What can you do to increase your new client retainer rate, and get the client to become your referral base? The first part of this blog gave tips on how to handle that first telephone conversation to ensure that the client makes and keeps that first appointment. So, what do you do now? Don’t rest on your laurels just because the appointment has been made. The new caller hasn’t retained you yet. This 2nd part of this blog tells you what you can do to turn the new caller into a new client.
1. Before the first consultation
If you have spoken with the caller before the appointment you will have an idea of what their matter is about. Pull out your notes and refresh your memory. You will impress them if you remember some important things such as dates of certain events or the names or ages of their children. If there was an issue that you have not dealt with for some time, you should check whether there have been any changes or amendments to the law. You should avoid saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” or “I’ll have to check that” as much as possible. This will not instil confidence.
2. Your reception area
The new client walks through the front door. What they see is very important. Is the reception area clean and inviting? Is the receptionist presentable and is their manner professional and polite? How are other clients treated or spoken to? Are there other staff in the reception area? How are they conducting themselves? Every staff member should know that the reception area is off limits to gossip, arguments, or frustrations. If the client sees staff treating each other with respect, they will know that they will also be treated with the same respect.
3. You finally meet face to face
When you meet your client call them by their name. Don’t forget the handshake. Show them to a private conference room. If you are seeing them in your office, make sure that it is tidy and organised, and that no confidential information, such as other client’s names, are visible.
Your conference should really follow through from your telephone conversation. Make sure you obtain all the relevant information. Find out what their concerns are, what their motivations are, and what they want to accomplish at the end of the day. Then provide the advice they came for. Tell them how things work, what they can expect to happen, how long it will take, and what it will cost. You should have enough information to give them their best and worst case scenario. Remember what it is they want to achieve, and tell them if that is a reasonable expectation.
4. Discussing costs
Don’t be afraid to discuss costs. People who have no experience with the legal system have no idea how much litigation costs. Some lawyers are afraid that if they tell the client at the first meeting that it will cost them up to $10,000 to get to the first procedural hearing or mediation, or that it will cost them $100,000 to get to trial, and that it may take 2 or 3 years, the client will never come back.
Remember that this client will probably see another solicitor, if they haven’t already. If the other solicitor avoids discussing costs, or tells them they will sort their matter out in 6 months for a total of $5,000, who do you think the client will have more confidence in? Most people prefer to hear the bad news upfront, and value honesty.
Remember that once you give them these figures, you should always follow with what they can do to minimise their legal costs, and that alternative dispute resolution is always a preferred method. Tell your client that statistically majority of cases settle at mediation and don’t proceed to trial.
Before you finish your consultation, tell the client to think about what was discussed, and to contact you if, and how, they wish to proceed. Unless the client tells you then and there that they want to retain you, don’t be too pushy. You will find that these clients come back if you are open and honest about their prospects of success, about the costs, and if you finish the conference on a positive note.
When the client does come back and retains you, look after them. They could be your best source of referrals and future work. So, what can you do to increase client satisfaction? The 3rd and final part of this blog tells you how to keep your client.
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