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Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Customer Service and the Nature of Attorneys
Yeah, there is actually a Nintendo game called Apollo Justice, Ace Attorney, where the player may either operate to gather evidence or operate in the courtroom. This isn't about that game - for I've never played it. I simply like how the graphic depicts some views of attorneys, for better or for worse.
Because let's face it. When it comes to customer service, it's all about perception. And sometimes the perception we have of roles in our society are skewed. I believe one such role with a skewed view from the general public is the attorney. Here's why: we see TV shows or films that depict attorneys as extroverts, aggressive and sometimes with something "up their sleeve". The Atticus Finches (character of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird)seem to be a thing of the past unless you are a Dan Brown or John Grisham fan who usually focuses on the lawyer who represents the underdog.
If our perspective is in line with the general public, we distrust them, for they seem to act based on the bottom line - the almighty dollar. In truth, attorneys are most commonly introverts. They are book worms who enjoy researching, which in the case of discovering legal precedence and establishing a case for their client, is on target with what we would expect them to do. Therefore when it comes to being responsive, they fall short.
With high customer service, being responsive is a huge deal. As in other customer service perceptions, from attorney to client, there is a huge gap in perception about whether the attorney is responsive. Perhaps it starts with understanding what exactly being responsive means.
An attorney would claim to respond to messages in timely fashion - within days of a client reaching out to them. Yet a client wants them to respond within hours. What stands in the attorney's way? Their endless task list. Face it. The attorney is task-driven moreso than relationship driven, even when they are "into" people. The introvert, whether task or people focused, prefers distance, space and time to mull things over. But with customer service, it's not about the attorney. It's about the client.
From the client's view, responsiveness not only means responding within hours, but responding in such a way they (client) feel valued. When the attorney creates a working relationship of understanding, interpreting what the client needs, they feel valued. Yet most attorneys, although they can intellectually appreciate what customer service is, they are hard-pressed to demonstrate it. An attorney is the sort of individual which is minimally self-aware. And with that comes the inability to gain awareness in what their client wants - this limits the attorney's ability to connect. Without that connection, truth and trust have their limits.
In the professional market of offering world-class legal service, quality customer service leads to referrals, further business association and dynamic reputation that goes beyond the final decision. It impacts the experience the client felt, the trust they develop and the awe and respect the attorney deserves. For those attorneys who are looking for peace of mind and self-satisfaction, responsiveness is key to their livelihood. They understand the benefits to delivering from the client's point of view. To them, professional coaching and support in the behaviors that lead to the best client experience is crucial. With the ability to connect and then to further this responsiveness to a strong focus on the client, customer satisfaction shifts from the average to above average. Couple that with strong research and thorough preparation and the client is holding the legal professional in awe.
What will it take for you to be responsive? I hope it includes asking good questions that lead to understanding. Also pulling self away from tasks to respond quickly to client needs while also disciplining self to focus on what is important. Soon you'll be breaking the assumption of the nature of attorneys and possibly redefining it.