Customer-centricity is a Differentiator

Sheila Murphy
February 20, 2024

We all remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian goes into the shop and is ignored and mistreated by the salespeople. Later, she returns and asks if they work on commission and tells them their treatment of her was a “big mistake.” Many outside counsel believe they are excellent at customer service, and I will tell you your clients may disagree. One of the biggest complaints I hear from in-house counsel is the lack of customer service. So, I am here to tell you that focusing on it can be a differentiator.

Moreover, if you are in-house, ensure that you also focus on your business partners and stakeholders.

Customer service matters greatly.

Here are my three tips for providing exceptional service

Tip 1: Understand and Execute the Communication Requirements

It would be best if you understood how your clients like to communicate and how much detail they want. Do not send a 10-page memo when they are looking for a recommendation and bullet points.

It is also essential to know how often they want to communicate, what decisions they want input for, and what type of lead time they need to obtain internal approvals.

One of the most important things is to be responsive to everyone on the in-house team. It is problematic if the internal team has to escalate an issue because they are not hearing from their counsel. This unresponsiveness is not a good thing, and it happens pretty often. Recently, I heard from a General Counsel that he had to raise an issue with a Managing Partner of a major firm because the relationship partner was not getting back to him as requested. Similarly, if you will miss a deadline, communicate that as soon as possible. Do not make the client or business partner chase you.

While this seems common sense, I can tell you that one of the most significant and consistent complaints I hear from clients is the lack of proper communication from their lawyers.  

Tip 2: Know Your Client

To best serve your clients, you need to understand their industries, companies, businesses, and objectives. You can better provide proactive, innovative, and strategic advice by having a broad understanding. Also, this approach allows you to provide insights as to what future issues and risks may arise.

Showing you are invested in the client and their goals will help you cement a relationship and become a trusted advisor. For example, understanding the financial pressure on a company may help you decide not to file a pro forma motion that will not be successful or know what contract terms are critical and what others you should not spend much time on.

You also want to understand your clients and business partners as individuals so that you can better serve them. Knowing their individual communication styles and objectives can create an alignment that can produce strategic relationships that can benefit both of you.

Client service can be a “Big Mistake” that can cost you dearly or can differentiate you so that you become a go-to lawyer, a trusted advisor, and someone they recommend to others for work or opportunities.

Tip 3: Feedback

The only way to find out if you are providing exceptional customer service is to ask your clients and stakeholders. When you ask for this feedback, you have to be ready to welcome the input. I have had lawyers ask me for my feedback and then fight what they heard, or worse yet, change nothing. When I was in-house counsel, I also asked my stakeholders what type and level of communication they needed and whether they had enough time for decision-making. If they wanted a change, I implemented it.

Whether you are outside or inside counsel, you need to make these reach outs regularly because not everyone will provide it on their own—instead, they can look for other options.


Want to learn more about how to become the in-house leader you are meant to be?

Find out about Sheila's 6 Secrets To Converting Contacts Into Clients.

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