Do no harm: The easiest way to increase law firm profits


[I’m taking it easy this week and re-publishing this post from 2012.]

In medicine, The Hippocratic Oath includes the Latin phrase, Primum non nocere, meaning, “First, do no harm.” Attorneys need a similar pledge, not just to protect our clients, but to protect our bottom line.

According to a study from The George Washington University (ppt–not worth downloading, IMHO), the cost of a dissatisfied customer is staggering:

  • The average business does not hear from 96% of unhappy customers
  • For every complaint received, there are 24 people with unvoiced problems; six are serious
  • 90% who are dissatisfied with the service won’t return
  • The average customer with a complaint will tell 9-10 people; 13% will tell more than 20 people

Other studies confirm numbers like these. The bottom line: losing one client could cost you a lot more than you earn from one new client.

Therefore, the easiest (and smartest) way to increase your profits is to stop losing clients.

There is some good news from the study:

  • Of those who complain, 50-70% will do business with you again if the complaint is resolved. 95% will return if it is resolved quickly

Therefore, you must encourage your clients to let you know when they aren’t happy so you can fix the problem quickly and can take steps to make sure the problem won’t occur with other clients.

Remember, most unhappy clients don’t complain. They just leave–and tell others that you are a Bozo.

Here’s how you can solicit this extremely valuable feedback from your clients:

  • Include feedback forms in your “New Client Kit”
  • Post surveys on your web site
  • Tell clients (repeatedly) that if they ever have an issue of any kind, you want them to call you personally (and give them your cell phone number or direct line)
  • Put a “Suggestion Box” link on your web site. Allow people to contribute (or complain) anonymously. Promote this box via your newsletter and blog
  • Put stories in your newsletter about suggestions you received and implemented.
  • Interview clients at the end of the case. Ask them, (1) What did we do well? and (2) What could we do better?
  • Thank everyone for their ideas and feedback, publicly if possible

In other words, if you want feedback, create an environment where feedback is encouraged, appreciated, and most of all, acted upon.

Often, perhaps most of the time, unhappy clients aren’t unhappy because the attorney did something wrong, they are unhappy because of poor communication:

  • Something wasn’t explained properly.
  • The attorney didn’t keep the client informed.
  • The client’s phone calls weren’t returned.

If you ever drop the ball in any of these areas, don’t worry, these are easy to fix. If any of your clients were unhappy with their previous attorney for any of these reasons, celebrate. This is a tremendous opportunity for you to convert them into raving fans.

The best way to maintain law firm profits: marketing

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