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Winning Small Law Clients: Tips from a Shoe Salesperson

Want to Win More Clients Watch a Shoe Salesperson, Says Survey

Law firms can learn a thing or two about client service by emulating a Nordstrom shoe salesperson, says a new ABA Benchmark Client Intake Study. The survey, which aims to get a real sense for what prospective clients experience when trying to engage with a law firm, concludes law firms are missing the client service mark in a big way.

“Overall, the standard of customer service law firms should evaluate themselves against is the shoe salesperson at Nordstrom, not the ineffective, substandard experience delivered by the law firm across the street,” said Conrad Saam, author of survey report and a member of the Social Media Legal Blogs and Websites Committee.

The Nordstrom customer service approach is widely lauded in the business industry for its razor-sharp focus on providing exceptional customer service, above all else.

Legal Client Service Lagging Behind

In stark contrast, the study shows, law firms are lagging behind in client service and the results, in some instances, are sobering. Here’s a brief rundown of the study’s key findings:

  • One out of every three prospective client callers were unable to speak with an actual person at a law firm and, astonishingly, 91 percent were unable to reach a lawyer.
  • More than 40 percent of firms took three or more days to respond to a prospect’s voicemail or web-generated client inquiry form.
  • 56 percent of individuals who answered the firm’s phone failed to identify themselves by name and nearly 50 percent of those individuals failed to ask for the caller’s name in return.
  • One out of every four callers didn’t even hear the name of the firm it was calling when the call was answered.
  • 30 percent of callers were placed on hold for more than 10 seconds and nearly 25 percent were placed on hold for 1-2 minutes.

Not surprisingly, when presented with the results of the survey, many firms were “appalled” by their performance.

“Across the board, firms’ failed to deliver an outstanding first impression to potential clients,” said Mr. Saam.

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4 Ways to Make the Nordstrom Difference

The difference between how these firms approach selling legal services and how a Nordstrom shoe salesperson sells shoes, comes down to delivering a fantastic experience.

Mr. Saam says firms can improve the client experience by taking a few of the following actions:

1. Stop Marketing, Start Converting. Invest less marketing dollars on pay-per-click advertising and law firm directories and instead spend more time ensuring clients who attempt to reach the firm are treated with a Nordstrom level of customer service, at the very first touch point. Other studies have shown shows the number one thing prospective clients look for in an attorney is responsiveness. The good news?  The bar is so low that any additional effort will stand out amongst competitors.

2. Answer the Phone. A real person should answer the phone, whenever possible. For firms who don’t want to “waste an attorney’s time by putting them on the phone with a prospective client,” think twice about employing that strategy. Just imagine walking through the Nordstrom shoe department, unable to find a salesperson and unable to try on some shoes. Would that motivate you to buy shoes? Not likely.

3. First Impressions Count. Going back to the prospect who called and didn’t hear the firm’s name when the call was answered, instead of using a “non-descriptive law firm greeting,” spell out the firm’s name and demonstrate it’s not interchangeable from other firms down the block.

4. Make Personal Connections. Everyone’s favorite word is their own name and using someone’s name consistently ranks as one of the easiest ways to build rapport and trust between strangers, says Mr. Saam. Lesson learned, answer the phone by name and ask for the caller’s name in return.

For those wondering these simple customer-centric actions really work, just take a look at Nordstrom’s shoes sales volume, adds Mr. Saam.

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This post is by Carla Del Bove, who provides support to the business of law software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
12 Tips for Implementing a Small Law Strategy

Photo credit:  Flickr, Elliott Plack, Nordstrom Towson Town Center (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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This bio page is used to publish submissions by contributing writers. We welcome contributions from the legal community and are especially keen for contributions from our customers. Please review previous submissions published here and the “About Us” section to get a sense for what topics work for this blog. All posts must be original content not published elsewhere for at least 30 days. To submit an idea for consideration, please email blsssocial@lexisnexis.com.