Is it news to anyone that clients and customers are the heart of every business? Fail to please them, and your business will hit the rocks. For clergy, of course, the same principle adheres: sermons and church activities must connect with the congregation and potential new parishioners or the congregation will shrink.
No doubt you spend time thinking about client service, and if you’re diligent, you likely conduct formal or informal satisfaction surveys.
But … Do you see your clients?
Right. Of course you do. You have meetings with your clients, you talk with them by telephone or videoconference, you exchange detailed emails, and have long telephone calls. You work to connect with each person you encounter through your business. But do you really see your clients?
- Do you see their needs, their fears, their vulnerabilities?
- Do you know what your clients really want and need, possibly even better than they do?
The business-building phase is especially risky.
You court a potential client. You’re interested and highly responsive. You make an effort to learn about your potential client’s interests so you can engage that person in business and personal conversation, being your most appealing self. As soon as you get the work and incorporate the client into your business, that deeply personalized attention drops off: you’re in service mode (which often equates to maintenance mode) while you’re off chasing another client.
When you’re busy, it’s easy to meet immediate needs and delay or omit deeper thought about your clients and the actions that show your clients that you’re paying attention. Of course, your goal as a business owner is to get and stay busy, so without putting a system in place for making sure that you recognize what’s happening with and for your clients, your success can also create your downfall.
A disillusioned spouse once told me about the shift in her relationship after marriage. No more cards and no more “just because” gifts. Conversation dwindled to the day-to-day focus on the kids and getting the car serviced and making the mortgage payment. The relationship wasn’t bad, but it certainly was dry. And then someone new came on the horizon, someone who did the things that her husband used to do, who always brought deep and interesting conversation, who seemed to promise a richer relationship. Suddenly, she was presented with an appealing alternative to her perfectly fine but no longer deeply attentive husband. Fortunately, she recognized the problem and this story has a happy ending, but …
That’s how marriages end, and that’s how clients get poached by other businesses.
Not only because the courting stops (though, really, who doesn’t like to feel important, especially when paying a hefty fee?) but because the attention you pay makes a difference in the service you provide. When you understand what’s happening with your client, you’ll approach her with more knowledge, insight, and empathy, all of which leads to better service and a better relationship.
Ask yourself: how well do you understand your clients?
Are you aware of their successes and failures, and do you respond appropriately? When’s the last time you sent a baby gift, a card or flowers to acknowledge a death, or a note to recognize your client’s success? How can you create a system that alerts you to client news and makes it easy for you to respond?
Even if your business is such that you truly can’t respond individually to each customer, you can pray for them and ask that your eyes may be opened so that you can see and serve them better. Doing so will help you to serve your customers and clients better; more importantly, it will remind you that you serve God as you serve your clients.
Don’t bag a client and then move on: build the relationship as you deliver the service you promised.
About Julie Fleming
Julie A. Fleming, JD, ACC, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!