Intelligent Office UK: What difference can a better front of house customer service actually make?
Can you remember the last time you experienced great service? It might have been at a restaurant, a client’s reception desk, or the delivery guy smiling as he passed over a package.
Now think about the last time you had bad service, you can probably picture it and remember where it was, possibly even when it was, because psychologically it is easier to remember negative experiences.
As a customer or client, if you receive bad service, it makes you work harder to get what you want. This, in turn, connects you emotionally to the transaction, and because the emotion is not a positive one, it is much more likely to stay with you.
You are more likely to share negative experiences with others, meaning more people will know of the bad service you received. And in the connected world, a bad review can reach people you don’t even know personally.
Great customer service is an art, one often overlooked, not done properly or considered an afterthought by some law firms, however when refined can generate many benefits quietly in the background.
Through excellent customer service, your firm can start to build repeat business, increase the client’s gratitude and willingness to recommend, and create a bond which means there will be a greater likelihood your clients will stick with your firm.
But focusing on customer service transcends the fee earners in a law firm, it needs to be adopted by everyone in the firm who has a client-facing role, and even those in the back office, just in case. Clients need to feel that their needs are being considered whenever they are in your office.
With this in mind, it is important to remember the first thing potential clients will experience is your reception desk.
When a hard-won client comes through your firm’s doors, they expect to be met with a friendly face, someone who has a deep knowledge of your firm, what it does and its value.
This first point of contact is incredibly important as you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
In a fiercely competitive market like the legal sector, it is imperative that your reception team deliver exceptional service to each client, by creating an environment in which they feel comfortable, welcome and looked after but without being overwhelmed.
Establishing a warm relationship with your clients is crucial to creating an experience which will prompt word-of-mouth marketing, build loyalty to your brand, and therefore grow interest in your practice.
Top five tips for reception teams
- Know your local area: The best places for lunch, different bars for different occasions, the nearest ATM, pharmacy, post office, hotels, train and tube stations, as well as taxi ranks. Have printed cards laminated and ready to hand out.
- Who’s who and what they like: Study the visitors list the night before and add any useful information to the handover. Are they a regular visitor? Can you welcome them back and serve a coffee just how they like it? Are they a new starter you can welcome to the firm?
- Know the history of the firm and surrounding area: Being able to engage in light conversation is a key part of any warm welcome. Easy topics to spark-up a conversation might be the history of the firm (or maybe arrange a meeting with the firms marketing department to get some ideas) or local landmarks and views.
- The little things that count: Always offer refreshments, WIFI codes and phone chargers whilst clients are waiting in reception, or when hosting to the room.
- What’s on: Offer knowledge of local events or theatre shows, particularly for clients who are in town for a few days. Check travel updates each morning for the week ahead, rail and tube delays or strikes.
If reception is what clients see first, then your administration team (secretaries, PAs, HR managers, even I.T. support) is the first department clients will contact. Administrative staff and fee earners’ personal assistants act as the bridge between client and lawyer, and as such should be aware of their customer service responsibilities.
Things like quickly answering emails in a personable and professional way, calling people back promptly and being knowledgeable when answering any questions all go a long way in building up client relationships. Even remembering clients’ names when they come into the office shows that your staff and therefore your firm, care about them.
Doing each of these things will put your firm in a positive light, meaning it will stand out from the crowd. Building loyalty to your brand through simple and easily achievable ends is highly effective at gaining long-term clients.
Customer service is increasingly important
Law firms often miss opportunities when they recruit front of house teams, because they only choose those with a history within legal services, rather than experience in the service industry or similar.
For example, at Intelligent Office, one of our top front of house managers has a history working in the events and hospitality industry. Experience like this is greatly beneficial when meeting clients and managing a team of forward-facing staff.
Law firms should remember to recruit people who are naturally helpful, energetic and service-focused as there is only so much that can be taught. Someone with a natural instinct to be friendly and obliging is more able to be trained up in the legal industry than someone who has experience in legal work but is lacking in customer service skills.
Some people may well be extremely talented and quick to learn but are simply not ‘people pleasing’. Taking care of a client’s needs should be as equally satisfying for your staff as it is for the client.
It must be said that driving good customer service is not easy, it takes hard work and a dedicated team to push for the best. It goes beyond the partners and fee earners, it is the responsibility of everyone at the firm to strive for excellent customer service.
Your firm should see improving a team’s customer service skills as an investment rather than a cost, because firms that embrace excellent customer service are among those that will be remembered, and those who will keep their clients and gain new ones more easily.