The Best of Attorney at Work

Resolve to Annoy Clients Less

By | Dec.28.12 | Client Service, Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re taking time off to enjoy winter break. To make sure you get your daily fix of Attorney at Work between Christmas and New Year’s, however, we’re rewinding some of our most popular posts. Today, Matt Homann has steps to help you improve client services, and stop annoying your clients—not a bad New Year’s resolution!

We live in a ratings-focused economy. Never has it been easier for consumers who’ve experienced bad service to share their stories—in near real-time—with the world on Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List or Twitter. And attorneys are not immune. Clients can just as easily voice their displeasure with your failure to return phone calls as they can about their last bad meal at your town’s “best” restaurant.

While you can’t completely immunize your firm from annoyed clients’ online rants, you  can begin to improve their service experience by annoying your clients less. Here’s how.

Five Steps for Making Sure You Aren’t Annoying Clients

By working hard on these five steps, you’ll not only stop annoying your clients, but you’ll begin building a practice they’ll heartily recommend to others.

1. Learn what annoys your clients. Focus on the experience your clients are having while you pursue their ultimate result. Take nothing off the table. Think about your office, your bills, your website, your staff. Everything.

  • Make a list of the things your clients complain about.
  • Ask each member of your staff to compile a list of their own.
  • Reach out to current and former clients and survey them, asking each to make a list of the things that annoy them the most about your firm. Tell them nothing is too minor. If you’re worried about a deluge of complaints, focus on one area at a time—like their waiting room experience.

2. Break it down. Take each of these “annoying things” and place them in one of three categories:

  • Annoying things that are easy to fix: Things that are easy to correct, like adding a self-addressed stamped envelope to your bills for clients to mail in their payment, or validating their parking when they visit your office.
  • Annoying things that are hard to correct: Things that can be fixed, but that will take more time or money to change—like moving to a more convenient office location, or upgrading to a new practice management system.
  • Annoying things that are impossible to change: Things you can’t control or that have a huge negative impact on your bottom line (like working for free).

3. Fix the easy ones right away and fix the hard ones when you can. Add at least one thing to your firm’s to-do list every month. Share your successes with your clients and ask them to contribute more things to the annoyances list.

4. Prepare your clients to be annoyed. If there are things that you can’t address, at least give your clients a heads-up when they’re about to be annoyed. They will appreciate the warning and stop holding you responsible for the things you truly can’t control.

5. Spend time each month focusing on the “impossible.” Even if there are things you think can’t be fixed, don’t give up. If you can’t eliminate an annoying thing altogether, improve upon it by five or 10 percent.

Matt Homann is the founder of LexThink, a legal innovation consultancy that delivers conferences, retreats and workshops for lawyers and other professionals who want to embrace creative ways to grow their businesses and serve their clients better. He is the author of the award-winning legal blog “the [non]billable hour,” where he shares innovative ways for lawyers and other professionals to be better at what they do. A recovering lawyer, Matthew has been an idea collector his whole life. 

This post originally appeared in January 2012 as “Annoy Your Clients Less: Five Steps” by Matthew Homann.

Illustration © Image Zoo.

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