When clients work with your law firm, they don’t want to feel like Case #13746. They want to be Mr. Parker, the firefighter, who loves to fish on the weekend with his two boys and vacations in Mexico with his wife and friends each winter, who is seeking compensation for his left shoulder fracture. Acknowledging the whole human and seeing them as a person and not as a case is critical to building a positive company culture.
Personalizing your service to clients and treating them like individuals will make them feel taken care of and acknowledged. This can go a long way toward comforting them during what is certainly a stressful period of their lives. In return, your clients will reward your firm with repeat business, referrals, and greater success.
It’s About the Person, Not the Numbers
In a high-volume workers’ compensation firm such as ours, it’s particularly important to attach some humanity to the person on the end of the phone. Without it, staff can easily slip into short phone calls, short tempers, and an attitude of annoyance toward the very people who are paying the bills.
To see our clients as full people, we encourage our intake specialists to gather as much information as possible about a client’s family, kids, grandkids, pets, hobbies, and so on during the onboarding process. The basic facts about the person and their injury are just the skeleton; the information about them as people begins to attach flesh to those bones. Then they ask for a photograph of the client, which puts a true human face to the client.
When the team sees a client as an actual human with a family, dreams, and ambitions, they work harder on the client’s behalf. They form relationships with the client, and this builds trust. When concerned, dedicated, well-trained staff build their own relationship and trust with the clients, this relieves the pressure from attorneys to field all the client calls.
The Power of a Simple Picture
If you doubt the impact of attaching a face to a client, consider the research done by Daniel Pink. Daniel Pink, a former lawyer turned bestselling author on the human condition, discusses this concept in his New York Times bestselling book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. He tells the story of Yehonatan Turner, an Israeli radiologist and a resident at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Radiologists have little patient interaction. They sit and review CT scans to determine what should be done for the patients. It is long, lonely work. Occasionally, in reviewing the scans, the radiologists get incidental findings—that is, they find something of note that has nothing to do with the original reason for the patient’s visit. For example, a patient may have a suspected tear in the knee, and the radiologist may, while examining the knee scan, find an unrelated cyst.
Turner and his team took 300 patient photographs and attached them to the scans. As the radiologists began their assessments, a photo of the respective patient would pop-up on their screen. The team recorded the radiologists’ CT scan findings, those that related to the purpose of the scan and those that were incidental.
Three months later, Turner’s team showed those same scans to the same group of radiologists, but this time, without the accompanying patient photographs. Amazingly, they missed 80 percent of the incidental findings they’d previously identified. So, when they felt like they were dealing with real people, they were 80 percent more likely to spot incidental findings that could have a huge impact on a patient’s health.
Build Strong Relationships with Empathy and Trust
Studies like Yehonatan Turner’s illustrate the need to turn clients into humans. In any high-volume practice, we can unintentionally anonymize our clients. Seeing details of a client’s background, understanding them as a person with parents and children, living a life full of hopes and wishes just like everyone else, we can start to build empathy for the client.
Trust is also vital in achieving the best client outcomes. Without trust, it’s almost impossible to motivate a client to take action. They’re slow to send information. They’ll easily become upset with a lengthy legal process. And they’ll struggle to accept bad news, such as a proposed settlement they weren’t expecting. If there is no trust in the relationship, a client will not believe you when they say it’s in their best interest to accept a settlement.
Team members can create stronger, more trusting bonds with the client and ultimately try to achieve better results for them. We’re still refining our process here, but it has already been a game-changer for us. Our empathy and drive to do well for the clients is increasing with every step along this path. In turn, we have seen our average case value increase.
Always Remember the People
If your team is in the habit of treating clients like cases, not people, have patience. Remind yourselves that there is value in getting to know clients, understanding them, and empathizing with them. Treat them like you’d want to be treated.
A client going through any lawsuit, especially an injury-related case, is likely dealing with extra stress. By personalizing the service you give them, not only will your firm grow in size and reputation, but your employees will also have the opportunity to directly improve your clients’ lives and bring positivity into the world.
For more advice on improving client satisfaction, you can find The Case for Culture on Amazon.
Eric Farber is the author of the bestselling book, The Case for Culture, How to Stop Being a Slave to Your Law Firm, Grow Your Practice and Be Happy. Eric is on a mission to change how law firms operate by showing lawyers the value of putting culture first. During his twenty-five years as a lawyer, Eric has lived the transformation from scarcity to abundance that becomes possible when you shift your perspective and prioritize people. As the CEO and chief legal officer of Pacific Workers’ Compensation Law Center, Eric’s focus on culture helped him build a seven-figure firm that’s gone from four people to fifty in just over five years, been an Inc. 5000 company twice, was named to the Bay Area 100 list of fastest-growing companies, and spent two consecutive years in the top fifty of Law Firm 500.
The Case for Culture was named by Forbes Magazine as a Top 8 Book to “Reconsider How You Manage Relationships“.