I’ve been in the software business for a long time, from hospitality to the police force, and for the last 11 years in legal. All my client facing roles have taken me round the many roads of Britain meeting a fantastic array of people and businesses all with one goal in my mind: exceptional client care!
In my younger years I didn’t concern myself with the finance of client care. My job was simply to give clients the best possible service – and if that meant going the extra mile with extra training, handholding on site or a daily reassuring telephone conversation, then so be it. Yes we all need to make money to grow and sustain the business but doesn’t great customer service (even if free) still create revenue? How many times have we recommended or gone back to the same company because, unlike others, they were prepared to help you without first seeing if they could charge you for it?
In past roles I have become confounded and frustrated where I know a client is struggling and all they need is a little help to point them in the right direction but unable to because “they haven’t paid for it”.
The Oracle report: Why Customer Satisfaction is No Longer Good Enough showed that 81% of customers would actually be willing to pay more in order to receive superior customer service. Clients are willing to pay for good training, solid consultancy, a great support team and a person they know they can always turn to for help even if it’s just to ask for confirmation that they are doing the job right.
I already know that some of my clients, past and present, have given me glowing reviews for the help and time I have given whether it been paid for or for free, I would like to think this is because we give the best possible service no matter whether a cheque has been written out or not!
I now find myself in a very lucky position. Yes the bottom line is always important. It’s important to me that we generate revenue and increase our client base to sustain and grow the business. But when a client calls or e-mails me today my first thought will still not be how much can I charge them, but how can I help them – not just because I want to but because I work for a company that allows me to.
(1) Know and understand your clients. It goes without saying that you should know and understand every aspect of your client’s project or case. But going the extra mile to build a personal relationship with them is what will turn one-off clients into loyal lifelong customers. I know some of my clients so well now that I would call us friends. A call or an e-mail does not always start with a query or an issue but a conversation on what their kids have been up to, what they did at the weekend and in some cases the football (those who know me really well know that I am a Blade!)
(2) Be prepared to wear many hats. If you are client facing, you are there to solve client problems. My role involves being a consultant, a trainer, a member of the support team and a project manager, among other things! The last thing clients want to hear is “that’s not my job” – if it isn’t, you need to direct them to the person whose job it is, in order to solve their problem in the shortest time possible.
In one day I can consult with a client how to get the very best from their software so it is tailored to their needs, I might train them in a subject to give them better controls, I may also in that same day manage their project to define timelines and responsibilities and all while I am probably sorting an issue out that has come through to our support desk.
(3) Solve problems quickly. Resolving client queries and issues quickly means they can then get on with their work. Never hold a client up.
(4) Take responsibility and ownership. If a client has spoken with you, then it is your responsibility to ensure that their issue is dealt with. If you do pass the query on to a colleague, maintain a check that the query has been dealt with and ensure the client is updated on progress. Never pass the buck and assume.
(5) Be a generalist and always keep learning. Client care and account managers have to deal with a wide range of queries and issues. There is nothing worse than being out on site with a client where you cannot progress with your day because you have to ask for someone else’s help because it is not in your remit or knowledge. There is nothing worse than having to delay a client because you could have dealt with it yourself but you never cared or were motivated enough to learn all possibilities of your role.
(6) Meet them face-to-face. I love going out to meet clients. I believe that I am not just responsible for how well their installation, consultancy and training is delivered, but also that this is done with a minimum of stress and work on their part. Meeting face to face with clients is really important. You just can’t build the same kind of relationship with emails and phone calls alone. They need to be reassured that not only can I help them with most things but I am always there at the end of the phone or e-mail, even if it is just for a chat.
(7) Become an expert navigator! As well as navigating project plans and client contracts, my many years traveling for one-to-ones with clients have made me the go-to expert on the best way to get anywhere! I am sad enough to know almost every road in Britain without using a sat-nav and that includes the short cuts! And yes I love returning to see a client knowing that they don’t just get a professional but someone, like a friend, to really listen to them.
Nobody knows everything, and there will always be occasions where I need to seek advice from my wonderful support team who are quick with answers and solutions. But I take every opportunity to learn as much as you can from colleagues so that next time, you can provide an immediate response to clients.
One of my favourite quotes from Napoleon Hill (adviser to President Roosevelt):
“Your real boss is the one who walks around under your hat.”
When it comes to client care versus revenue, exceptional (not just good, but exceptional) client care should and will always be at the top of my list.
If you’d like to discuss your law firm management information system or talk to me in more detail about how we deliver exceptional customer service, please contact me by email or call 0845 6806 843.
This blog post was written by Jayne Dopson, MI Consultant at Exen Legal Solutions.
Jayne is in charge of client liaison at Exen and ensuring all our clients receive exceptional customer service.
Law Firm Practice Management System and Business Intelligence expert. Managing Director of Katchr.
If you’d like to discuss how large or small law firm software and legal financial reporting systems could help you run your practice more profitably, please give me a call on 03333 010 766.