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5 Ways To Make Your Client Feel Important

by Trey Ryder

Often, clients change law firms because of what they perceive to be rudeness or the feeling of indifference by their lawyers. This is why you and your employees should make sure every client knows he is an important part of your law practice. This must be apparent in both your words and actions, as follows:

WAY #1: Make every contact pleasant.

When anyone calls your office, make sure the person answering the telephone is pleasing, courteous and attentive.

Recently, I called a man I didn’t know at his home in New York. I identified myself, and he stopped me right there. He said, “Just a moment, please. Let me turn down the television so I can give you my full attention.” Even though he asked me to wait, he told me how I would benefit -- so I didn’t mind.

If your operator must put a caller on hold, does he or she ask the caller, “May I put you on hold for a moment?” Most people don’t mind holding if the operator politely asks. But when the caller hears “Hold please” and then an impersonal click, he knows the operator has more important things to do.

Also, I like to know the name of the person on the other end of the telephone. Conversations are more friendly when two people can call each other by name. I urge you to ask everyone who answers the telephone to identify themselves when they answer.

WAY #2: Help your client park and find your office.

Have you ever tried to find an office in a new building?

Even if you can find the building -- which itself may be a challenge -- finding an individual office may require a team of bloodhounds. And in some new lobbies, finding the building’s directory may be as hard as finding the office itself.

One easy answer is to send your prospect a map before his appointment. Or, give him clear directions. If you can provide special parking spaces for your clients, all the better.

When I was in my early 20s, my business lawyer moved into a new office building. As I started looking for a place to park, I saw this painted on the curb: “Reserved for Clients of (law firm name).” What’s more, the space was covered.

Best of all, the space was the first parking space off the main sidewalk entering the building. So, of the hundreds of cars in the parking lot, I had the closest space to the entrance.

Reserved parking spaces for clients increased this lawyer’s overhead. But I guarantee you, I felt like the most important person in the world when I drove into that covered parking stall. I knew that I was getting the same treatment that the firm’s corporate clients received, even though I was a kid fresh out of college.

WAY #3: Invite your client into a comfortable reception area.

Is your reception room furniture comfortable? Is the atmosphere pleasant?

Are your magazines neatly arranged -- or do they look like they’ve been attacked by a band of wild monkeys? Are they recent issues, or do they announce the coming 1984 Summer Olympics?

I was so impressed with the reserved parking space my lawyer provided, can you guess what happened when I walked into his reception area?

First, the receptionist said “Hello” and asked if she could get me something cold to drink. Of course, I accepted.

Then I sat down in a beautifully decorated room. All the latest magazines were nearly displayed in their places on the coffee table. A telephone was at my fingertips in case I had calls that just wouldn’t wait. (This was long before cell phones.)

And each lawyer in the firm had his business card holder stocked with cards on the end table. Each holder was arranged a short distance apart so people with awkward fingers wouldn’t knock them over.

Soon the receptionist returned with my drink. No, not in a pop can, but in a handsome glass tumbler. (Pop cans wouldn’t go with the room’s décor.) And inside the glass were sparkling ice cubes. Not the funny shaped cubes ejected from ice machines. But honest-to-goodness hard-frozen cubes you get from a bag of ice, like you might serve at a party.

Every time I entered this law office I felt important. And, as you can guess by now, I really enjoyed visiting my attorney.

WAY #4: Keep your client at ease during your interview.

Clients often assume their matter is their lawyer’s least important case. They reach this conclusion based on little signals they pick up.

When you escort a client to your office, do you still accept phone calls? If you do, you are admitting that incoming calls are more important than this client. The nicest words your client hears are when you tell your secretary to hold your calls. Your client knows that for the duration of his appointment, he has your undivided attention. He knows that his problem will be the most important thing on your mind.

Where do you and your client sit? If you sit at your desk, your client may feel as if your desk is a barrier separating the two of you. Why not come around and sit next to your client? It’s much more friendly and personal.

If you need to review paperwork, you might sit next to each other at a conference table.

WAY #5: Keep the lines of communication open.

Before your client leaves your office, make sure he knows you welcome his calls and e-mails. Clients need this reassurance.

If you’re busy when your client calls, return his call as quickly as possible. If you know you won’t be able to call soon, ask your secretary to call and set up a phone appointment. Most clients don’t mind waiting if they know you have reserved time exclusively for them.

SUMMARY: When you make your client feel important, you add value to your services. This is an easy way to gain a big competitive advantage.

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