice in the conversation that’s happening about your legal performance in the online world unless you engage. After all, most potential clients will research you online either before or after your meeting to gauge how you might be able to serve them best. If you can be reviewed on Yelp and its counterparts or on social media, you have an opportunity to reach and influence a big audience.
Respond to positive reviews by thanking customers. Respond to negative reviews gently and fairly. Leverage responses in a Q&A legal forum. These actions demonstrate those ambiguous but critical soft skills.
Help Consumers Check the Boxes Before They Choose a Lawyer
You offer legal services in areas where you are qualified and have experience but that doesn’t determine whether a client wants you or not. Delivering on the kind of customer service a client wants and is expecting is the way to earn their business.
Let your website state that you offer free consultations and are accepting new clients. Make your win ratio easy to find and make your areas of practice clear. Consumers don’t give weight to your awards or published articles. They want to see results. They want to feel acknowledged and understood in a manner that’s suitable for their personality and legal needs. And they want to see that your excellent customer service in legal has provided other consumers with a positive experience so they feel confident about moving forward with you too.