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Client Service That Sets You Apart
In this multi-part series, we explore the components of an integrated business development training curriculum. Click here to read our previous posts: Part 1 (Intro to the Matrix), Part 2 (Product Knowledge), Part 3 (Interpersonal Skills) and Part 4 (Reputation).
Over the past two months, we’ve detailed strategies for designing a comprehensive business development training program. We end our series discussing one of the most essential aspects of business development: client service. These days, most firms recognize that the best source of new work is a firm’s current roster of clients. Clients know their attorneys, how they work and the quality of their product. Study after study, as well as previous experiences, tell us that the smartest business development strategy is to protect and expand work with current clients. How can we do that? Deliver memorable client service.
Creating a Client Service Pledge
The first step to memorable client service is to, well, memorialize the firm’s current client service standards. What is the firm willing to do for every client? Most commitments will be simple and straightforward, such as providing every client with cell phone access to the relationship partner or promising a response within a certain amount of time. Think of these service components as the firm’s default client service pledge.
Sometimes, the default components of a client service pledge are more easily remembered if they are enumerated, i.e. “Our 8-Point Client Service Pledge.” The pledge can be developed, refined and disseminated across the firm. For example, a firm might commit to a six-month training period when everyone in the firm is expected to attend a brief session (or take an online tutorial) and become familiar with the default pledge.
Customizing the Pledge
The Wicker Park partners know that “one size fits one.” Every client has different preferences and challenges. Tailor the default client service pledge to each client—think of mass customization—and create memorable client service.
Begin a second round of seminars (and online instruction) to tackle the concept of customization. Ask the relationship partner responsible for a major client to “introduce” her client at a brown bag seminar. The presentation might include client executives. Videotape the presentation and make it available for internal use. The presentations should encourage attorneys and staff to think creatively about their clients’ needs. Regularly scheduled presentations will help the firm keep its client service ethos fresh, innovative and engaging.
What more can be said about the value of client teams? Most firms of any size have them in place—some formal, others less so. Client team success depends on a few key variables, starting with an effective team leader and strong firm support reflected in compensation and resources. There are many ways to establish and grow client teams through training. I once worked with a marketing partner to conduct brown bag seminars for client team leaders. We devoted the time to testing each team leader on how well he or she knew his/her client. The discussions often helped the team leaders understand their leadership responsibilities and most effectively provide support to the rest of the team.
These suggestions will only work if the firm communicates directly with its clients to learn what memorable client service means and how well the firm is meeting those standards.
Whether a firm trains its lawyers to conduct client feedback interviews or hires an outside consultant like Wicker Park to assist, all attorneys need to know how to regularly check in with clients and gather information on client needs. Training can help. Consider: At your next firm or practice group retreat, assemble the attorneys into groups of eight to 12. Ask two in the group to role-play a common client service scenario (i.e. an unhappy client with a surprise invoice). One attorney is the client, and the other is the relationship partner. The rest of the group observes and critiques. If conducted in a spirit of collegiality, the sessions will help attorneys learn important listening and other skills essential for client service.
Building a program around a client service pledge, incorporating a customized component for individual clients, working with client teams and developing a client feedback protocol are all very achievable through training.
One final note: As we mentioned, this post concludes our series on designing a successful business development training program. We have one final helpful tool to offer, an audit template found by clicking here: Business Development Training Assessment. This document, utilizing the ADDIE process, shows you how to assess your current training and better understand gaps in that training. As always, please reach out to us here at Wicker Park if we can help you figure out next steps and strategies.
For questions or to learn how McMurdo Consulting and Wicker Park Group might help your firm assess current training or create a one-size-fits-one integrated business development training strategy, contact Kevin at email@example.com or 206.849.5358.