Grace Bros provided some wry smiles 20 years ago but give few hints to service providers today.
Lawyers are wholly part of the “customer is king” culture of service delivery and those who do not appreciate this will not succeed.
As retailers of legal services we must aim to be the best at this challenging reality or suffer.
Whether delivered from the high street or from an ivory (or glass) tower, legal advice is a commodity where technical ability is often a “given”.
Client loyalty is gained by providing what customers want, when they want it, and for the agreed price.
It is just the same as when the purchaser of a PC naturally expects it to work when installed at home, first time and every time. If it doesn't, the manufacturer and retailer may as well close down, as the customers will not persevere with non-functioning equipment.
We get the law wrong at the same peril. The intellectual rigour of much of our work is known and accepted, hence there is the high price commanded by our expertise.
The basic skill of a craftsman is assumed at the purchase point and it is simply not enough to build effective working relationships with our exacting consumer base.
Our clients have a choice and have a long list of potential service providers.
The solution is pro-activity, responsiveness and timeliness.
Lawyers must turn over every stone and cross and dot every last 't' and 'i' at any cost. It is a matter of professional necessity that, if neglected, could potentially be the death knell for them.
Judgement and accuracy are, of course, the basics of our work but a realistic proximity to a desired result is crucial to client service.
Of all clients, I know businessmen the best and I know what they want is “no surprises” so that they can manage their corporate risk.
They expect us to project manage a situation towards an agreed outcome.
Almost every service provider is used to the obligation of delivering an agreed product on time and budget – we are no different.
Of course, clients choose people they can do business with and this usually means lawyers that communicate effectively and who understand them and their business.
These attributes are essential to effective client service.
A law firm is more than the sum of its individuals and the secret is for all of us to provide a culture of “can do”, from our diverse strengths and talents, for the customers that depend on our skills.
The key to this culture of true client service is to “see it through their eyes”.
Nigel Kissack is managing partner at Pinsent Curtis' Leeds office.