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Legal Client Retention Strategies: What Every Law Firm Needs to Know

This article was updated on July 16, 2021

Attrition. Churn. Turnover. Whatever term one uses to describe the loss of clients, the problem is a serious source of stress within the legal industry. While losing a client is bad, having an "ex" jump to a competitor is enough to keep attorneys and other stakeholders awake at night. Building a competent set of client retention strategies requires insight into customer needs, a targeted legal message, and the technology to enable both. Read on to see how firms earn new clients and keep their existing consumers right where they should be.

Personalizing and specializing your client retention strategies can lead to stronger customer loyalty.

Client Retention Strategies: Where Does the Clientele's Loyalty Lie?

The service industry, as one Harvard Business Review piece notes, occupies a unique space in terms of brand loyalty. Where a consumer might become loyal to one retail business, they're more likely to stake their loyalty to individuals within the service industry. In other words, an informed client may not follow their favorite cashier when they switch locations, but they may follow their counsel from place to place — even if the attorney switches to another firm.

Sometimes this "problem" is anything but. When a client connects with a long-tenured employee, the organization effectively has them for life. But on the other side, the popular idea that value is hard to prove and perception thereof is even harder to gauge: an attorney can put together what she feels is the surest bet of her career and still lose a case, making it hard to gauge precisely when and how trust is being built or when the client knows just how good a value they received.

Solid customer service via legal communication and other channels appears to be the most effective response to such an issue. Since successful client-counsel relationships are built on an unquantifiable foundation of trust, organizations that put forward a friendly face tend to keep clients around. Thus, client retention strategies that focus on convenience, personalization, and experiential service are a smart first point of focus.

Why Specializing Matters

It is often said that every employee a client speaks with greatly reduces the chance they will "churn over" to another organization. A program that allows each of those employees to present as part of a larger, cohesive whole can be a legitimate game-changer. Targeted communications, often built off the back of customer relationship management (CRM) tools, have been successful in creating these client-counsel interactions. The tools allow organizations to assign deep troves of data to individual client profiles, making everything from lead tracking and conversion to basic customer service far easier than manual procedures. Additionally, modern CRM systems are cloud-based and broadly accessible, giving authorized personnel information to zero in on the client's needs no matter what their role or the purpose of the interaction.

An example may help cement the value of these tools. A firm employee, chasing leads in their downtime, accesses a list of customers who filled out a contact form on the firm's website. Because each customer is required to fill out a high-level reason-for-contact, the staffer has a rough idea of why they reached out, allowing them to personalize the call. The staffer uses this data to convince the lead to talk to an attorney, filling out additional details as they go along; during the next call, the attorney has instant access to every point of data the staffer put in. All data entered into the system from this point forward is available to the right eyes at the right time.

Steps Beyond Personalization

Beyond personalization, the widespread adoption of CRM in the legal industry also speaks to a larger client need: the need for specialized service. Clients tend to seek out (and stay with) firms that can provide specialization. Here, CRM's strengths apply at the macro and micro levels. Situations like the above allow teams to express top-to-bottom competence in a specialty to clients who may otherwise jump ship, while larger marketing and advertising campaigns can utilize the same data on a larger scale. When a firm knows what people come to them for, they can tailor their message to reflect the insight.

Here, CRM may serve as a collection point for a larger effort. A firm using traditional techniques (demographic analysis and public records searches) and modernized data-collection and -application tools, such as social media monitoring, can build deep profiles using the data, then pitch to existing and prospective clients with high precision. Current Client A gets a phone call regarding an apparent need for one of the firm's specialties, while Prospective Client B gets a comprehensive postal package containing information on how the firm can help with another: Public records may indicate that this person could need help with a specific area such as bankruptcy or family law. The package this prospective client receives may show past successes your firm has had in this area and a proposed plan of action for their specific situation.

Whatever methods they choose, firms willing to personalize their message and illustrate their specialization are those best equipped to flourish.

Show Your Hand Early

Note here that the "pitch" is less about shifting the firm's offerings than it is about showing current and prospective clients how the firm can help. The essential edge of relevance simply comes from knowing what the client needs before a call is placed. Tools like easy video conferencing can further help close the gap: attorneys and other staff can express a great deal more care and engagement with a visual medium, enhancing the trust established with the initial correspondence.

Whatever methods they choose, firms willing to personalize their message and illustrate their specialization are those best equipped to flourish. The most effective client retention strategies leverage this thought from the onset — clients expect a personalized experience anywhere they spend money, and the service market is certainly no exception.

Vonage Staff

Written by Vonage Staff

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