A cost of doing business that pays for itself

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You have overhead. And discretionary expenses. Rent, wages, payroll taxes, equipment, advertising, and everything else, and each has it’s own category in your expense ledger.

Everything except one. Customer service.

Customer service should have its own expense category because it is clearly a cost of doing business and it should be accounted for.

The things you do for your clients–to deliver value, to give them a good experience with your firm, to “take care of them” and make them glad they hired you–has a cost.

Some money and a lot of time.

Money spent on overnighting copies at your expense, remembering birthdays and holidays, and providing extra services free of charge.

Time spent talking to clients about non-billable matters and explaining things you’ve already explained, to make sure the client understands. Time spent training and supervising your staff, to make sure they know why taking care of clients is good for business and so they are well equipped to do it.

There’s also time spent on personal development, to develop the habits and skills that make you better at serving your clients.

Add it all up and it’s a big number. Or it should be because it is a key factor in the success of your practice.

The more you give your clients, the better you care for them, the bigger your practice will grow. Clients who feel respected and appreciated are clients who hire you again and again and sing your praises to others.

Customer service also cuts down on problems. Clients who are well informed and regularly updated, for example, are less likely to call you again or complain to you and to the Bar.

Sometimes, customer service means giving clients the benefit of the doubt when they want more from you than they paid for. Sometimes it means cutting your fee or issuing a refund.

That doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be taken advantage of or put up with abuse. It means understanding the lifetime value of a client and being willing to sacrifice a dollar today to earn $1000 long term.

Customer service is a cost of doing business. But it more than pays for itself.

Henry Ford said, “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

Your goal is to earn more income. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in your clients.

The Attorney Marketing Formula is here

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Suck it up, buttercup

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My wife needs a new chair for her office. Last night, we stopped at our local Staples, which is having a sale on office chairs, and she found one she liked. I had a $30 coupon in my pocket which was for phone and online orders. The plan was to find a chair she wanted, go home, and order it.

Eduardo came over and asked if he could help. I asked him if I could use my coupon if the chair we wanted was already on sale. He said he wasn’t sure but would go ask his manager.

He came back with good news. Not only could we use the coupon, we could buy the chair in the store and take it home with us. His manager would override the “online” code and make it happen.

Nice.

Eduardo rang us up. He called his manager over to handle the override. The manager came, clicked some buttons, and the deal was done.

On our way home, my wife and I compared notes about the manager’s attitude. Whereas Eduardo was friendly and helpful, the manager was a walking corpse.

He didn’t say anything–no “have a nice evening,” “enjoy your new chair,” or “thank you for shopping at Staples.” No smile, no eye contact. Nothing. He clicked some keys, threw the used coupon in the trash, and turned to walk back to wherever managers hide out.

As he walked away, I said, “Thank you for your help”. He half-turned back to me, mumbled something, and continued his retreat.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is, he didn’t do his job. If I was his district manager, I would have fired him on the spot.

His job isn’t just to approve coupons. His job is to foster a pleasant customer experience. Make customers feel welcome, appreciated, and glad we chose to spend our dollars with them instead of anywhere else.

It’s the most important part of his job and he didn’t do it.

Maybe he was ill. Maybe his wife just left him. Maybe he hates his job and his life.

So what? When you show up to work, you leave your problems in your car and do your job.

You do your job even if you don’t feel like it. If you have serious issues, stay home. Take a few days off. Do what you have to do, but don’t bring your problems to work.

Nobody cares about your problems. Everyone has problems of their own. Suck it up and do your job. If you can’t do that, go work somewhere else.

As employers, we know that everyone can have a bad day. Hell, we have them ourselves. But nobody should be allowed to let their problems get in the way of our job.

How to use your website to make your phone ring

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Looking for a Christmas gift for your clients?

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What do you get the client who has everything? A book, that’s what you get.

Books make a great gift for anyone on your list because they provide value beyond their modest cost.

If you know a client or contact’s reading preferences, you can choose something special for them. Otherwise, choose a non-fiction business, financial, productivity, or self-help book that is likely to appeal across the board. Or one book for business clients and professional contacts, another for consumers.

The best choice is a book you’ve read and recommend. Perhaps something you found useful in your practice. You can add your comments or “review” to a card that accompanies it or post the review on your website and give clients the link.

You don’t have to give books to everyone on your list. Some clients might get a card. Some might get a $25 book, while others get something priced under $10.

You can have Amazon do the fulfillment for you. Or you can buy in bulk, save a few bucks, and mail the books yourself with a hand-written note.

If your clients don’t read, or they’ve already read the book you buy for them, they can give it to someone else. They’ll appreciate the fact that you thought of them and sent them something you like and recommend, rather than just a card.

Any attorneys on your list? I’ve got some books and courses available that make great gifts. Especially when you personally recommend them.

Books and courses for attorneys

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Antici. . . pation

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I’m excited! I just got a text telling me the storage rack I ordered Saturday night will be delivered today before 8 pm. But I know better. I’ve been tracking the package and know it’s at our local post office right now so I’m pretty sure it will get here this afternoon.

Don’t laugh. My wife does most of the shopping around here so when I get a chance to buy something for my office, I get excited. Even if it’s just a rack to hold some stuff. (You should see me when I’m waiting for a new laptop to be delivered.)

Anyway, I do have a point. The point is that we all need to be aware of how our clients feel when working with us, or more accurately, how they want to feel. We need to know this so we can we can help them get a taste of those feelings before they hire us.

If you handle adoptions, you know your clients get excited when they hear good news from you. They wait by the phone, anticipating your call. In your conversations with prospective clients, in your articles and blog posts, in your marketing documents, you’ll want to talk about what that’s like and share how you feel being able to help people experience one of the happiest days of their lives.

If you handle criminal defense, you know the sense of relief your clients experience when you’re able to tell them that some or all of the counts against them have been dismissed. On your website, blog, videos, or podcast, you’ll want to describe the relief your clients feel when you’re able to deliver that kind of news.

If you handle business transactions or estate planning, you know that your clients enjoy peace of mind and a sense of pride about getting their paperwork done and their business or loved ones protected. That should be the central theme in your marketing.

Give some thought to what your clients want to feel as a result of hiring you. It’s never about the paperwork, the settlement, or the outcome, ultimately, it’s about how they want to feel.

Figure out what those feelings are. Then, do what you have to do to make sure they experience them.

Happy clients are referring clients. Here’s how to make it so

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Explain and grow rich

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We had our carpets cleaned yesterday. Excellent service and excellent results from a top rated company. But, in my humble (but accurate) opinion, they dropped the ball on something that could have a profound effect on their business.

They didn’t explain how to prepare for their visit.

When he arrived, the technician complimented my wife on her preparation–vacuuming thoroughly, removing cat hair from the furniture (lint rollers), and said that many customers don’t do this. They expect that he will vacuum and he doesn’t. I’m there to clean the carpet, he tells them, and when they don’t vacuum, his job takes longer and often leads to poorer results.

You can argue that vacuuming should be included in the service and that customers aren’t out of line to expect this, but that’s beside the point. The point is that the company should explain this to the customer well in advance of the appointment. Send them instructions on how to prepare, and what will happen once they start the work.

And, why not offer some add-on services like vacuuming, at additional cost, for those who want it?

But no, other than explaining that the workers don’t move heavy furniture and that the carpets would be cleaned around it, nothing else was explained.

How difficult would it be to send customers an email with a list of what to do and what to expect? How many issues would something simple like that eliminate in advance?

Wait, there’s more.

After the work was done, the worker explained to my wife some things to do to make sure the carpet dried properly and quickly. He also told her what not to do. He was thorough and patient but again, why not put this in writing? Hand customers a booklet that explains everything?

If they supplied customers with written information about preparation and aftercare, they would have happier customers, with even better results.

Happier customers mean more repeat business, more five-star reviews, and more referrals.

I’m sure you have something you send to new clients so they can prepare for their first visit to your office, or take away after the first visit. I’m sure you also have something you give them at the end of the case or matter. I’m also sure that both of these documents answer common questions and tell the client what to expect and what to do in a variety of situations.

If you don’t have these, you should. If you do have them, now would be a good time to review them and make sure they are as thorough and helpful as they can be.

NB: in the aftercare instructions, also explain what to do if they are satisfied with your work: where to post a review and how to make a referral.

How to get (a lot) more referrals from your clients: instructions here

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Is asking your clients for help a sign of weakness?

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Some attorneys believe that asking their clients (and others) for help is a sign of weakness. They think that any help a client might give them–referrals, sharing their content, liking their videos, posting a review–should and will happen organically, with no prompting from them.

In truth, while some clients will help you on their own, most won’t. Not because they don’t want to but because they don’t know what to do or they’re busy and forget to do it.

Your clients want to send you referrals. They want to help you and they want to help their friends. If you don’t tell your clients who would make a good referral for you and show them the best way to facilitate the referral, you make it harder for them to do. So their friend might wind up with another attorney who doesn’t do a good job or charges them more.

By not asking for help, you’re hurting your clients and the people they care about.

Your clients want other people to know you did a good job for them. Other people who are looking for an attorney depend on reviews by people who have hired you in the past. If you don’t ask your clients to leave a review, they might think you don’t care about reviews and not leave one. You’re denying them the satisfaction of helping others find you.

You think asking for help shows weakness when in truth it is a sign of strength and confidence. It shows people that you know don’t live in an ivory tower, you live in the real world and depend on others for your success. It is a sign of humility and respect for your clients and for yourself.

When you understand this, you realize that asking for help is no more a sign of weakness than asking a client to pay your bill.

How to make it easier for your clients to send you referrals

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What breed of dog does your client own?

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What’s the name of the last client you spoke to? How well do you know them?

Are they married? What’s their spouse’s name?

Do they have kids? How old are they?

What part of town do they live in? Do they play any sports? Do you know the name of their accountant, tax preparer, and insurance agent? How about the name of their dog?

I know it’s difficult to build a personal relationship with all of your clients but how about some of them?

Or are you the type who does the work and that’s the end of it?

No communication, no relationship, nothing from you. If they contact you again, fine. Otherwise, you don’t have time for them.

Please say that’s not true. Please say you make an effort to get to know at least some of your clients and that you make it a habit to stay in touch with all of them.

If you don’t, it’s not too late to start. Reach out at least one client this week and have a conversation with them. Take a few minutes to find out something about their personal life. Write it down so you’ll remember it. Verify their email address so you can stay in touch.

Every client you do this with represents potential growth for your practice. Even if they never hire you again, they can send referrals, introduce you to other professionals, share your content, promote your events, and send traffic to your website. Oh yeah, they can also write a positive review about you, including how much they appreciate that you stay in touch with them after the work was done.

Before you spend another hour attending a networking event and talking to strangers, how about networking with the people who already know, like, and trust you?

Start here

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Let them go

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You have an email subscriber who wants to leave your list. Let them go. In fact, encourage them to do so. If they’re not happy with what you’re sending them, why should they remain?

That same goes for you and me. If you’re not digging my emails, if you think I email too often and you can’t keep up, if you don’t want to follow any of my advice, there’s no point in you sticking around. And from my perspective, if you don’t “dig” me, you’re not going to buy anything from me, so there’s no point in keeping you on my list.

Let’s part friends. But let’s part.

That’s the proper attitude whether we’re talking about email subscribers, social media connections, networking friends, or clients. If one or both of you isn’t been served by the relationship, one of you has to let the other go.

If a client isn’t happy with something and you’ve tried to work it out but it’s just not happening, you have to let them go. It’s best for both of you.

Don’t let them storm off, however. Use a little finesse.

I would say, “It sounds like you might be happier with another lawyer. Would you like me to give you a referral?”

Why this?

Because it’s kick-ass posture. You’re not only suggesting they might want to work with someone else, you’re offering to help them find them.

It says, “I’d love to continue to work with you, but I don’t need your business. I want you to be happy and if I’m not your guy, I know other lawyers who might be a better fit for you.”

Confident. Strong. Successful. The very picture of a lawyer who is in demand and whose clients are fortunate to be with them.

Of course by saying, “You might be. . ,” the word “might” keeps the door open. You’re giving them a chance to realize that they might NOT be happy with another lawyer and realize that maybe the reason they’re not happy isn’t entirely your fault.

By taking the high road, not arguing, not trying to convince them to say, you’re confirming that you really don’t need their business. By letting them go this way, clients often realize they really don’t want to go.

Anyway, you can’t stop them from leaving, so don’t try. Let them go. It may be the best way to get them to stay.

Good client relations is your best marketing strategy.

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Client relations made simple

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What do you do when there’s a problem with a case? Do you email the client to tell them? Or do you call?

Calling is better, of course, because you can explain what happened, answer the client’s questions, discuss the options, and work together to find the path forward.

You’re not just delivering news, you’re having a conversation.

Your tone of voice tells the client how you feel about the issue. He’ll hear your concern and appreciate that you personally called. The client might still be upset or afraid, but being able to talk to you will help, even if he blames you for the problem. Actually, especially if he blames you because he can vent and then the two of you can talk about what to do.

Now, you probably know this and you probably use the phone when there’s a problem. The question is, do you use the phone when there isn’t a problem?

When you want to tell the client good news. When you want to ask the client a question. When you want to touch base with the client. Do you call? Even when you don’t have to?

The same dynamics exist whether you’re delivering good news or bad. Just as you want the client to hear the concern in your voice when you deliver bad news, you want them to hear the smile in your voice when the news is good.

If you’re not calling your clients, you’re missing out on an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.

Call more, email less.

But, there’s something even better than calling. Whenever possible, meet with your clients in person.

Whether you have good news, bad news, or no news, getting face to face with your clients gives you an opportunity to bond in a way that cannot be simulated over the phone. Now only does tone of voice come into play, so do facial expressions, body language, and general interpersonal chemistry.

Find reasons to meet with your clients for coffee. Visit their business. Invite them to your office. And don’t charge for that time, even if you could.

Spend face time with your clients and when you’re done, send them an email saying, “It was nice to see you.” Or better yet, call.

Your clients are worth a fortune to you

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I’m like a peeping Tom

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I have a secret indulgence. I like to watch videos about building gaming computers and gaming desk setups. This wouldn’t be remarkable except I don’t play video games, I’ve never built or repaired a computer, and I know next to nothing about how computers work.

I just like to watch.

I find it relaxing. A mindless diversion from everything else I do.

Kinda lame, isn’t it?

Maybe not.

Some people read this and think, “Me too!” They love looking at water-cooled graphic cards and RGB lights and get a thrill out of proper cable management.

Some people like to watch cooking shows but don’t cook, or travel videos and never travel. Some have unusual hobbies, collect odd things, or do things that make the rest of us shake our heads.

And it’s all good. It’s all part of being human.

If you do something different like this, I challenge you to share it with your list. Let your subscribers, clients, and colleagues see a different side of you.

Some will say, “Me too!” They like to do what you do and will feel a connection to you.

Some will think you’re weird. Okay, maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone that you wear a Superman costume under your suit when you go to court.

But most people will appreciate your transparency and like you more for giving them a glimpse into what makes you tick.

So c’mon, out with it. Share your secret. I showed you mine, now show me yours.

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