Converting Short-Term Customers into Life-Long Clients

Ask Alexa for a good quote on customer service, and she might come up with this gem from Jeff Bezos:

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Whether you’re an Amazon amateur or an aficionado, there’s something nobody can deny about how Amazon is operating– the company is steadily setting a new standard for customer service. In a recent (and rare) public interview with the Economic Club of Washington D.C. (covered by the Wall Street Journal), Bezos accentuated his company’s commitment to service by saying, “the No. 1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive, compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor.”

In a recent article, I wrote about the “age of the consumer,” and what technology-empowered clients mean for the legal profession and the need for firms to become more client-centric. Now more than ever, we are exposed to an unlimited potential customer or client base. Through various channels, we can direct potential clients to our firm’s website and our bios, show off our expertise, and gather potential client contact information in one fell swoop. But what do we do once we convert those clicks into clients? And perhaps more importantly, how can we take one-time customers and turn them into long-term clients? Long-term clients trust you and your work, naturally, and believe that you and the job that you perform are adding value to their business or their life. Your professional skillset and integrity will obviously land you some clients, but keeping them around for a significant amount of time takes a concerted effort.

In the Attorney-At-Work article Six Ways to Make Clients Happy to Pay Your Bills, Lisa Astin Tarlton (a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association) recommends that lawyers “go the extra mile. Demonstrate that a client’s relationship with you is worth more than the legal work you perform,” suggesting tactics like introducing your clients to others in your business network who might be able to assist them otherwise. Tarlton also emphasizes the need for lawyers to focus on consistent and clear communication, extending even to the bills that you send your client. “I guarantee no one really wants to pay for an hour of your time, but if you can describe well what you did in that hour — and couch it in terms that show the value of the activity to them — clients will know more clearly why it makes good sense to pay you for it,” a notion that mirrors the sentiments of advisors and consultants outside of the legal profession as well.

Client retention nearly always comes down to communication. Legal marketing guru Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute includes communication in his 6 Tips for Creating a Client Retention Culture at Your Law Firm, saying, “Nothing will send a profitable client packing faster than poor communication. It’s a bad habit and one you can break, even if you’re a busy solo or small firm. Put a communications process in place to fill in for the shortfalls you’ve created.”

Looking at a more consumer-centric space, the State of the Connected Consumer Reportproduced by Salesforce shares important statistics on long-term customer care that is directly applicable to how we handle our clients in law firms, including the following:

  • 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business.
  • 74% of millennials /Gen Z-ers have switched vendors for a more consumer-like experience.
  • 59% of customers (and the majority of business buyers) say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business

And to bring things full circle, the Salesforce research also shows that “Amazon-like buying experiences” are the expectation for 77% of millennials/Gen Z-ers, 66% of Gen X-ers, and 54% of baby boomers. So basically, the “Amazon Experience” is the expectation for the majority of your potential clients.

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