Posted by: johnocunningham | November 16, 2015

Eroding Client Loyalty: Five Tips to Stop It

Professional consulting firm Altman Weil recently published a paper by Ward Bower, entitled “What Keeps Managing Partners Awake?”

The paper asserts, based on numerous interviews performed by the firm, that law firm managing partners are seeing the emergence of a new prototypical kind of client in recent years – one that switches firms readily, rarely uses one firm for all work, and does not always tell a law firm when a switch is made.

With new kinds of competitors in abundance (including competition from growing corporate in-house staff) this paper highlights that it is more important than ever to establish regular communications with your best clients, developing a bond with more than one contact so that a professional relationship with a corporate client can be maintained in the event of shifting personnel or duties.

You can’t erase the phenomenon of professional service shopping by increasingly savvy clients, but you can greatly improve your chances of keeping a client by following these tips:

  1. Communicate regularly with the client, not asking for business every time you talk to them, but just reminding them that you are thinking of them and would like to help them in any way you can, referring them to problem solvers other than yourself if needed.
  2. Ask for feedback on how you are doing and what you can do better. Corporate client representatives repeatedly have told me that they favor firms and lawyers that ask for feedback, and they are much more inclined to stay with professionals who do. They also are more inclined to give those professionals reasonable notice of a prospective change in the relationship or a developing problem.
  3. Learn how the client’s industry and business works – it is the number one thing clients want their lawyers to do better.
  4. Visit your key client contacts at least once a year in person without billing them for the time. If every time they see you or talk to you, the meter is running, then they won’t want to visit.
  5. Develop a relationship with your client. I am not talking about a billable relationship, nor an unprofessional one. I am talking about a personal but professional one.  A very successful head of North America operations for a global law firm once told me that the key to client development is relationship development. A well-developed relationship expands on a foundation of trust, and no trust means no sale. So work on expanding the base of trust between you and your key clients by investing in non-billable time with them if you want to keep them.

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