Face it, we are living in a buyer’s market. Clients want more value for less money, they want predictability with respect to costs, and they won’t stand for practice inefficiencies. Moreover, clients ultimately determine the success of your firm — a client can return to you, refer to you, and boost your reputation, as well as monopolize your precious time, file a bar complaint against you and sue you for malpractice.
It’s time to get serious about improving client service. First, you need to put yourself in your client’s shoes. What do your clients want and need? You don’t know? Then solicit client feedback. Develop a client service policy and appoint firm personnel to manage client service. Finally, make the client experience as simple and smooth as possible. You can do this with technology, and you can bet that below I’ll give you some suggestions for the tools to employ.
E-signature is here to stay. There is absolutely no need to 1) attach document to an email, 2) force your client to download it, 3) print it, 4) sign it, 5) re-scan it and 6) email it back to sender. Instead, use an e-signature service that allows parties to sign documents and authenticate the signer. You simply 1) upload your document for signing to the e-signature platform, 2) enter the recipient’s email address and 3) recipient signs the document electronically and receives a copy of the signed copy to download for their records. You’ve now cut the number of steps in half, saving both you and your client time, money and stress.
A few popular e-signature providers include:
• DocuSign (www.docusign.com)
• EchoSign (www.echosign.com)
• HelloSign (www.hellosign.com)
• RightSignature (www.rightsignature.com)
Paper billing is dead. It’s time to move to electronic invoices and payments to streamline invoicing and payment on both sides of the transaction — and improve collections rates. Many of the case management programs now provide the ability to generate an invoice to email to clients. Clients can then pay online with a credit card or e-check from any device. That’s it. On the law firm side, the payment is applied to trust or operating account and then recorded in a ledger. Now you’ve not only made your client happy with the ease of the process, but you’ve eliminated waste from your own processes. To name just a few, Rocket Matter (an MBA Member Advantage), Clio (also an MBA Member Advantage), MyCase, ZolaSuite, Cosmolex, and Leap all offer electronic billing and payments (many through integration with LawPay, another MBA Member Advantage).
Client portals offer a way to interact securely and streamline communications with clients. You can find client portals among many other advantageous features in case management programs. Many of the client portals designed by case management programs are built with the customer in mind, providing a easy to use user interface that facilitates communication. The client portal is your client’s one-stop-shop for all their case updates, communications, document collaboration, and billing.
Save yourself and your client time by using technology for scheduling purposes. For example, one product that we use at MassLOMAP is Calendly. The way Calendly works is by providing a unique link to send to invitees who can then view your availability and book a time convenient for them. This tool syncs with your Google, Office 365 or iCloud calendar. Once you select a date and time, your invitee receives an email confirmation immediately and a reminder notification prior to the meeting. You also receive an email notification that a meeting has been booked and Calendly automatically adds the event to your calendar. You don’t have to do a thing! If your invitee needs to cancel the same link can be used to select another date. Of course, Calendly is not the only calendaring program in town; others include ScheduleOnce, YouCanBook.me, X.ai, Assistant.to, and Timebridge.
Clients want to think they are your single priority at any given moment. Your availability to clients and a certain personal touch can make all the difference. For example, many clients would still prefer to speak with a live person rather than get your voicemail each time they call. To create that personal touch and demonstrate your attentiveness to the client, you might try a virtual reception service. There are a number of virtual reception services that pride themselves on excellent customer service and can even be trained to handle specific matters. Some include Ruby Receptionist (an MBA Member Advantage), Back Office Betties, Alert Communications, Answer 1, Daybreak Office Solutions.
Start 2018 off right by making client service a priority for your year. Try implementing some of the above technological client service solutions and you’ll be on your way toward creating the client-centric law firm.
Heidi S. Alexander, Esq. is the Deputy Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, where she helps manage organization operations and leads the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). LOMAP provides free and confidential practice management assistance, guidance in implementing new law office technologies, and methods to attain healthy and sustainable practices. She is the author of Evernote as a Law Practice Tool and serves on the ABA’s TECHSHOW Planning Board. In 2017, Heidi was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on Professionalism. She can be reached via email at email@example.com, Twitter @heidialexander, or LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/heidisarahalexander.