A “Reproducible Positive Client Experience” Is Not One Size Fits All

Those of you who travel a great deal may be able to relate to the feeling of a loss of control which can come at the end of the day when you are in a hotel after having dinner in this or that restaurant. At home we take for granted that our favorite food is in the refrigerator and the newspaper is on the driveway. Simple things like these orient us in our surroundings. After all, our homes are exactly as we set them up. On the road we are in an environment someone else has created based on what they think we might like or need.

Hotels and restaurants may get a good rating if they serve a killer steak or have a comfortable bed but to get an excellent rating they tend to have something more. They have learned what “I” like and need. They make “the” experience “my” experience, not a statistical crap chute based on market surveys. They have created “systems” to get to know me and educate me on my choices and remember my responses. They do this by asking what I liked and disliked. Sometimes in very subtle ways, through observation, and at other times through direct questioning. The key is that they store this knowledge, so the next time I call they know what I like without asking or know enough to ask if I will be alone or will person x be returning with me. The fact that they ask, have a system to remember, and incorporate the knowledge into our next interaction puts a sense of “control” back into my life even if I am in someone else’s world.

A similar feeling of a loss of control may accompany the act of engaging an attorney. This is more acute when the motivation of the consumer is “need” verse “want”. Often times the customer needs to be protected because something has entered their lives in a disruptive way. This could be a divorce, an adoption, a law suit filed by a neighbor or business associate. Consumers are looking for the attorney to make sense of what is happening and protect their interests. In other words to put a feeling of control back into the situation and thereby their lives. Most attorneys do this quite well as it directly relates to their core expertise in the practice of law. I encourage attorneys to develop the same skills when it comes to making the consumer comfortable with the attorney. I have said many times “attorneys are the product”. Not just for the knowledge they possess and the protection that knowledge affords but it includes the personality and interaction of the attorney with the consumer.

Casino hotels are very strong at making the customers feel empowered, even when it is well known everything is arranged in favor of the house. I have often talked about “systems” and the mention of the word causes some to pause with visions of an “Orwellian” world. In fact the “system” is just “active branding”. These businesses remember to put “me” at the center of my experience each and every time, resulting in a “reproducible positive experience.” Given the volume of individuals they serve it is very impressive. Of course I am certain it does not work 100% of the time but the focus for it to work is there 100% of the time.

They don’t know if I will be a repeat customer, but they still make the first experience positive. Organizations that focus on the consumer’s likes and dislikes are going to produce a positive experience. Remember too, each time I have experienced this type of business system, I did not know it. It was not until after I decided to repeat the experience that I realized just why my first experience was so good, and why my second would be equally as good.

When I talk about “systems” as related to the delivery of legal services, I usually get a protest with a reference to the “uniqueness” of every client and client’s matter. I suggest that this uniqueness in fact can be best served with a system which:

• Asks
• Observes
• Remembers
• Shares - allow your organization to access each other’s “memory”
• Incorporates the gained knowledge into the customer’s experience.

A friend who frequents his local Starbucks (he is a coffee addict) said “When I walk in, the smile behind the counter says, Hi Bill… usual? And I say yes with a smile back.” For him, usual is a latte at 130 degrees not the generic 170 to 180 degrees. How is that for unique? I also know when he travels he does not get that experience at other Starbucks. He has to ask and brave the funny looks he gets (especially in London for some reason). So if there is a nice street café he is just as likely to get his coffee fix there as seek out a Starbucks. If Starbucks had an additional system for customers who travel, who knows?

Unfortunately, the commoditization of legal services is a reality and the best defense is to “brand” your services. You have to differentiate yourself from the crowd. The hands-down best way to start that branding process is to focus on the experience of the customer and develop ways to give back the sense of control, on the first visit and/or the tenth visit. Don’t stray away from the discussion just because it involves such a traditionally un-lawyer like concept as a business "system".