Don't nickel 'n' dime clients

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Edward Poll
Dolan Media Newswires

Keep your clients happy, and you will have a successful business. Consider the following:

The airlines: what not to do

This seems like a ridiculously basic thing to even have to put into print, but when you read newspaper stories about the airlines and how they treat their customers, it is clear that not every business understands the basics of success.

Airlines seem to have made a business of charging customers more and giving them less. Smaller seats, fewer snacks and higher fees. And where to begin with the bags? A person would need an advanced degree in economics to figure out the various fees for first, second, third, oversize or overweight bags on different airlines — all with higher fees, of course.

Some airlines have gone bankrupt; a few are doing quite well. But what binds all of them together is a general distaste for them by their customers. The ones that offer more for less enjoy more customer satisfaction — and a customer base that draws from airlines that are offering less for more. If there were an alternative type of transportation that was as efficient as flight, customers would flock to it.

The business of law: what to do

The business of law does not have the freedom to do what the airlines have done because there are far too many options out there for clients who are dissatisfied. Therefore, it is important for law firms to make sure that they keep their clients happy.

Keeping clients happy means, as always, treating the client as the important person that he or she is.

Keeping clients happy means that, unlike the airlines, law firms should not nickel-and-dime them. That does not mean that you should never charge for some of the smaller expenses, such as photocopying and faxing costs. Those can add up.

However, if you want to charge for such expenses, make sure that you are not providing less in terms of service. If you provide more than other lawyers, such as returning calls quickly, making sure that your staff members can address all clients by name, and connecting with your clients by emailing them articles of interest throughout the year, then clients will be more willing to accept charges for small expenses.
Of course, you will want to make sure that clients know about such fees up front. There is nothing worse for business than what clients might perceive as hidden fees.

If you keep clients happy and make them feel that their money is well spent, then they will stay with you even when other options abound — as they are bound to do in a world full of lawyers.

So, take a lesson from the airlines. Make sure that you keep your clients happy by always offering more, especially when you have to charge more. Your clients will stick with you in the long term.

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Edward Poll is the principal of LawBiz Management. He coaches lawyers and is the creator of “Life After Law,” a program that helps attorneys plan for profitable exits. Email him at edpoll@lawbiz.com.

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