Ready for a lawyer joke? How about a practical joke on a lawyer. Tell your firm that you want them to back up their service with a satisfaction guarantee and see how terrified they will be. No need to say BOO! Demanding Satisfaction will DO! When I tell some attorneys that we offer a satisfaction guarantee, they all want to know the details like;
How do you define it?
How can you do that, clients are never satisfied?
Do you at least put in a disclaimer?
How do you qualify it? Blah blah blah blah .
It is like these people have not lived a life in normal society. Seriously . . use your brain. . . how many things have you bought in your life with a satisfaction guarantee? (yes, probably hundreds of things). How many times did you return something based on that guarantee? Yes, for most us it was not often at all (studies show only 2% of people return things on these grounds). How many times did you return something for a reason that was not legitimate (no defect or problem)? (If you did this several times, please never call us for services). For most of us the answer is NEVER! OK lawyers, so let me get this straight . . . you have lived your entire life buying hundreds and hundreds of products (and services) with a satisfaction guarantee (defining it on your terms and not the company's terms), have rarely used it, never for a non-legitimate reason, and yet you are scared to death to offer a satisfaction guarantee to your clients? Not only does your consuming behavior speak for itself, the studies also speak for themselves. One of two things must have happened to you:
1) Your skeptical attitude has clouded your judgment and perspective on life so much so that you wouldn't believe the sun was out unless 50 scientists ruled out the possibility that one a 100,000 other stars out there didn't cause the bright light you saw this morning that rose from the east and eventually set in the west. You do not trust anything. . . . nothing can be true in your eyes unless someone takes the time to prove it out to you (and you will challenge every assumption and make them miserable in the process even if they are right). Even if it is true you still may not agree.
Lesson #1: Skepticism is a TOOL you learn in law school to help advocate for and solve problems for clients, NOT a perspective on life, a way you deal with your spouse, or a way that you should interact with the world on a daily basis. You may have just forgotten that something can, in fact, be what it is. If you are looking at opposing counsel's brief, be skeptical. If you are looking at a $100 bill, stop looking at it funny to see if the watermark of Ben Franklin portrays his face properly and put the damn thing your wallet! Only 2% of millions and millions of consumers take advantage of a satisfaction guarantee, and of that nearly 80% do it for a legitimate reason (so you ought to be giving them something back). We have served over 100 clients and have not had a SINGLE CLIENT take advantage of our guarantee (because we go the distance to make sure they are happy). I just gave you a $100 bill. Stop looking at it. Stop intellectualizing it. IMPLEMENT IT! Your clients will thank you for it!
2) You know that you are not really satisfying your clients and you are scared to death of what will happen! You would rather be accountable to keeping a detailed timesheet than be accountable to your clients, and the thought of having the customer be the arbiter of your value seems just demeaning and demoralizing to you.
In the background: Your client's brains are still functioning while you are in denial, you know! While you are sheltering your fragile ego and your mountain-high pride, they are at every instance gauging the VALUE of your services and many are deeply disappointed. Your psychological barriers prevent you from asking them what they think. Theirs prevent them from telling you because they really have no incentive and it is just plain uncomfortable to do so. Even if you asked them they still have no incentive to tell you what is bothering them. It will fester and eventually they will just go to another firm. This happens all the time to you and you don't even realize it. For both them and you it is easier to leave than to face the issue. Here's your challenge: You cannot change human nature: your customers WILL leave for service related issues without telling you unless YOU are proactive and partner with them in being the best that you can be. This means that you have to (as David Maister so perfectly puts it) have the courage to care more about your clients needs than about your own psychology (you ego and pride). You are human. It is okay that you are not perfect. . . clients can understand that. If you backup your service with a satisfaction guarantee they take your "humanness" and work with you to make you the best service provider you can be. If not, you must be intelligent enough to know that your attitude of infallibility is not fooling anyone . . . denial is dangerous to your clients, and they will not consider it their problem to "train" you how to serve them better unless you give them a reason to care. You are faced with a difficult decision choice to make: Your Clients or Your Ego? What will you decide?
OK - I know that I am being hard on attorneys that fall into these categories. The fact is that the 2 issues above (skeptical SOB perspective on life, and psychologically defensive "ego and pride protection plan" behaviors) are both serious and pervasive. They are also hard behaviors to change. For those who are just plain skeptics, it is like they have been infected with the "prove it" virus and there is no cure. We all know people like that . . . they are annoying as hell. Then there are those who would rather protect their pride and ego than know if they really suck! Why? Because it is human nature too. . . plus. . . lawyers have among the highest egos of all . . . to fall from that height you are bound to break something! Most people are not self aware enough to open the safe to their own mind to understand it, let alone alter its contents.
For those of you for which there is hope, a Satisfaction Guarantee is sound from both a theory and a practice perspective. If you are truly curious about how it works and are considering it for your firm, I welcome you to contact me and I can show you how to do it! Satisfaction Guaranteed!