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This month we talk to loyalty expert Jill Griffin on how attorneys can leverage customer loyalty techniques to get referrals, repeat business and a growing client base.

JillAttorneys may not focus on customer loyalty since, by nature, a successful law practice relies on getting a consistent stream of new clients. But attorneys can benefit from customer loyalty techniques. Some practice areas, like business law, intellectual property or estate planning, lend themselves to repeat or even lifetime clients. And the longer a client works with your firm, the more valuable they become. Attorneys practicing in other areas, like personal injury or family law, can benefit from customer loyalty through referrals. Developing good habits and monitoring client feedback can help any law firm grow.

What is Customer Loyalty?

Customer loyalty is a buying behavior. Loyal customers behave in ways that others customers do not. Generally, loyal customers:

  • buy regularly
  • buy a cross-section of your products and services
  • refer others
  • show immunity to the pull of competition.

These buying behaviors create revenue and drive profit to the bottom line. Simply put, the revenue and profitability effect from losing a long-time, loyal customer cannot be remedied by simply bringing in a new customer. It takes time and effort to “grow” loyal behaviors. Many firms miss this fact.

How can firms benefit from Customer Loyalty techniques?

Consider this fact: The average firm has a 60 to 70% probability of successfully selling to “active” customers but only a 5 to 20% probability of making a successful sale to prospects.

Think of your current clients through a customer life cycle lens. Consider your first-time customer as a “trier.” He’s testing your services. Perform well and you can dig deeper for more opportunity. Think: What recurring legal matters can you take off this customer’s worry list? Delivering on those unspoken needs can earn you a client for life.

Tell us a little about the Search-and-Switch threat and how attorneys can address it.

Every firm in every industry is highly susceptible to customer switching. Attorneys are no exception. Google and other search engines have given buyers and shoppers immediate access to a host of fine-tuned buying choices delivered in seconds.

Here’s one sure way to minimize customers from searching: Understand how each of your current customers define value and then deliver it, and, whenever possible exceed their value definition. Elements of surprise and delight go a long way. For example, a super-timely response to customer emails (within 15 minutes) could be one key way for keeping a customer happy and content. But never forget that every customer’s definition of value is always in flux. What was a “great experience” two years ago, can be “old hat” today. Customers must perceive you as offering a meaningful difference they are unlikely to find in your competitors. That’s how you discourage your clients from searching and switching.

How have search engines and online marketing affected a firm’s ability to attract clients and referrals?
Cyberspace has created a jungle of customer rants and raves. That’s why attorneys large and small must closely monitor what is being said about their services online.

But, good old fashion word-of-mouth still matters too. Legal specialties such as divorce, adoption and personal injury by their very nature can drive huge word-of-mouth. Work every day to ensure word-of-mouth is your ally.

Follow-ups are also huge. With customers communicating through an ever growing tool box (phone, iPad, email, text) a message can easily get lost. Follow-up is more crucial than ever.

Do you have any tips for firms on turning suspects into clients and clients into advocates?
Here’s two: For turning suspects into clients, target carefully. Typically, your best suspects are those that profile closely to your highest value customers. Careless targeting and ineffective qualifying of prospects can load your funnel with “lowest fee” individuals who have no real long-term loyalty potential.

Turning a client into a true advocate can literally take years. Yes, you may get referrals right away, and that’s great, but referrals are just one piece of advocacy. A true advocate helps you learn. He gives you real access to his network. He treats you as a trusted advisor. He brings you into his inner circle. Like fine wine, advocacy takes time to build.

Jill is a speaker and author, personal coach and corporate advisor. She is the author of the business best seller, Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How to Keep It, a Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge book, the co-author of Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers and Keep Them Loyal, and most recently the author of Taming the Search-and-Switch Customer: Earning Customer Loyalty in a Compulsion-to-Compare World. Her books have been adopted as teaching texts by colleges and universities including the University of Texas McCombs School of Business and Northwestern University. Learn more about her at http://www.loyaltysolutions.com.

About Author

Kristen Friend is a staff contributor for Bigger Law Firm Magazine. She has covered political stories on radio stations like WMNF in Florida and has had her work broadcast by Free Speech Radio News (FSNR). As an Award Winning Art Director, Kristen has been recognized by the WebAwards, Davey's Award, W3 Awards, Webby Awards, and others for her work with law firms.

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