People love texting and live chat. Neither are likely to be involved in the legal field, but that technology still has an influence on client expectation. It's sped up the pace of service and communication in other industries. And even though on one level clients understand that the same will not apply to legal services, the energy is still there.
People get impatient if they don't receive a quick and accurate response. You can't promise to respond within 4 hours and miss that window. If you do, people will go on social media, complain to the bar, complain to their friends, etc.
But if you promise to respond in 24 hours and respond in 20 minutes, people may still go to the same outlets to complain. Even if you exceed the expectations you've set, faster than you can say, "I'm calling now," they've launched their attack.
The bell has been rung. The damage is done. When clients become emotional, it's like the world suddenly is on the slide under a microscope, and the only visible piece is the problem. They don't even recognize the impact of their actions until it's too late.
So, what's the solution? How do you set and meet an expectation without getting dinged for it?
One advantage you have as an attorney that online services do not have is the power of pre-conversation. You can, right up front, during the intake have the conversation of what to expect for response time. But don't just share what it is, share why. And when you do, make sure it's in the context of the benefit that time offers them.
You can have support staff available, too. Technology, as wonderful as it is, is not personal. Technology cannot hear clients, no matter how urgent their matter is. But, a well-trained person can, and that yields incredible relief.
Absent another person in your office to speak to, clients will go to whoever will listen, wherever they happen to be. They'll post on social media or call the bar association. I've even seen someone picket in front of their attorney's office. So, if you happen to be a solo practitioner with nobody on staff, it may help to have a virtual assistant or someone who can at least answer urgent calls remotely.
Although you can't unring a bell, you can offer other ways to access someone at various points along the path before they reach the bell.
Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash
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