Changing a legal customer into a Client
Do you have customers or clients?
Calling a customer, a client does not make them one, even if you consider them to be. Only the individual or individuals can truly decide whether they consider themselves a client of your legal practice. However, the regularity with which a customer buys a service from you or is in contact with you is likely to be the determining factor. Buying a service on a one-off transactional basis would certainly make someone a customer, whereas buying services or advice on an ongoing or regular basis might suggest that someone has evolved into a client.
Will they come back?
I guess the question, as a business, you must ask yourself, and be honest in answering is this; if someone has bought a legal service or taken legal advice from your firm, are you confident they would return if they needed a different legal service or advice in the future? If the answer is yes, then you may have a client. If the answer is no, then perhaps you only had a customer.
Going beyond transparency in a competitive market
In a truly competitive legal services market, where solicitors have to compete with multiple other legal services providers, often who offer legal services combined with other complimentary services, regular client contact becomes crucial. This begins with your website and brochures, making sure you accept the challenge of the new SRA Transparency rules to portray your services (not just the compulsory ones) in a clear, confident light. Go beyond what is essential and add personalisation by adding academic and personal information about the key people in your firm that will be delivering the services. Adding an individual’s details and a face helps personalise the customer experience from the very beginning and this is a good first step into making that customer a potential client. FB Wealth are proud members of SIFA Professional and this article they wrote for the Law Society elaborates on embracing Transparency.
The SRA and Client Care letters
From this promising start, knowing as a customer, who I will be dealing with, what their responsibilities are and that it will be the same person or persons throughout the process is the next stage in my journey from customer to client. The SRA is putting huge emphasis on concise, jargon free ‘client care letters’ and this is another opportunity to reinforce the message that you want them as a client. Indeed the SRA details in its guidance (https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/guidance/ethics-guidance/client-care-letters/) what it believes are the main business benefits of quality client care letters and ‘retaining clients’ is front and centre.
2 Areas that will turn your customer into a client
After winning their business with a clear and honest website, which begins to personalise the process and following this up with a concise, easy to understand client care letter, you should have won the customers’ business but what will be the key to ensuring the customer stays with you as a client? FB Wealth believes that 2 areas can be addressed within the culture of your business to increase the chances of a client relationship evolving – Firstly you must demonstrate you are interested in all the individual’s affairs and not just the immediate legal matter at hand and secondly you must communicate regularly and effectively with them.
Showing you have a holistic interest in the customer is important and proper fact-finding will assist you. Might they need complimentary legal services that your firm can also offer or perhaps other ancillary advice you can facilitate by a referral to thoroughly researched partners such as financial planning partners, like FB Wealth or accountancy professionals? By facilitating the referral to a trusted partner, you are treating them as a client, not a customer and they will appreciate the distinction. If you fail to make the referral, having identified the need for some complimentary advice you are not acting in the client’s best interests, and failing to do so may lose you their status as a future client.
Developing your knowledge of the client will assist you with effective and ongoing communication. It will ensure that you send them appropriate newsletters or information and working with trusted referral partners can help in this arena too. Material available from the financial planning partners like FB Wealth you have identified for example, can offer you information on financial planning opportunities linked to your work in areas such as estate planning, divorce or trustee investment.
Again, as SIFA Pro members we have access to fabulous client guides for you to use with your customers/clients, to assist you in highlighting the complementary financial needs in the areas you give advice. For example, dealing with later-life clients, the financial aspects of divorce, and estate planning.
Ask the honest question
Is it the time to honestly ask, as a solicitor’s business, do we really have a client bank or a collection of files on one-time customers? If the answer is the latter now is the time to act and there is no doubt that quality financial planning partners can help you change that customer into a client. FB Wealth would relish the opportunity to discuss this, and the clients’ guides mentioned above.
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