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Three C’s of Client Service Excellence

By Zana Tomich

What are we talking about when we say “client service excellence”?

client service excellence

Talk to anyone who has hired a lawyer, and they’ll tell you: They want more than legal advice. Sure, expertise is non-negotiable, but when it comes down to what really matters, it’s all about client service. That’s the make-or-break factor in sustaining a client relationship. But here’s the tricky part: No two clients are the same. So, there’s no magic formula for serving all clients effectively.

What Are We Talking About When We Say “Client Service”?

It’s not just about being a good lawyer. It’s about everything else — understanding clients, being there for them and making them feel valued. In my journey as a lawyer and small law firm co-founder, I’ve realized clients appreciate three things, regardless of who they are or what they need. I call them the three C’s: curiosity, communication and conscientiousness.

The Three C’s

Let’s unpack these three C’s and explore how they can make a huge (positive) difference in your client relationships.

1. Curiosity: Investing in Client Success

Being curious in the context of client service excellence requires a genuine desire to understand the person across the table: their business, their fears, their ambitions, and the unique needs that brought them to your door.

Curiosity equips a lawyer with the ability to tailor their service, making each client feel understood on a human level. It’s about personalizing your approach. Maybe your client prefers simpler language over legal jargon (almost all do), or perhaps they appreciate detailed insight into possible risks or prefer one mode of communication over another. Clients don’t always verbalize their anxieties, preferences or questions without being prompted. A curious mindset helps you sense that unspoken hesitance or confusion, encouraging a conversation that addresses their silent concerns.

Moreover, curiosity extends beyond individuals to industries. When you’re curious, you immerse yourself in the client’s business landscape, understanding the challenges and trends of their world. This isn’t just about impressing them with your homework. It’s about providing insights they haven’t considered, connecting dots they didn’t realize were consequential, and preempting risks they hadn’t anticipated.

But what does this all boil down to? Trust. Clients feel it when their concerns are genuinely understood and their objectives truly prioritized. They know when they’re seen not just as more billable hours but as people. This level of service builds rapport that’s every bit as valuable as a successful case outcome.

2. Communication: Keeping Clients Informed and Putting Them at Ease

Effective communication is at the core of a successful lawyer-client relationship. Clients rely on their lawyers not just to represent them but to guide them through the legal process and keep them informed every step of the way.

One of the first steps in establishing strong communication is explaining legal processes and expectations in clear, everyday language — as opposed to legal jargon. This helps clients understand what’s going on, which in turn builds their confidence in you as their lawyer.

Clients also appreciate being kept in the loop. Regular updates, whether face to face, over a call or through email, go a long way. Don’t wait for major developments — consistent, proactive communication about their case’s status gives clients reassurance and a sense of involvement. It tells them their case matters and is getting the attention it deserves.

Listening is just as crucial. Effective communication involves understanding clients’ concerns and questions, acknowledging their feelings and responding thoughtfully. This approach doesn’t just solve their problems but shows empathy, which can strengthen the relationship.

At times, lawyers face challenges in communication. These can stem from different cultural backgrounds, emotional stress or misunderstandings. It’s vital to identify barriers quickly and address them with patience and flexibility. Adapting communication styles to meet a client’s needs, clarifying misunderstandings promptly, and approaching sensitive topics with care are practices that can help overcome these hurdles.

When lawyers embody conscientiousness, they take ownership of their clients’ issues as if they were their own. To be conscientious, being proactive is key. This involves anticipating problems, preparing for various scenarios, and keeping the client’s best interests at the forefront. This means staying on top of the big issues but also following up on loose ends that, while seemingly minor, could significantly impact the client’s situation.

Clients with conscientious lawyers know they are cared for and their matters are in diligent hands. This helps create a cycle of trust, respect and success. It leads to positive client testimonials, professional referrals and a rewarding sense of accomplishment in providing high-quality service.

In essence, conscientiousness is the commitment to going the extra mile, not because one has to but because one believes it’s the right thing to do. It’s what distinguishes a competent legal practitioner from an exceptional one.

Integrating the Three C’s in Law Practice

The pursuit of client service excellence hinges on embodying the core principles of curiosity, communication and conscientiousness within your practice and throughout your firm.

Cultivating Skills Across the Board

Achieving this begins with comprehensive skill-building initiatives. Firms need to prioritize training and mentorship that reinforces client service in every action. This helps ensure a unified, client-centric service approach.

Shaping a Supportive Firm Culture

Beyond individual skill-building, the larger challenge is cultivating a firmwide culture that exudes these values. Creating such an environment involves more than mandatory training; it means establishing a workspace that encourages open dialogue, mutual learning, accountability and an overarching commitment to client satisfaction.

Assessment and Adaptation

The efficacy of these efforts must be continuously evaluated to ensure they meet client needs and expectations. Implementing robust feedback processes, analyzing client retention and satisfaction, and reassessing internal practices are all crucial.

The journey to institutionalizing these values isn’t without challenges, but it reaps immeasurable rewards. By embracing the three C’s, we can elevate our practices from providing standard legal services to offering a holistic, enriching experience that clients remember and want to return to.

Image © iStockPhoto.com.

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Categories: Client Service
Originally published November 2, 2023
Last updated December 16, 2023
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Zana Tomich Zana Tomich

Zana Tomich is co-founding partner of Dalton & Tomich, PLC based in Detroit, and provides outside general counsel services to privately held companies. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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