By Jeremy J. Salvador
It was only months ago that most professional firms took the position that it was generous to offer remote working. Many looked at it as a luxury or an employee perk. Today, it is a necessity. COVID-19 has forced firms to work remotely if they want to stay alive. As part of this virtual landscape, communication is more important than ever. Your clients should understand how you and your firm are adapting and what they can expect as COVID-19 continues. Here are 7 Habits for Highly Effective Client Communication in a Virtual Firm:
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Commit to being proactive about client communication. Too often we are in a reactive state, responding to client demands. The digital environment is saddled with uncertainty and angst due to COVID-19. Make sure that you are being proactive with your communication to clients. Be strategic as you work remotely by encouraging current and potential clients to reach out to you if they have any questions, concerns, or other needs. Call clients directly to offer help and reassurance as you work remotely. Reach out to former clients as well to let them know your firm is up-and-running. This will set their minds at ease that you’re handling their matters, albeit virtually.
Habit 2: Be Transparent
Be transparent in your communication with your clients. You’re not in your office. You’re working remotely. Maybe your garage is now your office, or you’re working on your dining room table. Own that and be transparent about your situation. Clients understand what is going on in the world. There’s no need to sugar coat where you are in COVID-19 landscape. Clients appreciate transparency.
Habit 3: Be Responsive
You and your team should commit to being responsive. Establish that your firm is an unwavering resource. Let’s face it, sitting at home with the rest of the family can be difficult to maintain consistent focus on work. But remember that you have been given stewardship over these legal matters and you are a professional. Though the office may be closed, clients should not see any difference in terms of responsiveness or commitment.
Habit 4: Be Consistent
Be consistent in your communication with your clients. Consistent communication will keep you top of mind and help with referrals and new client acquisitions when the economy eventually rebounds. Consider sending weekly emails to clients to keep them informed about what’s happening at your firm. These emails can be powerful in building your client relationship as they can provide useful information – like the status of their case, the status of the court system, applicable laws, developments in your area of practice that might affect their cases. These types of emails can provide your clients with reassurance that while the firm is not physically in the office, everyone at your firm is still working diligently.
Habit 5: Be Flexible
In this digital environment, there are a myriad of communication tools at your disposal. Some clients may want to communicate on the phone, others through email, others through video conferences, others through chat platforms. As a professional, you may be used to communications with clients being directed through 2-3 of these channels. It’s okay to set guidelines and boundaries. However, in a digital firm you may have to learn how to use these other tools. Be flexible.
Habit 6: Be Present
If you’re like me, there’s a million things going on at home. Trying to work through all that often means that there can be numerous people and responsibilities competing for your attention. When communicating with your clients, shut the door and be present. Some clients will find it distracting or even disrespectful if you aren’t being fully present in your conversations with them.
Habit 7: Be Considerate
Be considerate in your communication with your clients. In the same way you would want clients to exercise compassion and be considerate of your needs, you should do the same. Perhaps you have clients who are not providing you the information or documentation you need and are preventing your ability to complete the scope of billable work. In the wake of the pandemic, many clients have gone radio silent. This type of behavior can be frustrating when you have so many other responsibilities you already must deal with in the practice. Be considerate in your communications and be understanding of their situations. Exercising patience and empathy now can win loyalty and goodwill from the clients, now and in the future.
About the Author
Jeremy Salvador CVA, CFE, CFS, CFC, CTC, CAC, CCC, RFI, CIFA, ASBC
Jeremy Salvador is a partner at Miod and Company, LLP where he has been specializing in forensic accounting for family law and civil litigation since 2009. Mr. Salvador regularly prepares income available for support reports, business valuations, arrearage calculations, tracings, community property balance sheets, and apportionment analyses. He has qualified and testified as an expert witness in the Los Angeles County and Riverside County Superior Courts.