Legal Marketing: Create an Exceptional Client Experience

What type of experience do you create for your clients?

As the owner of a law firm (or a business of any kind), it’s easy to become so consumed with our own point of view that we never really stop to think about what our clients experience before, during, and after an engagement.

But the client experience you create plays a critical role in the growth of your business.

Do you create “raving fans” that are so blown away by their experience with your law firm that they can’t wait to recommend you to others? Do you create a mediocre experience – not great, not terrible, not memorable? Or do clients walk away underwhelmed or downright unhappy with the engagement?

Client experience matters. This is not about creating warm fuzzy feelings – it’s about creating clients and customers for life. It’s about driving referrals. It’s about creating ambassadors for your law firm that spread the word everywhere they go.

I came across an interesting article early this year and I want to discuss it here. It’s about the “Experience Economy,” a phrase coined by the Harvard Business Review in the late 90s. The premise is simple – in addition to tangible goods and services, consumers today are highly sensitive to the experience they have while doing business. As a result, businesses that provide an exceptional experience wrapped around their products/services have a huge competitive advantage. For example:

Starbucks can charge $5 for a coffee drink that would cost you $2 at a coffee stand or 25 cents to make at home. They’re selling more than coffee – they’re selling the experience of a “third place” between home and work for their customers to socialize, work, study, or relax. In the 90s, when the company began to grow explosively, this was a brand new concept. The experience they created fueled incredible growth, created customer loyalty and justified significantly higher price points.

Admission to Disney’s Magic Kingdom starts at $119 during peak season. Meanwhile, thousands of amusement parks around the country charge between $40 – $60 during peak season. In many cases, these other amusement parks are larger and have a greater variety of rides and attractions. But nobody creates a better experience than Disney. Their attention to detail is unparalleled. My favorite example of this: every night, their crew repaints the entrance gate to the park so that that day’s visitors see a glistening white coat of paint. Every single night. And, it’s a detail that most visitors probably won’t consciously recognize. But Disney knows how to create a memorable experience every step of the way, and that’s why they can charge 2x or 3x the rate of local amusement parks and still draw tens of millions of visitors from across the world each year.

The Mayo Clinic has differentiated themselves in the medical field by focusing on their patient experience. For example, their standard hospital rooms are larger than the industry average and contain more amenities. They’ve placed couches in doctors’ offices to help patients relax and feel more comfortable. They enforce a strict dress code for doctors while meeting with patients – as well as back-office technicians. They don’t keep patients waiting when they’ve got an appointment. Management is known to ask employees to replace their shoelaces if they’re dirty. Their attention-to-detail communicates respect and appreciation to their patients. And it has powerfully differentiated Mayo from other healthcare providers to the point that patients will often travel significant distances and pay more money to be treated at Mayo rather than a more local provider.

So how does this apply to your law firm?

Obviously, providing a great experience doesn’t replace the need for quality legal work. None of the examples above would be sustainable if the actual products and services those businesses provide weren’t acceptable. But if you can engineer an exceptional client experience wrapped around the work you provide, you’re pouring rocket fuel into your business development process. Clients who have an excellent experience become ambassadors for your firm and refer people your way every chance they get. You’ll have the ability to charge above-market rates and still win business. Your staff will be more motivated and bought-in to your mission.

If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around this, think about your own experience as a consumer. When have you had an experience that surpassed your expectations and how did that change the way you felt about the establishment? The Apple Store comes to mind – they’ve completely re-thought the retail shopping experience. (Where are the cash registers??)

Conversely, I just saw a survey breaking down the reasons why restaurant customers decide not to return to a given establishment. Only 14% of the time it’s because of the food. 68% of the time it’s because they’re not happy with the service they received! In this case, experience matters far more than the actual product.

Let’s talk about implementation.

The first thing to consider is what an ideal experience looks like for your target market. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. High net-worth clients who are planning for the future of their estate are looking for a much different experience than an individual facing criminal charges. But here are some things to consider:

  • Your office decor, layout, and amenities. Is your lobby/waiting room pleasant? Do you have drinks available? Self-serve, or does your staff actually serve them?
  • Your office location. Are you located in an area that your target clients want to visit?
  • Your physical appearance. Many lawyers don’t dress as formally as they did ten or twenty years ago. And that can be just fine – but whatever your dress code, make sure you look put-together and professional.
  • The appearance of your staff. Your team serves on the front-line in client engagements – and it’s important that they represent you well. Think about the Mayo Clinic example – the details matter, even down to the shoelaces!
  • Your branding. Think about your website, your logo, your marketing materials – do they represent you in the way you want to be represented? Are they appealing to your target clients?
  • The way your phones are answered. You should have a script or at least clear guidelines. And please, please, please… “Law Office” is not a good way to answer the phone!
  • Client communication policies. Responding to clients in a timely manner makes a big difference. Make it a point to communicate proactively with clients and help them understand what’s going on with their matter.

This list is just the beginning. I suggest that you take some time to map out your client engagement from start to finish – from their initial phone call, to a consultation, to the legal work itself, to the follow-up after the matter is resolved. Pay attention to the details… even down to the shoelaces!

Remember, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution here. First and foremost, the client experience you create needs to be customized for your target clients. A good experience for a client going through a divorce is different than a good experience for a client who’s launching a new business.

How can you create a unique and valuable experience for your clients, every step of the way?

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Daniel Decker

Daniel Decker is a co-founder and Partner at Spotlight Branding. In addition to helping lawyers stand out from the crowd, he spends his time writing, dreaming up new marketing strategies, and coming up with catchy subject lines. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys playing sports, guitar, politics, and Minnesota sports.