I was recently asked what was one important thing I learned about building loyal client relationships. Great question. I responded:

Clients cannot always recognize great legal work, But, they can always recognize a lawyer and law firm who cares about them and makes every effort to provide exceptional client service.

When was the last time client service was on the agenda for a meeting at your firm? If you get a chance brainstorm how you can improve client service. Here are 21 of my ideas.

  1. Learn about the client’s company, business and industry at your expense.
  2. Identify clients’ needs that have the greatest impact on their business success and develop a solution to meet those needs.
  3. Ask clients to identify their objectives before beginning work and then develop a plan to achieve those objectives.
  4. Ask clients how often and how they want to receive communications on their matter.
  5. Establish scope of work, provide an estimate of time, identify law firm staffing and prepare a budget at the outset of any project.
  6. Advise clients when scope of work has changed, the time required to perform work has increased, law firm staffing needs to be changed, or fees may exceed the budget.
  7. Timely return phone  calls and emails.
  8. Deliver value as perceived by the client.
  9. Place young lawyers in your clients’ offices so they can truly “know” the clients’ needs, wants and desires and develop relationships with the clients’ representatives. (They will also likely bring billable work back to the office.).
  10.  Conduct in-house seminars and workshops for clients. If the workshop is for the clients’ legal department, obtain CLE credit for the clients’ lawyers.
  11. Seek to use technology like an extranet to improve efficiency and provide more cost effective services.
  12. Keep your client informed about “breaking news” that might impact them.
  13. Prepare an agenda for each meeting with specific stated objectives and be prepared for the meeting. Prepare action items at the conclusion of the meeting.
  14. Exceed clients’ expectations – to take a thought from the book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles: Deliver what the client wants-plus one.
  15. When something goes wrong, take responsibility and apologize.
  16. Let clients know when they, or others, can do the work better, or at a lower cost.
  17. Make sure bills are accurate, reflect value of the work performed, do not have names of billers unfamiliar to the client, and are prepared in accordance with the clients needs.
  18.  Offer to attend client business meetings at no charge.
  19. Never waste the client representative’s time.
  20. Ask good questions.
  21. Actively listen.

As you may know, I am a big fan of the Ritz Carlton. I have written about my favorite hotel chain both here and for Practical Lawyer. Recently I wrote: How a Law Firm Can Provide “Ritz Carlton” Service . Take a look you may get some additional ideas.

Today at 1:00 CST, Shawn Tuma and I are doing a Webinar on blogging and social media for the Legal Marketing Association. It is called: Simple Ways to Effectively Use Social Media to Help Build Your Law Practice and it is sponsored by the Social Media SIG. If your marketing professional is a member of the LMA, I encourage you to set up the conference room so you and your lawyer colleagues can participate.