Understanding the Client of the Future

Lately, I have been amazed at how much I simply don’t trust anything I hear anymore and very little of what I read.  This society we live in has left me so jaded in many ways because at every turn corporations and politicians have, like water dripping on a stone over time, eroded our confidence while abusing our trust. Advertisers spend millions to create a catchy slogan to distract us into buying faulty products. Pharmaceutical companies encourage us to become addicted to their medications under the guise of helping us get better. Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac, Enron, the underfunding of pensions, the pilfering of social security, pollution of our waterways are just a few on the list of violations against the public’s trust.

Are you depressed yet?  I am.  Depressed and distrustful.  But I’m not the only one.  It has forced me into even greater self-reliance, more thoughtful in how I spend my money and more discerning about whom I trust. And it has impacted the client who will walk through your doors today…and forever into the future.

Now add in the economy and you have a client very different than the client from last decade:

When you consider layoffs, downsizing, delayed raises, and reduced hours, more than half of all American workers have suffered losses. This very real pain has driven us to reconsider our definition of the good life. People are finding happiness in old-fashioned virtues — thrift, do-it-yourself projects, self-improvement, faith, and community..

That’s right. Thrift, do-it-yourself projects, self-improvement, faith and community.

There’s a rise in the barter economy, where people are trading goods and skills instead of spending money. Sixty-four percent of Americans want to do more things and make more things themselves. There’s a huge opportunity in providing the tools, materials, and skills to do that.

Did you get that?  There’s a huge opportunity in providing the tools, materials and skills to do that.

This client is putting more faith and trust in themselves to get the work done and seeking out those they trust and with whom they share the same values to help them with that which they can’t do themselves.

Seventy-one percent of people said, “I make it a point to buy brands from companies whose values are similar to my own.” Nearly the same number rejected companies whose values don’t match.

With trust violated so repeatedly over this past decade, people are worn out.  They are pulling back financially and with their homes no longer the ATM’s they once were, every dollar spent is spent with much more thought.  And this includes legal services.  If they don’t trust you, you won’t have clients.

If I were asked the greatest differentiator today between law firms, it would be the ability to trust the lawyer beyond professional rules and confidentiality and feeling comfortable enough to relax into the relationship.

…data show that kindness and generosity are among the qualities customers increasingly demand most from business.

…customers are tired of being sold. They are telling companies, “You need to get who I am. You need to empathize with my plight.

Clients, possibly more so now than ever, really need to trust you get their problems, issues and concerns. They need to know you are not only invested in their plight but engaged with compassion and kindness. It’s also not about talking about trust or splashing the word ‘trust’ or ‘trusted’ throughout your marketing.  It is about earning a client’s trust, really delivering so these clients can genuinely say to others you are one to be trusted and one who truly cares.

It’s a mistake to assume that our country is composed of big blocs of people who hold wildly varying values. You could make quite a long list of values held in common across all social and economic groups. Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, even humor, work in businesses at all times.

It seems as the towers erected in the name of corporate greed and political deception come crumbling down leaving us to clean up the pieces in this chaotic world, people are returning to their roots, only trusting that which is proven to be truly trustworthy.  They are returning to their core values and demanding those they work with, products they buy, vendors who deliver services, share those values not through words but deeds.  They are relying upon themselves and their ‘community’ however defined in this digital age. And this is where the solo can shine.

(Companies) have to be innovative in leading with values the same way they have to be innovative in their products and services.

As we develop our practices from the ground up, or reinvent our practices as needed, we can do so by understanding who are client is today, what they need, what they demand and why they are demanding it.  This is half the battle.  The second half is building our practices intelligently in order to deliver the legal services.

It should be no surprise to you then when I suggest the following ways to work with this new self-reliant, thrifty client who needs to be fully engaged with a trusted ‘partner’.

  • Unbundle as many services as you possibly can and as allowed. Give clients the tools they need and work with them on what they can’t do themselves.
  • Value price instead of billing by the hour within the confines of your practice area. Value pricing will shine in this economy as it relates to the values of the client.  Share the values, share the wealth.
  • Use technology to its fullest first to increase your effectiveness
  • Use technology to its fullest second to engage the client, keep communication open which builds trust
  • Use technology to its fullest third to keep costs down
  • Treat your client as a partner in the resolution of their legal problem and you can and will gain paying ‘partners’ for life

Quotes from: Understanding the Consumer of the Future

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