Cracking the secret sauce of client retention at your firm can be tricky but nonetheless immensely valuable. It's one thing to make it rain, it's another thing entirely to keep it raining and for that, you need to answer the question - why do clients leave a law firm?
There's not a quick answer to that because human relationships and the human behaviour that drives them are multi-faceted circumstances with an ever-evolving set of complex needs and desires. The only thing you can be sure of is that nothing ever stays the same for long.
Despite that, there are some certainties to rely on. Whether someone is packing up their IP portfolio or all their clothing, books and the cat to exit your life, you can be sure of at least one thing - their needs aren't being met. It perhaps doesn't clarify what those needs are, but they are unfulfilled either way.
And often, as some part of that, their life has been harder in some way than they needed it to be. It doesn't have to be dramatic. Over time, even quite small but unnecessary challenges can take their toll and become a relationship ending factor. On the face of it, as an isolated incident whatever it is, it's no big deal but as time rolls on and the incidences mount up, a breaking point is reached.
And then, often as a direct result of point 1 and 2, trust in the relationship is lost. And at that point, it's all over.
Of course, in the context of clients leaving a law firm, how you might translate those certainties is a little different but they always apply. Sometimes there is a trigger that can't be helped. Personality can be a really big factor and sometimes when a much-loved partner leaves the firm, clients will go with them. Market forces might well drive clients out of business or demand significant down-sizing. Alternatively, they might expand so much that they develop their own in-house legal department and simply need you less.
These are all factors outside your control and in investigating your particular secret sauce, they need to be excluded from the mix. Worry instead about the factors that you do control and recognise that just like more intimate relationships, it is often the little things that have the biggest impact which brings us directly back to points 1 & 2 again:
Are their needs being met? Are you making their life easier in some way?
The first of these questions is a business one and it should be relatively easy to identify and define what those needs are. When in doubt, you can just ask! The second is much trickier because we don't always recognise when our systems don't make the lives of others easier. We think it 'ought to' but that isn't he same as 'does'.
The rise in 'convenience' everything, from food to online shopping, should tell us the importance of 'easy' in providing products and services. So when you begin to look at your client retention plan, list all of the services that a client needs, put yourself in their shoes and ask "How easy do we make this?"
It is at this point that you discover the drivers for behaviours that will add to your retention rate. How difficult is it for a client to find out what is happening with their case? What if they want to know the status of a recent registration? How frustrating are those processes for them?
The big services that they need from you are easy - they make an appointment with you and sit down to work through whatever is needed but don't underestimate the deep frustration felt by many clients in the smaller things. If it takes your client more than 5 mins to get an answer to a question that in this day and age should be instant, that's eventually going to be the reason they leave.
Because they will find someone who will put the plate into the dishwasher instead of beside it. Or a firm that gives them the kind of simple online access to their information that they have come to expect from every other part of their life. Because it doesn't make their life harder than it has to be while still meeting their needs.
Providing this kind of service doesn't have to be difficult for you either. In fact, it can make your life easier in a myriad of ways too. Even trying it out is simple!