By John Remsen, Jr.
We all know that satisfied existing clients are your best source of future business. They will continue to use your services when they need a lawyer, and they are your best referral source for new clients.
Yet, most clients are unable to appreciate a quality work product because they aren’t lawyers. Consequently, they tend to judge the quality of your work based on service-related issues and how they are treated when they deal with you and your firm.
Allow me to use the analogy of the automobile mechanic. If you own a car, you know you need a good, trustworthy mechanic to keep the car running smoothly and to fix problems as they arise. You don’t necessarily want to know what’s going on under the hood. Your mechanic is supposed to know all that stuff. And you trust him to treat you right.
If you are like me, you assess the quality of your mechanic’s work based on the way you are treated and whether or not you trust him. Does he listen to you when you bring the car in for servicing? Does he keep your car running smoothly? Does he provide an estimate before he starts the work? Is his bill reasonable and within estimate? Is your car clean and ready when promised? These are among the factors that most people use to evaluate the quality of his work.
I believe that these are the same kinds of factors that clients apply to lawyers and other professional service providers. They don’t necessarily want to know the intricacies of the law. They want a good result. They want to feel like you are taking good care of them. They want to trust you. These factors are especially important when you are dealing with a brand new client.
Here are 10 golden rules to make your new client happy:
1. Send your new client a “Client Welcome Kit.”
I am amazed at how few law firms do this. In addition to a well-written cover letter from the managing partner, include your firm brochure, a client service pledge, a current list of contacts with direct dial phone numbers and email addresses, and a nice gift.
2. Seek to understand the big picture.
The best lawyers — the ones who deliver the most value to their clients — take the time to learn about their client’s business (and personal) goals and objectives. They ask smart questions and do lots of listening. They understand how the particular legal matter they are being asked to handle fits into the big picture.
It’s also a smart idea to understand the dynamics and trends of the industry in which your client competes. Visiting your new client’s place of business is also a great way to get things started on the right foot.
3. Establish your client’s expectations and then exceed them.
Walk your client through how you propose to handle the matter and what he can expect in terms of results and timelines. Create a reasonable set of expectations and do your best to beat them.
If you discover you are unable to meet your commitments, or the results are not likely to be what you anticipated, share that information with the client as soon as possible. In almost all cases, you will be forgiven.
4. Follow through on your commitments.
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