Having interviewed more than 1000 buyers of legal and accounting services, here is what I have learned about what clients value most in lawyers and accountants.
To make it easier, what clients’ value most in lawyers and accountants generally breaks down into 3 key areas:
Let’s start with technical delivery.
What clients want is total confidence that you can do what you say you can do. As most clients won’t know whether you have the expertise required to handle their problem or manage their situation, they will look for clues to mitigate risk.
How can you provide these clues?
You can share relevant examples they can relate to by using case studies and client testimonials.
You can adopt a proactive approach to getting introductions to potential targets from your existing clients and your professional contacts. Your prospective clients are more likely to place more trust in you if they are introduced to you from someone they already know, like and trust.
You can get more visible in your client’s world by getting published in publications your clients read and going to the events they go to.
And when it comes the technical delivery of your services, clients tell us the thing they value most in their lawyers and accountants is no surprises. Deliver what you say you’ll deliver for the fee quoted and by the agreed deadline.
This brings us to service. Outstanding client care is always a differentiator. Although all professional advisers claim to be different to other firms because of the quality of their service, client feedback suggests this is not always the case.
So, what do clients value most in terms of service?
1. Continuity – Clients want one point of contact and they want this to be the person they instruct most regularly.
2. Proactivity – Clients expect you to take the initiative and keep them informed of progress on a case/matter/file.
3. Responsiveness – Clients know you have other clients but want to feel that they are important. This means speed of response (or at least acknowledgement) is absolutely vital.
4. Accessibility – Clients want to be able to contact you direct, not via a switchboard or a secretary.
Lastly, but just as important, is your relationship. Like service this is an area where advisers make many bold claims but what exactly do clients value most in their relationships with their lawyers and accountants?
In our interviews with business owners, in-house counsel and board directors 5 things stand out:
1. Personal chemistry – Clients are not looking for friends, but they do need to feel comfortable with you.
2. Client empathy – Clients expect their lawyers and accountants to really understand how they/their organisation/their family tick. This means you need to know a lot of the little details that really make a difference:
How do they operate?
How do they like to do things?
How do they like to communicate?
What time of day works best for them for catch ups and calls?
3. Added value – Just doing a good job and providing a quality service is not enough! Clients expect you to look out for them and find as many ways as possible to deliver more value. Can you make relevant and useful introductions? Can you refer work? Can you invite them to events? Can you share useable market intelligence?
4. Being visible outside open files – Clients will only feel you really care about them if you are visible when you’re not getting paid to be. This shows your commitment, that you value them as people rather than simply seeing them as a case number or the next bill out the door.
5. A willingness to invest your own time – The more time you invest in your clients, the better you will understand the bigger picture. Only once you have the bigger picture will you truly be able to help your client achieve their personal and/or commercial goals.
In addition to delivering client listening programmes, client development is an area we cover in depth in both our BD training and BD coaching sessions. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you become truly outstanding in your clients’ eyes, please drop us a line so we can set up an initial meeting.