If you’re dealing with an unhappy client and want to prevent matters from escalating, the first thing to do is stop talking.
Start listening to your client instead. Find out why they’re disgruntled. Ask for specifics. Above all, don’t argue, react angrily, make admissions, or start defending yourself.
Document what the client says – including their specific complaints about your performance – without rebuttal. If the circumstances could possibly give rise to a malpractice claim or ethics grievance, contact your professional liability carrier for risk management guidance.
“When customers reach out with a problem, you have seconds to listen, understand, and emphasize,” according to this newsletter article. “A poor experience can compound the issue, but a positive one can build a long-term relationship.”
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How to Keep Your Clients Happy
Put your clients first. Always keep your client informed about the progress and status of their case. This may require input from all members of the firm working on the case— not just the responsible attorney.
Solicit client feedback continuously. At the first hint things are going sideways, swing into risk management/claims avoidance mode.
Take a team approach to client relations. Here are some recommendations form business writer Jessica Elliott and the US Chamber of Commerce: “(a) Document customer complaints in a customer relationship management (CRM) program; (b) provide customer service scripts for employees and train them on handling challenging interactions; (c) create a searchable customer service knowledge base to answer questions or concerns quickly and consistently; (d) set key performance indicators (KPIs) for complaint resolution, average handle time, and cost per resolution; (e) use CRM or helpdesk software tools to set reminders for following up with dissatisfied customers; (f) examine customer feedback, identifying trends or patterns, and fixing the root cause of common problems.”
Put your client relations guidelines in writing. This policy should address how often clients are contacted and what events will trigger contact. Create templates for status reports and client updates. Use case activity logs. Audit files to ensure consistent communication.
Manage client expectations. Ask how the client prefers to be contacted. By phone, email or text? How often? Would they rather be contacted at home, work or neither? Create a communication protocol for each file.
Know the rules. Rule 1.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct says a lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform clients of any decision or circumstance that requires informed consent, (2) consult with clients about the means by which to accomplish their objectives, (3) keep clients reasonably informed about their case status, (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, and (5) consult with clients about relevant limitations on your conduct. The rule also requires you to explain matters sufficiently so that clients can make good decisions.
Show empathy. “Start each call or message on a good note using soft skills like active listening and empathy,” writes Jessica Elliott for the US. Chamber of Commerce. “On a basic level, people just want to be heard. Repeating their issue to them is one way to show you’re listening. Also, simply saying a heartfelt, ‘I understand’ can go a long way.”
Source: US Chamber of Commerce
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