Finishing up the theme of communications, and bringing the year to an end, this month’s column takes a look at the importance of a “thank you”

My mother in law has a habit of sending a thank you card for a thank you card. A nice thought but a little bit of overkill as far as I’m concerned.

I suspect that most of us had it drummed in as children that “please” and “thank you” were an essential part of communication, particularly if we were asking for something. While I have no doubt that all of us send out a thank you to our clients for entrusting their business to us, do we do it simply as a formality or is there something more meaningful that we could be engaging in? Is it possible that there might even be more thank yous required?

The initial thank you

A line drawing of a hand holding three daisiesDo we always remember that first thank you, the one that we send after the client chooses us or when they have returned to us for an additional piece of business? It’s an ideal opportunity not only to make them feel appreciated and to let them know how important their business is but also an opportunity to check on a few things:

Is there anything that you need to make your experience more comfortable? Does your client have any special needs that perhaps weren’t flagged up at the initial meeting, be they cultural, language or ability related? Not just useful for avoiding any issues, and perhaps also a useful risk management strategy.

While you are here, is there anything else that we can get for you? Most of us will try at some level to cross sell other services of the firm; many though tend to tack this on at the end. Is the beginning not the perfect opportunity to explore what else might be useful to the client? You would then have several touch points along the way to develop these or, at worst, agree a future date to come back and revisit them.

Perhaps also, just to confirm why they decided to pick your firm in the first place. This is incredibly useful information to gather as you develop your marketing strategies, and to obtain a clearer picture of why clients chose you.

The middle thank you?

As transactions are progressing, perhaps an additional “thank you” might be overkill, but it is the perfect time to check in to make sure that client expectations are being met. I suspect that few in practice do this, as we work within complicated systems where clients may often be frustrated by the system rather than our services and at times may struggle to differentiate the two. It does however give firms the perfect opportunity to deal with any client issues before they escalate, and reinforces with the client that their transaction and their customer experience with us is important and valued.

The final thank you

At the end of any transaction I hope that we all do remember to say thanks, but what else could that thank you email (or letter) cover?

How was it for you? Client feedback is the most important tool in improving your service offering. Negative feedback is most important of all, as it clearly flags up areas that could be worked on while giving you an opportunity to engage with that client to discuss their experience and to prevent any dissatisfaction from escalating.

Is there anything else that you need? An obvious one, but another opportunity to follow up on additional services that might be of benefit to the client. A chance also to remind clients that you are their first point of contact for any legal issues: even those that you don’t cover you can of course refer on.

Feel free to refer us. Arguably it is only those clients whose expectations you have substantially exceeded who will automatically do so. Not all clients will automatically think to recommend; they might not even think that you want or need additional clients. A little reminder then might just help secure some additional opportunities.

From me, then, a very big “thank you” for reading this column throughout the year, and as always your feedback and suggestions have been appreciated and continue to be welcomed!

From January Stephen Vallance will take turns with other contributors to cover a variety of practice-related matters

The Author

Stephen Vallance works with HM Connect, the referral and support network operated by Harper Macleod

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