There are many ways to orient your practice. Many lawyers set up their practices around their needs in terms of producing legal work. This is all quite natural since you need to be working in this environment at all times – it makes sense to set things up so you put your needs first so you are working as effectively and efficiently as possible – right?
Advisor after advisor states that to exceed client expectations – to have clients who truly sing your praises to others – you need to place your own needs second behind those of your clients. This is not easy nor is it straightforward.
Many businesses say that they place their customers first – but you quickly realize that this is not quite true when you start to deal with them.
Putting client needs first begins right at the point of first contact. Are telephone calls answered promptly (after only a couple of rings)? If you are unavailable, is the caller given the option of going to voicemail or speaking to a live person? Does someone call the client back within a set period of time – even if it is just to say that you remain unavailable (due to other matters that you are dealing with) but that their business is important and to ask if can someone else assist them (such as your trusted legal assistant?).
Are clients made to feel that their business is important and valued? That everyone at the firm cares – and cares deeply – that their needs are being met? The first and perhaps most important step in moving to this business objective is to commit to placing the client’s needs first. This means that you measure all business steps in your business by this metric: Does it place the clients needs ahead of all other considerations?
Now you need to communicate this to your team and ask them to commit as well. Everyone in the firm needs to be all working from the same frame of reference and towards the same goal. Once the team has committed to this goal…then have the good sense to get out of their way and let them reorganize how they perform tasks to best meet the client’s needs. They know their jobs – trust them to follow your lead and do what is best. Your job is to keep your eye on what ultimately needs to be done for the client – but don’t micromanage!
Part of putting the client’s needs first is to recognize that being paid results from meeting (or exceeding) your client needs; it is not something that is put ahead of client needs. There is a trust relationship being built here…the work should be its own reward. Payment is then a recognition of good work and of commitments and trust being rewarded.
And speaking of trust, part of putting the client’s needs first is to always and totally tell the client how it is. Even if the news is bad. If trust is the byword then the client has to be able to trust you to give them the truth – whether it is good or bad. They need, and deserve, to hear it from you first.
You need to learn to like people and then to take a deep breath, sit back and truly listen to what they say about how you deliver your services. Ultimately the big test of whether you have met your client’s needs comes from them. Do you survey your clients – and take their comments and suggestions to heart? If you truly put your client’s needs first – those client surveys and what they reveal are gold. And gold is something that you can take to the bank!