angry at the phone
Like you, clients will get upset if they are treated badly or are faced with surprises. Do you appreciate the things that you do that upset or annoy your clients? From the Managing a Better Professional Services Firm booklet, here are the things you should avoid doing that annoy clients most.

  • Not returning phone calls: This is one of the most common complaints about lawyers. To avoid this problem, set and control client expectations from the very start of the relationship. Establish a reasonable policy on how quickly calls will be returned (e.g. 24 hours, end of the next business day, or whatever is appropriate for your area of law or clients), inform the client of the policy, and abide by it. Set up a mechanism for staff to return calls within the established timeframe if you are not available.
  • Not replying to e-mail messages: Many clients expect virtually instant answers to e-mail messages. How many times has a client called you five minutes after sending an e-mail and said: “Did you get my e-mail? I wanted to make sure you got it, and I need my questions answered right away”. Again, set a reasonable policy on replying to e-mails, inform the client of that policy, and abide by it.
  • Making clients wait in reception: Do you remember how you felt the last time your dentist made you wait? Don’t make your client feel the same way. Get off the phone if a client is waiting for a scheduled appointment. If you are in the middle of a phone call when a client arrives, make sure you are notified in some way that a client is waiting.
  • Long periods of apparent inactivity on a matter: Clients always want to feel their matter is moving towards a resolution. In some areas of law, such as litigation, there can be long periods of inactivity. Don’t assume clients will understand why there is a delay. Make sure they are kept informed of the status of a matter, and when they can expect it to move forward. Send copies of all incoming and outgoing correspondence to the client.
  • Not delivering on promises of performance: Don’t make promises to deliver that you cannot keep. Be realistic in your assessment of what you can accomplish and when. When it comes to deadlines, you can guarantee a happy client if you under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Not delivering on a promised outcome: Be careful not to promise an unlikely or impossible outcome or resolution on a matter. Extra caution is warranted here as clients will hear what they want to hear when it comes to a promised outcome. To protect yourself, clearly document your advice to clients on what the expected outcome will be.
  • Sending clients a very large bill without warning or explanation: This scenario calls for an in-person meeting and explanation. Better yet, avoid it altogether with a strict retainer policy that requires a sufficient retainer at the start of a matter, regular or milestone billing, and a retainer replenishment at each step along the way.

If you make a mistake or fall down on the level of service you provide to a client, acknowledge it to them, sincerely apologize, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.