Solicitors: What to do when it all goes wrong?
Things do not always go as well as we would like or as well as we had planned. Even with the best intentions and skills, a lawyer is likely to fail in the delivery of service to one or more of his clients. Even though systems are in place to avoid errors, it is impossible to avoid them all. For example, perhaps a client was promised a draft contract by a certain date and did not receive it, or was promised a return call within a given time but did not receive one.
When this happens, the likelihood of the client being vocal and not afraid to tell the lawyer that he or she is dissatisfied with some aspect of the work is minimal. Research shows that 96% of unhappy clients do not bother to tell the lawyer. People may not complain about their dissatisfaction for a number of reasons.
The techniques used in recovering from a failure with a client are basically the same as those a person would use in his or her personal life. For example, someone who forgot a birthday or an anniversary is likely to apologise and try to remedy the situation as quickly as possible, make amends for hurt feelings, and try to figure out a way to avoid making the same mistake again. The same methodology should be used in professional shortcomings as well!!
When things go wrong, how quickly the lawyer makes them right again is of utmost importance. If the quality of service your firm provided to a client is less than satisfactory, take the following steps.
Apologise – when you make a mistake, the first thing you should do is apologise and take responsibility for the error. Do not attempt to shift the blame. Do not attempt to explain it away. Most important of all, do not attempt to ignore it. Remember that the objective is to maintain the client’s trust. As long as service failures are the exceptions rather than the rule, a client is likely to believe and accept an apology. Fix it promptly: The faster the lawyer recovers and the faster he solves the service failure, the better. The speed and attention given to rectifying problems is an indication of the lawyer’s level of commitment to the client. Furthermore, the client will expect the lawyer to give the matter his immediate attention. Any delay or lack of responsiveness will only further deteriorate the relationship.
Make up for the inconvenience – it is important to search for ways to make up for the error. This could mean providing some additional service free of charge or sending the client a token of appreciation for his business and expressing regret over the inconvenience caused. It is not enough just to say that you will sue a bank and get the huge amount of money, because they made unintentional mistake.
Find the root cause – it is not enough to apologise and fix the problem quickly. The prudent lawyer will attempt to identify what caused the service breakdown and rectify the problem there. The aim is to ensure that the problem will never occur again. Just as you would not keep replacing tires that wear out prematurely without finding out why this was happening, it would not make sense to address the problem without fixing the cause of the problem.
To summarize, even satisfied clients are at risk. This could be due to changes in their circumstances or needs, new developments by competition or a lack of responsiveness or accessibility on the part of the lawyer. A client’s perception of service quality is directly related to his service expectation. The law firm must monitor variables that affect client expectations, his past experiences and personal needs, as well as the number of alternative law firms who can provide a similar service. How the service is delivered and the end result, are both important in the client’s assessment of quality.