Client Loyalty Post #6: Do your clients trust you? Are you trustworthy?
This is the sixth in our weekly series of posts that provide excerpts and tips from our book Building Enduring Client Loyalty: A Guide for Lawyers and Their Firms, just published in February. Click here to save 10%. Enter code ‘BEC10’ at the checkout
Strong relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Whether your relationships are of a personal, social, professional or civic nature, you will not build successful, mutually meaningful and beneficial relationships without being authentic and trustworthy. Trustworthiness is essential to earning the right to represent clients, including expanding services to them when it becomes clear they need them. Since trust is about personal relationships and behavior, it is developed by individual lawyers with individual client contacts. It is not “institutional,” i.e., the law firm cannot develop trust with a client contact. But as our last post discussed, the firm overall does have an impact on the client’s customer experience, so these must go hand-in-hand.
There are several key characteristics of trustworthiness to attend to and improve upon to strengthen client bonds:
Credibility, Competence and Reputation: Lawyers demonstrate credibility through their technical legal knowledge, deep expertise in a niche or industry, results they are able to achieve in their cases and transactions, understanding of a client’s business, and their thought-leadership.
Integrity, Honesty and Openness: Lawyers who speak the truth and don’t exaggerate or embellish are more believable. Clients also respect lawyers who admit when they don’t know something or when the firm doesn’t have the expertise for a particular need and provide a good referral to another firm. Lawyers need to “take a point of view” and be willing to name the elephant in the room, to admit their mistakes (or those of the firm or team) and to be held accountable rather than be defensive or throw someone else under the bus.
Reliability and Consistency: Being reliable means that others can trust that you’ll do what you say, when you say you will. This is demonstrated through actions, not words like consistently delivering on your promises, meeting or beating deadlines, delivering on objectives and outcomes and staying within budget.
Empathy, Caring and Helpfulness: Putting oneself in your clients’ shoes is essential to demonstrating you understand their issues and their personal agendas and what internal politics, stakes and challenges may be at play. Being caring and helpful means always putting client needs and goals before your own and offering to help them with issues not related to a particular matter or even to work.
Unfortunately, lawyers have not always demonstrated or nurtured trustworthiness. Traditionally, it was common and acceptable for lawyers to convey they were smarter than others, especially “non-lawyers” and even in-house lawyers. In client meetings and pitches, they often conducted monologues instead of dialogues, coming across as condescending, arrogant and self-centered. To be certain you are being client- or other-centered check yourself to be sure you avoid:
- Interrupting others
- Dominating conversations
- Rushing to a solution by assuming you know what is right without listening fully to the client
- Being distracted during meetings by checking emails or reviewing non-client documents (or taking a phone call)
- Overselling/embellishing credentials, bragging
- Putting your agenda and best interests first, ahead of the client
- Always having to be right
- Looking uninterested, bored or unengaged when interacting in meetings or calls
RainMaking Oasis provides consulting and coaching services to law firms and lawyers in the areas of client loyalty and development, business development and growth strategy, collaboration and innovation and succession planning. Please contact Susan Duncan at email@example.com.