Many of today’s law firms fail to realize that the road to client satisfaction begins with setting expectations. It’s a concept that is not exclusive to the practice of law, but will undeniably set the tone for your attorney-client relationship. Ultimately, the better your clients’ experience, the more loyal and satisfied they’ll be. If you set the right expectations early on, you’ll put your client at ease and (hopefully) remove the tension, anxiety, and confusion that often accompanies the legal experience.
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When you set your expectations up front (or fail to, for that matter), it will guide your clients’ thinking in the days that follow. After your initial meeting, it’s imperative that a client have a firm grasp on the following:
- How the legal process will work
- How long the legal process will take
- What the range of likely results will be
- How updates will be communicated
- The overall cost of legal services
- How services are billed
- When payment is expected
- What will happen when fees are not paid when they are due
Make sure that clients have written confirmation of all set expectations from day one, and take every opportunity to enforce those expectations. Keep in mind that for any issues not discussed, the client’s expectations will most likely be based on preconceived (and usually incorrect) impressions. Attempting to rectify these misconceptions later will be extremely difficult if not impossible.
Be as transparent as possible when explaining your expectations to your clients. After all, they look to you as a guide during a very difficult or unsure time in their life. The more they understand what is expected of them, the smoother the process will be for both parties.
It’s also important to communicate with clients early on about what they expect from your firm. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and truly listen to their responses. Never be reluctant to turn away a client if they expect too much from you or if you cannot devote the attention that they need or deserve. If you feel that you cannot provide the service that they are looking for, make sure that you can provide them with other options such as referring them to a colleague.
Once you’ve taken on a client and their expectations are established, your legal team can then work towards meeting them and ultimately exceeding them. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to make guarantees and not follow through. By delivering that “wow” factor to your client whenever possible, even if the case outcome is not favorable, you’ll increase client loyalty, evangelizers, and referrals.