Beyond knowledge of the law and the ability to secure solid results for their clients, effective communication is one of the most important skills needed to be a lawyer. In today’s legal market, however, the skills lawyers need for effective client communication are changing. Clients have clear preferences about how they want communication to occur, and technology is leading the way. According to the Thomson Reuters Business Client Experience Survey, which examined responses from 450 business clients about their experiences with their law firms, 53% of respondents mentioned technology usage as a highly important factor in their law firm hiring decisions. This was especially true in clients’ preferred methods of communication.
Yet, technology adoption at law firms does not always happen quickly. In general, there is a natural resistance to change, and some attorneys feel that using technology takes away from the firm’s “personal touch.” As the data shows, however, calling a client on the phone to get things done is no longer the most effective—or preferred—method. They expect their firms to use the most up-to-date channels—not only in the handling of their matters, but also in your communications with them. Here are three ways your firm can exceed expectations by using technology to interact with your clients:
Online portals: This is the best way to securely share documents and other confidential information related to the client’s matter. Portal technology enables efficient and effective communication between you and your clients. In fact, it’s a method that legal clients have a high amount of satisfaction with, largely because it gives 24/7 access to legal information and other materials specifically for them. Once a document is uploaded to the portal by either party, the other receives a notification. This creates a more secure and convenient method of communication and collaboration for both parties—as well as a highly satisfied client.
Video conferencing: It is important to remember that video conferencing is not just for your internal use but can also be used with clients. It can allow for flexibility for both you and your client. As much as consistently calling or emailing your client can keep them up to speed, a video conference provides a more personal way to explain detailed matters to your client. If you can provide clients with good direction on how to use the software, it also allows flexibility for clients that may not be able to come into the office or clients that live farther away.
Text messaging: Texting has become one of the most popular methods of communication. For many people, it has become the preferred method—even with their attorneys. According to the Thomson Reuters Business Client Experience Survey, 32% of respondents said they communicated with their attorneys via text. Many attorneys have avoided communication via text because they are concerned about potential ethical violations—and rightly so. It is every attorney’s responsibility to know and comply with all ethics rules that cover client communications. Nevertheless, texting is here to stay. And lawyers need to be prepared to communicate with clients in their preferred method.
How Do You Know If Clients Are Satisfied with Your Level and Method of Communication?
It’s one thing to implement what you think are effective client communication plans. It’s entirely another to know with any certainty whether your clients are on board. As indicated in the title, it’s important to take steps to understand how your clients are feeling about the service you provide:
Online Surveys: Feedback is a critical aspect of client satisfaction. Understanding clients’ preferences helps you create stronger relationships and ultimately run a more successful firm. However, not everyone is comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas directly with you. This is where online surveys become a great tool because clients can give feedback anonymously if they so choose. Anonymity will help clients to be more honest with you and tell you what you did right or where you may have room to improve. Either way, the surveys will provide points of emphasis for your firm to adjust or strengthen in the handling of future matters.
To learn more about meeting and exceeding client demands with technology, download our white paper: Discerning Business Clients Are Forcing Law Firms to Raise Their Games.