Building trust is one of the most difficult tasks any business faces. When you’re an attorney charged with helping your clients make critical decisions that could have an effect on their futures, developing that bond becomes even more important. You need to work hard to create an environment that enables your clients to feel confident in your ability to help them protect their interests, their futures, and even the futures of their families. And perhaps the best way to do that is by establishing a consistent pattern of communication that helps portray you as a “real person” who’s dependable, reliable, and truly interested in their needs.
As former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee liked to say, “Trust is built with consistency.” While he may have been talking about politics, it’s easy to see how developing strong bonds of trust is important for many service businesses, including legal and medical professions. Consistency in all your efforts is the best way to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy, and it also underscores your values and your integrity, both of which can help you build a legal practice that’s based on a reputation for caring more about their customers than about their bottom lines.
Don’t think customers don’t take consistency seriously. In a study conducted by independent research company BTI Consulting Group, client satisfaction is based on three basic principles:
- Keeping up with evolving client needs;
- Failing to articulate and deliver real value;
- Lack of communication between firms and clients.
In fact, the report goes on to say that as many as 70 percent of clients do not recommend the firms they’ve used in the past, largely based on these three key factors. Even in the best of years, fewer than 50 percent of clients said they would recommend their firms to others, according to the report.
Is that good news? Of course not. But what is good is that the report clearly spells out what firms need to do to improve those numbers: They need to demonstrate to clients that they are keeping up with their needs, that they do deliver real value and that they regularly – consistently – communicate with their clients to help them navigate the often complex legal process during what is likely one of the most stressful times of their lives. It may sound like a big task, especially when you’re busy handling legal issues all day long. But the good news is that all three of those issues can be addressed with consistent, thoughtful communication.
Thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, communication today is simpler than ever. Having a blog, an e-newsletter, and a social presence are perhaps the most effective ways to stay in touch with clients on a regular basis without seeming invasive or overly aggressive. They key to mastering client communications, both in the virtual world and through more traditional means, is to stay the course – publish consistently to demonstrate your commitment to your clients and your craft. Too often, businesses start a communications effort with the best of intentions, only to fall short when the task of providing a steady stream of content becomes too daunting. The fact is, failing to deliver on what you promise by following a spotty, sporadic publishing schedule can harm your reputation by making you look less reliable and less dedicated to your clients’ needs. Once you begin a regular program of communication, you need to follow a regular schedule to get the greatest benefits.
So here’s the bottom line: Client satisfaction is a very real issue facing law firms today. The best way to boost client satisfaction – and referral rates – is by showing clients your firm’s willingness to keep up with changing client needs and demonstrating the value your firm offers. And the best way to do that is with consistent communication. Take some time today to review the way your firm communicates with clients, and then develop a plan that can help ensure your firm falls in the 30 percent of firms that have earned their clients’ trust.