Associate conundrums: what does excellent customer service look like?

Over the past few weeks most of us will have been a customer of some sort and experienced varied levels of customer service. We can all chose from an assortment of shops, restaurants and other providers many of which offer the same, or very similar, products; so what makes us prefer some to others and often take a more inconvenient and, on occasion, dearer route to finding what we are looking for?

If you supply a product that has created blind brand loyalty from its customers and yours is the only organisation that produces that exact product (Apple, for example) than you are laughing.

If, on the other hand, you are providing a product that is widely available and very price driven then doing so at the cheapest cost will work for you.

But what if you are providing a highly technical service that is less widely available but not so unique that you can simply sit back and wait for the instructions to drop in?

Increasingly, the provision of legal services to clients is being seen as the delivery of a product to a customer and that the client is paying good money for a service which requires full attention to the service they receive as well as technical excellence. There are those who believe that this in some way demeans the dignity of the legal profession, but the truth is that clients can often find similar services at more than one firm and their buying decisions are often not wholly influenced by pricing. We will all pay a bit more for a product when we receive great service that goes above and beyond the expected level and it is here that lawyers who have an appreciation of this can steal a march on competitors.

Luan de Burgh
Luan de Burgh

It is not just about delivering expert legal advice, it is also about how you make people feel in your dealings with them that will develop your business.

What exemplifies great customer service? What is it about those retailers, restauranteurs and other providers to whom you return time after time or who you refer to friends and are any of their characteristics the same as yours or are they things that you aren’t so good at?

I have recently conducted a form of ‘mystery shopper’ exercise with small high-street lawyers (to write a new will). It is a simple service that any high-street lawyer can provide, I know what the going rate is and I am not swayed by the offer of cheap deals (I firmly believe ‘you get what you pay for’). I identified a few practices which I rated as credible and made my enquiries.

I do not expect to have to ‘call back later’. I quite appreciate that someone may be engaged –  but if you want my business, you call me back. Do not make me chase you to give you my business. Equally, do not reply to an email enquiry without the basic courtesies of communication.  A simple ‘Dear …, Thank you for your email/message/enquiry … Yours and then your actual name, not just your email signature’ may seem to some an outdated approach because we are all so used to ‘text speak’ that we forget the real value of common communication courtesy but it goes a long way.

Make me feel that you are interested, even if the questions I am asking are pedestrian to you – we are all different and not everyone’s talent lies in detailed legal knowledge. Be interested in me as a human being, not just a billable hour, be personable and try to understand how I like to communicate and I will come back to you and recommend you to others.

It is worth thinking about who provides excellent customer service to you and how they do it. You will find that those who enjoy a successful legal career treat the buyers of their expertise as truly valued customers and don’t simply pay lip service to the term.

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach. Read all his articles for The Lawyer here.