November 3, 2016
With less than two months to go in 2016, you may have started to reflect on whether you have achieved your annual goals. Are you on track with billables? Have you met your business development objectives? Have you provided client service you can be proud of? If your answer today is not what you want it to be, don’t despair! There is still time to make a difference before you spend a guilt-ridden fortune on client gifts for the holidays.
The best way to make a difference in all three of those areas starts with communication. With billables, clients inexorably tie their view of client service to transparency and communication. To be blunt, the more you communicate, the less likely you are to face write-down requests. Getting more work from current clients—the low hanging fruit of business development—also grows from effective communication. Effective in this case can refer to communication relating to status on current matters, as well as to communication beyond those matters to other areas of interest for the client. And of course, your ability to surprise and delight your clients—otherwise known as providing pride-worthy client service—boils down to not just results, but communication with those clients as well.
Despite the importance of this skill to an ongoing and thriving practice, many lawyers remain uncomfortable with certain forms of client communication. They may be the most effective brief writers, advisors or advocates but they struggle with simply reaching out to clients in a way that builds relationships. So, as a pre-holiday gift to those of you who fall into that category, here are some useful tips and a link to get you started.
- Regularly. When you are working on an active matter, there is never too much communication. When you’re not, communication is still important. Clients often say they want to be spoken to on a regular basis and that they want their lawyers to know their business intimately. Take advantage of those “down” times to get to know the client and their business better. Be proactive; regular communication can show that they matter beyond just the fees they bring in, which in turn makes it more likely they will turn to you when they do have a need.
- Concisely. Don’t waste your clients’ time by giving them too much to read or information they have to parse through. As one in-house lawyer noted in a post on InhouseBlog, brevity is key: use easy-to-absorb summaries, PowerPoint, and even pictures to get your message across.
- Relevantly. Talk to them about their business, shared interests and even their family (if you have that kind of relationship with them). Make sure the insights you share and conversations you have are appropriate for that specific client, and let their responses to you drive your next communication. As stated by the BTI consulting group in 8 Habits of Highly Profitable Law Firms, “dialogue drives business.”
- Personally. While newsletters are nice and can be a valuable tool for keeping your firm top of mind, nothing beats the personal touch to build lasting relationships. Personalization doesn’t have to take a lot of time; it can be as simple as a handwritten note or a personalized intro to the firm newsletter or an article that may be of interest.
Want to get started right away so you can impact on your 2016 goals? Access the Practical Law Holiday Party Liability Prevention Checklist and advise your clients. It is concise, focusing on the do’s and don’ts in an easy-to-digest checklist form. The information provided is relevant to any business that might be planning an event in this pre-holiday season. Ensure to make it personal with a brief introductory note mentioning that you thought your client might find this valuable. The regularity of your communication is now up to you . . . but if you follow the above tips, this time next year your end-of-year assessment may be a much more rewarding experience.