How to Keep Clients Happy

Happy client in a meeting

The purpose of this blog is to educate attorneys on how to maintain client satisfaction thereby generating good Google reviews.

Let’s be honest: The majority of our business today is obtained through online advertising. Most law firms hire companies to build and maintain their websites and to maximize search engine optimization. This includes funds funneled to Google for advertising. But all of this is for naught if the firm has too many negative Google reviews.

Good reviews are vital to the growth of the business. The majority of consumers find your business via Google. If they have done so, they have read the reviews – so in today’s marketplace, good reviews lead to more business. Bad reviews, less business. For this reason, client satisfaction is more important today than ever before.

I have found that client complaints and bad Google reviews usually stem from three areas of concern:

  • “My attorney doesn’t let me know what is going on in my case or never returns my calls.”
  • “My attorney didn’t fight for me or doesn’t care about my case.”
  • “My attorney charged me $XX and got nothing done!”

Let Your Client Know What’s Going On

This is probably the top complaint I hear about when clients come to us from other firms. Clients don’t just WANT to know what is going one, they NEED to know. In family law, your representation of them often involves their children and their livelihoods. Therefore, they need to hear from their attorney on a regular basis.

Now, to be honest, all attorneys promise this – but few actually deliver. How can you maintain the contact the clients expect with all the means of communication today? Answer: By setting expectations that are reasonable.

First, set expectations from the start. We let clients know that they may not get an immediate response to a question, but they will know the request was received. Either a call or email will be scheduled. Otherwise, we let clients know from the beginning that we will contact them generally on an as-needed basis.

Unless they have specific questions for which we will schedule calls, they will hear from us approximately a week before a hearing to discuss witnesses and exhibits. They will hear from us the day before their hearings to discuss testimony and expectations. They will hear from us after hearings to discuss what transpired and what they should expect moving forward. They will hear from us if opposing counsel contacts us.

To manage and stay on top of these expectations, we schedule weekly staff meetings. Additionally, we calendar all deadlines. When we receive a pleading or a notice of hearing, we schedule that event and contact the client. In that contact, we schedule a phone call and also let them know what additional deadlines there are and what additional contact they can expect and when that may occur. When we receive ANY document in their particular case, we send that to them, usually within 24 hours. We explain the document, explain any deadlines and ask them to schedule a call if still have questions. We also let them know when they may hear from us again.

There are templates for the emails sending all pleadings. Regarding questions from potential clients, coming from the website, we have found a “bot” or chat option is the best method of addressing questions coming through the website. Customers today expect requests for information and requests for appointments to be answered immediately and “chat options” on your website are really the only means to reach potential clients on a timely basis.

What about Texting?

I generally avoid texting clients. You cannot print texts, you lose documents sent by text, and it enables a client to have your cell phone number – none of which are good ideas. However, most individuals today communicate almost solely by text. Therefore, we recently started using Clio, an online database that enables the attorney to send messages by text while also not disclosing the cell number. Clio will also manage the communications and documents sent through the text, so we have found this a great way to meet our client’s expectations.

Don’t Avoid Answering Difficult Questions

Not taking these calls inevitably leads to client dissatisfaction and disciplinary complaints. Return these phone calls and defend your position. Listen. Offer some discount or compromise. Admits wrongs. I have found that this leads to significantly fewer complaints and negative reviews than avoidance altogether.

Finally, when the staff meets weekly to discuss cases and clients, we are aware of the clients who have not heard from us in a while and we usually schedule three or four of those touch bases with on an on-going basis. Those “check-in” calls are always met with gratefulness and usually engender no charge to the client’s account. We also inform the client of this, as well as inform them of when they may hear from us again.

Fight for Your Client

In 26 years of practicing law, this is the most difficult skill to hone. I’m a fighter by nature, but I also know that many client requests are losing cases in court. First, find out what the client wants. Get that in writing on your intake sheets. Then discuss the wants, distinguish them from needs, and address them all. What is most important?0 What is least important? Both in court and in mediation, you can make concessions while arguing ostensibly for what the client really wants.

Secondly, provide your client the parameters of what could occur. If you do not know this, then watch other court hearings or ask other attorneys. You should know prior to going into any hearing your best and worst-case scenario.

Thirdly, don’t avoid mediation. Mediation is not a means of concession. Use mediation to get your client what they do want, rather than accepting less than they could get in court. Know what’s most important and focus on that. Know what can be conceded. If your client wants to relocate out of state with the children, you know this is difficult to obtain. Discuss options to ensure your client gets this such as waiving child support or giving the other parent longer holiday time. The client may feel this is unfair, but take them back to their initial written request and remind them of what is MOST important.

If mediation fails, let the client know what could occur when going to court. Obviously, we cannot predict what every judge will do in every situation, but we have been doing this long enough to know what the judge could do, what the judge might do, and what we are asking the judge to do. Inform the client of all aspects of this. Otherwise, ask around. Find a mentor. Get the information you need to properly inform your client.

Finally, don’t be afraid of any argument in court. My only regrets in court were the things I didn’t say, not the things I did say. Caring about the client’s case. The client needs to feel as if his case is your only case. I compare the law firm to a hospital. The paralegals, office manager, and receptionist are the nurses of the law firm – they can listen to the daily concerns, commiserate over the bill or the children or the horrible spouse. They want their concerns just to be heard by someone. The lawyer is the doctor. We fix the problem. We don’t hold hands, we hold court hearings. Train your staff to listen. Invest in some good training, it will pay off. Help teach them to listen.

We do divorce work, which inevitably means dealing with unhappy people. There’s a saying that divorce attorneys deal with good people at their worst. A listening ear can assuage may concerns. Sometimes the complaints are not about their spouse or children but are about your law firm. Again, complaints cannot be ignored. Listen. Help if you can. Then refer it to the supervising attorney. If the complaint is about staff, try to fix the problem, but avoid taking the client’s side against the staff member. The quickest way to lose great staff is to repeatedly take client’s sides over that of staff. Free phone calls are another way to check in and also really make the client feel special. And it helps them feel you do care about their case.

Finally, we send cards, birthday cards to all our clients, signed by every staff member. In society today, no one gets cards anymore, but our clients do. They especially appreciate the birthday card because someone took the time to record their special day as well as remember it.

Constantly Review the Cost-Benefit Analysis

The clients to avoid are those who are going to complain about what they were charged while claiming nothing was done for them. If a client was charged, $10,000, that means the lawyer did a ton of work and the client was still unhappy.

To avoid this situation, again, the attorney must set expectations from the beginning. Constantly review the cost-benefit analysis with your client. Never let the bill go into the red. But more importantly, avoid these clients. In 26 years, I have rarely taken a client from another good attorney who ended up being happy. Know the attorneys out there. If your style is similar to the previous attorney, or the previous attorney has good reviews, avoid this client at all costs. You cannot make them happy.

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