Collaboration and Communication: 2 Key Requirements for Client Retention
As of 2013, there were approximately 1.2 million attorneys in the United States according to the American Bar Association. No matter where you live or work, there are most likely multiple law offices close by. Unhappy clients have many options to leave and go elsewhere for their legal representation if they feel like they are not being serviced properly. Today's competitive environment is compelling law offices to come up with more effective ways of retaining clients in a growing climate of high customer expectations and service. There are two proven ways to retain clients and make them feel comfortable with the level of service they are receiving: through effective collaboration and ongoing communication.
Collaboration through Technology
Technology has afforded law firms smart ways to keep collaboration effective between attorney and client. The best way to define collaboration in terms of an attorney and client relationship is to cooperatively work together to produce a favorable outcome. Working together entails some aspects of law firm technology that can be especially effective to produce these favorable outcomes. Technology allows lawyer and client to stay virtually connected and share ideas, but what technology do you employ and how do you train your clients to use it? The answer will be dependent on your client's specific requirements. This requires the attorney to be flexible and adaptable to different technology and be up-to-speed on various services that can benefit the collaboration efforts. Not all clients will want to use the same technology to keep connected, so it's important to research options. Some key questions to ask the client at the onset are:
- How would you like to share important documents securely?
- What are your expectations for response times?
- What type of progress reports do you expect?
- How can I provide you up-to-date news regarding details on your case?
Some will be satisfied with simple email correspondence, but others will request more advanced forms of collaboration, including client portals or extranets, and reporting tools for progress updates. By proactively offering a variety of collaboration services upfront, and acknowledging the client's specific requirements for technology, the service you provide will improve and keep clients coming back.
Adding Value through Communication
Communication is an overarching and somewhat broad topic, but it can be defined as exchanging information or ideas. In terms of client and attorney relationship, it can be more narrowly defined as a process of reaching a mutual understanding in which all parties exchange information. Information exchange is the key in the definition, as communication has to occur in two directions. The client needs to feel that they are receiving the maximum value for the money they are spending, and constant communication is a fairly simple, yet extremely effective way, to give those clients the value they seek. Communication, like collaboration, can also be accomplished through technology initiatives developed between attorney and client. Catering to the specific requirements of communication for the client is a key principle for maximum retention.
The client will not see value added based solely on time spent, but more on how the attorney has defined success and executed on a defined communication strategy. Some ideas for proactively engaging in a communication strategy include:
- Personalize your correspondence: When being proactive in engaging clients, it is important to be personal and genuine. This includes eliminating generic letters and emails, and maybe even generated update messages that have no personal touch to them. Modern technology has afforded us opportunities to be personal and quick simultaneously.
- Practice reciprocity: The attorney will expect to be paid as a reward, but the value needs to be defined for the client, and that may be trickier to identify. Communicating with clients exact specifications for outcome will ensure reciprocal rewards, and when executed correctly, will turn into repeat business.
- Build a relationship: It is important to throw egos out the window and show expertise through professionalism and trust. A solid relationship can be established when the client feels like their attorney has the knowledge and tenacity to work hard for them. These relationships can be built through effective two-way communication established at the onset.
The bottom line is that exceptional customer service will keep clients coming back. Technology will facilitate processes that lead to high levels of service, but a personal and genuine approach needs to be solidified, and the levels of communication and collaboration practiced in the firm will act as an outward display of the level of commitment that the firm has to their clients.
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