Research has shown that there are four primary reasons clients leave law firms:
9% are poached by competitors.
10% leave for personal reasons — the case is over, they decide not to pursue the matter, etc.
14% leave because they are dissatisfied with the service.
67% leave because of an attitude of indifference from the attorney or law firm staff.
That means you can have a direct effect on retaining at least 81% of your clients if you do the right things to keep them.
Preventing clients from leaving you starts with planning and a commitment to client retention. Here are some tips:
Pick profitable people. Sounds simple, yes? But you’d be amazed how many attorneys fail to keep the profit picture in mind when chasing new sources of revenue. You do not want to be the guy or gal who signs everyone who calls. Look at your most profitable clients and create a profile of your ideal client, then qualify your leads to see who fits.
Communicate clearly. Nothing will send a profitable client packing faster than poor communications. 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. And remember: when you are communicating with clients, be sure to leave the legal jargon out of the conversation. Stay on their comprehension level and you’ll alleviate the opportunities for miscommunication.
Set some expectations. Unmet expectations are another big reasons clients leave the fold. From day one of your new relationship with a client, you need to be sure they have realistic expectations of the services you can provide and the outcome they can expect.
Be really responsive. The most successful firms I know have a process for returning calls and emails — usually within an hour of receiving them. If you’re going to be in court all day, have your email and phone messages monitored by someone in the office and task them with replying (but not with giving legal advice, unless they are also an attorney). Even if it’s to say you are currently unavailable, this at least lets clients know you are aware they need you and will get back to them as soon as you can.
Listen. Sometimes clients just want a sounding board. You may have heard the problem a thousand times before, but it’s fresh to them — and important. Give the courtesy of being a good listener.
Maintain visibility. Don’t just make an appearance when there’s money on the table. Even if you have tasked associates with the work, make sure you maintain some visibility with the client throughout the duration of the case to ensure client loyalty.