Delivering Excellence in Client Service

What does Excellence in client service mean?

In very simple terms, it means (wildly) exceeding a client’s expectations.

But the contra, and exclusively lawyer focused message, is to manage the client’s expectations, which is a euphemism for making sure that they do not expect too much.

The transaction is a simple one: pay us for the time we spend on your matter. Note I said time and not value. Excellence doesn’t come into the equation. How many firms have you seen who have had an Excellence charter or had very explicit wording to cover what a client can expect. Most are so woolly as not to be worth the paper they are written on.

Most firms state something like: “We offer the highest standards of service” and then proceed almost in the next breath to talk about complaints handling. This almost suggests that the client can expect poor service or that the firm is so used to dealing with complaints that it is better set up to deal with that than it is to deliver WOW service.

Can you imagine going to a dentist or a doctor’s surgery and being told after every appointment that if you want to complain that you needed to follow a certain road map? Or to go to a retailers and see a placard with the words: “Not happy with the service then complain…. and you can get your money back + some big fat compensation”. Surely all this is doing is pre-loading the relationship to expect the worst.

Sure, things go wrong, people are dilatory or worse still treat the customer with disdain but don’t make such a big deal of it. Focus on the positive an enshrine Excellence in everything that you do from the state of your toilets (yes these are very important), the colour of the flowers in reception, to the quality of stationery that you use.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in some instances clients have completely unrealistic or quixotic expectations and, worse still, don’t understand the time/cost metric. When it comes to settling up they are nearly always surprised at what you are proposing to charge them. It is tempting to tell the client following each call, email or missive that that has cost them £x, but we defer from doing so for fear I suspect of looking stupid. That said if each client had on-line access to their account then they could see at a glance how much was on the clock and what had been done..

I wonder also how much is spent at looking at the number of cases a solicitor takes on. In my view one of the reasons that things go wrong is because the person concerned is not being properly or adequately managed and they have too many files to cope with or the wrong type of work. When it comes to managing work-flow the overriding concern is not Excellence or providing the highest standard or service but how much money can be made. How many live files do you manage at any one time: 100, 200, 300? Whatever the number ask yourself the question whether you have provided the very, very best service that was humanly possible. Stop thinking about the costs but just whether that client was treated as if you only had one client and all your time was focused on that one person/company/NFP.

For me this is so important right now bearing in mind the increased pressure that is emerging in the market. In the same way that smaller businesses have had to look for ways to compete with their larger brethren, Excellence will always shine through and not just provide a beacon of hope but may be the difference between remaining in business and going bust.

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12 responses to “Delivering Excellence in Client Service”

  1. The problem with the complaints policy is that the law society require us to say it right at the beginning.

  2. The problem with the complaints policy is that the law society require us to say it right at the beginning.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Coralie McK, WardblawG, MichelleHynes-McIlro, Julian Summerhayes, Julian Summerhayes and others. Julian Summerhayes said: MY BLOG POST OF TODAY: Delivering Excellence in Client Service http://bit.ly/aVuCsq […]

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Coralie McK, WardblawG, MichelleHynes-McIlro, Julian Summerhayes, Julian Summerhayes and others. Julian Summerhayes said: MY BLOG POST OF TODAY: Delivering Excellence in Client Service http://bit.ly/aVuCsq […]

  5. Thanks Steven. I appreciate that there is a regulatory hurdle but we still make too much of this and don’t do enough to focus on the Excellence point.

    regards
    J.

  6. Thanks Steven. I appreciate that there is a regulatory hurdle but we still make too much of this and don’t do enough to focus on the Excellence point.

    regards
    J.

  7. Richard Carus says:

    I would like to say at the outset that this is not intended to be a rant either Julian but perhaps you could give us some examples of these awful firms that you refer to? My experience is actually quite the contrary. My father was a very succcessful lawyer and the one thing I can always remember about him and his practice, and that of his peers was committment to excellence. I know a lot of senior and managing partners of law firms all of whom I believe would fiercely disagree with what you say in your blog. You do seem to make an awful lot of general comments, most of which seem to portray the very profession that you trained in, and still continue to work in, very negatively.
    Also, as the comment above states perfectly, there are certain things in this profession that you just have to do, regardless of how it might come across. Having read that it makes me wonder how qualified you are to make such generalised statements??
    Just a thought.

  8. Richard Carus says:

    I would like to say at the outset that this is not intended to be a rant either Julian but perhaps you could give us some examples of these awful firms that you refer to? My experience is actually quite the contrary. My father was a very succcessful lawyer and the one thing I can always remember about him and his practice, and that of his peers was committment to excellence. I know a lot of senior and managing partners of law firms all of whom I believe would fiercely disagree with what you say in your blog. You do seem to make an awful lot of general comments, most of which seem to portray the very profession that you trained in, and still continue to work in, very negatively.
    Also, as the comment above states perfectly, there are certain things in this profession that you just have to do, regardless of how it might come across. Having read that it makes me wonder how qualified you are to make such generalised statements??
    Just a thought.

  9. Richard

    Thanks for your comments. I think you may have misunderstood the point of my post. The focus for law firms should be on Excellence and not always on billing. If we were so confident of our value without having to measure that in units of 6 minutes then why don’t we ever ask the client to value the job or offer a money back guanratee? My experience is that the focus on work is quality driven or more likely to comply with our legal/tecnical obligations but I don’t think I ever heard the word Excellence mentioned.

    Regards
    Julian

  10. Richard

    Thanks for your comments. I think you may have misunderstood the point of my post. The focus for law firms should be on Excellence and not always on billing. If we were so confident of our value without having to measure that in units of 6 minutes then why don’t we ever ask the client to value the job or offer a money back guanratee? My experience is that the focus on work is quality driven or more likely to comply with our legal/tecnical obligations but I don’t think I ever heard the word Excellence mentioned.

    Regards
    Julian

  11. Richard Carus says:

    Thanks for the reply Julian, I didn’t mean for my post to call into question your credentials by the way, it may have come across that way so hopefully it didn’t. The money back guarantee or client valuation proposal is an interesting one but I think a step too far for lawyers possibly? I would actually question whether most, if not all, clients of firms are not qualified to carry out such an evaluation. I know I am not. Also, lawyers are still considered with a high degree of scepticism and as such I imagine nearly everyone would call into question whether the money spent was good value.
    Cheers again.

  12. Richard Carus says:

    Thanks for the reply Julian, I didn’t mean for my post to call into question your credentials by the way, it may have come across that way so hopefully it didn’t. The money back guarantee or client valuation proposal is an interesting one but I think a step too far for lawyers possibly? I would actually question whether most, if not all, clients of firms are not qualified to carry out such an evaluation. I know I am not. Also, lawyers are still considered with a high degree of scepticism and as such I imagine nearly everyone would call into question whether the money spent was good value.
    Cheers again.

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