Managing Client Expectations to Create Raving Fans 502


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Building a firm and starting a firm is not easy! But what Bill is going to cover today is easy. It’s easy to learn. It’s easy to do. And it will have a disproportionate positive impact on your business. The reason this stuff works is that it goes to the core of any successful business, which is client happiness! That is at the core — If your clients are happy, they will go out and rave about your business and any people they talk to.

If those people need help in the same area in the future, they are the easiest leads to convert. Let’s think about client happiness in a different way. There are two components to client happiness.

  1. Objective
  2. Client expectations

This and more is what our podcast guest Bill Farias talks about today in this throwback MaxLawCon 22 presentation. Listen in!

Episode Highlights:

3:13 When what you get falls short of what you were promised! 

8:02 Not properly managing and meeting people’s expectations 

8:58 Using a formula to manage clients expectations 

10:25 Step 1 – If you do the work up front …

10:40 Step 2 – Humans want to make other people happy = Operations – Process – Costs 

14:12 How to get started and making a game plan

16:53 Tools

🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here

Connect with Bill:


Transcript: Managing Client Expectations to Create Raving Fans

Becca Eberhart
In today’s episode, we’re sharing a presentation from Max law con 2020. To keep listening to hear Bill Farias as we share his talk, managing client expectations to create raving fans, you can also head to the maximum lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video, let’s get to it.

Unknown Speaker
Run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast, podcast, your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson metrics. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Bill Farias
So this building affirms starting a firm managing a firm thing is not easy, right? Whether you are a solo looking to optimize the operation and profit. Or if you are looking to build a firm to the point that you can exit this stuff is not easy. But what we are going to cover today is easy. It’s easy to learn, it’s easy to implement. And it will have a disproportionate positive impact on your operation and your business. And the reason this stuff works is that it goes to the core of any successful business, which is client happiness, right? That is at the root. If your clients are happy, they will go out and rave about your business. And the people they talk to if those people need help in the same area in the future, they are the easiest leads to convert. I mean, you really have to blow the sales process to not land these people. And what I want to talk to you today about is to think about client happiness in a different way. There are two components to client happiness. One is we’ll call it objective. And I call it reality, which is what result is the client getting? What service are you delivering? And obviously, we should continue to improve in those areas, right? We want to deliver great service, we want to deliver great results. But the other area that’s very important and underrated and is more subjective, is client expectations. And it’s something we don’t pay a lot of attention to. So what kind of expectations are you creating when you are onboarding these people? Are you doing a good job of avoiding you and your staff doing a good job of avoiding inflating these people’s expectations? When there are key events or changes in the case? What are you doing to actively manage those expectations?

Bill Farias
These little girls here are my daughter’s Gabriella and Emma and I love them dearly. And these little girls absolutely love sugar. I mean, what kid doesn’t love sugar, but these kids especially love sugar. And they love particularly ice cream from this little shop called the ice cream barn in the small town of Swansea, Massachusetts. And this is the best ice cream I’ve ever had. I mean, they’ve won multiple awards for best ice cream in the state. And I think it’s the best ice cream in the world. And you are all very fortunate to not live near this place because this stuff is dangerously good. And so I thought I would be a good dad during that pandemic, that nightmare pandemic summer year of 2020. And everything was closed for a while. And shops and restaurants were starting to open back up. And so I thought I’d be a good dad and get some ice cream from the ice cream bar they had just opened up. And so I told my little girls, I’m going to the ice cream barn and we’re going to have some ice cream. And I’ve never seen them so happy they were jumping up and down. They were ecstatic, as happy as can be. And then, as happens more than I would like, I got a text from colleague and there was an emergency and I had to deal with it. And I had to deal with it right away. This couldn’t wait. And the ice cream barn was going to close in 20 minutes. And I had to sit down at a laptop and take care of this problem. And so I wasn’t going to make it and I felt terrible. So now I had to break the news to these kids that they were not getting ice cream from the best shop in the entire state. And so I was trying to think of a way to save this and what I thought of Was this at this time, in the summer of 2020, I had a pretty nasty Oreo habit. And my Oreo habit worked like this. I would sit down at the end of the day and I would watch sopranos for like the third time or Ozark and I would dunk my Oreos in milk and enjoy them. They were super chewy, delicious. And this got quickly out of control. One Oreo turned into three turned into six, and I had to kill the habit, but it was great while it lasted. So the point of this is that I had some Oreos in the pantry. And I had to hide these I’m embarrassed to say because they’d be gone if I don’t hide them. And then I wouldn’t have my Oreos for my shows. So I thought this is a nice tree, I will just offer them some Oreos. And so I said girls, I’m not going to be able to go to the ice cream barn. But I have some Oreos in the pantry and you’re free to enjoy the Oreos. And these kids were absolutely devastated. So any other time I would offer these kids Oreos, this is their second favorite treat, right the only thing they like more than Oreos is ice cream from the ice cream barn. So any other time I offer them Oreos, there was a similar reaction. They were very happy, ecstatic. But this time when they had the expectation to get ice cream from the best shop in the state, and the fallback was Oreos. They were devastated. And so what does this has to do with business? Well, in about 2018, I started listening to these two dudes named Jim and Tyson. And they were talking about treating a law firm like a business. And there were a lot of great ideas. And I thought the first thing I would do was very simple. Just reach out to clients and get feedback. How is it going? Do you have any suggestions. And the feedback that I got wasn’t great. So it took longer than I expected to get the case filed, the support amount was lower than I expected. We practice divorce and custody family law. It took too long to resolve the case, I thought I was getting more parenting time, I’m disappointed I didn’t get shared legal custody. And so the next move was to figure out why this was happening. And at the time, it was very easy to do. Because I was essentially the whole operation it was me and a legal assistant, I had all of the interaction with the clients. So I know what these people were hearing, I know inside out what was happening on the case. And the conclusion was that this had a lot less to do with the service that we were delivering, and the result the client was getting. In other words, I was very confident that I couldn’t have done anything to change the outcome, and that the service was good. The problem was, I was not properly setting and managing expectations. So these people’s expectations were inflated, and I didn’t meet them. And so we lost. So I have a formula that I think is very helpful to understand this, I didn’t invent this formula, I think you’ll find it online. And I believe it’s sort of a combination of Buddhism, and stoicism. I’m a big fan of psychology, by necessity. Back in 2005. When I was in law school, I was burning the candle at both ends, I burned myself out, had to take a leave hooked up with a couple of really good doctors, psychologists, and they gave me some great tools. And I’ve been a student of psychology since and by the way, Buddhism and stoicism are great. There are so many modern psychological principles that stem from those disciplines. So I highly recommend reading them. But what you see here is two clients, one client on the left one client on the right. And what you’ll see overall, when you look at this is that happiness sits in the gap between reality again, what’s happening, the result and the expectations. And so both got the same result. You see that’s reflected by the reality line up top. So they got the same result got the same level of service. The problem is that although the client on the left had expectations properly said and that worked out you have a happy client, manage expectations set well the client on the right not so much right inflated expectations and that person is unhappy. So same result, same level of service. One person is thrilled, the other is not happy is miserable. And we’ve experienced this many times ourselves clients that come from other attorneys, attorneys so and so told me this, and we’ve had cases where we believe the other side got a better result. But our client was happy. And the other side wasn’t solely based on the expectations that were set and the expectations that were not managed throughout the process. So what are the barriers to this? So number one, this actually takes work upfront to set, it’s very important to set these expectations with clients, it’s very important to train your staff on it. If you do the work upfront, it’s going to be much easier to manage this throughout the process. Number two, another psychological principle, which is that human beings naturally want to make other people happy right now. And so when you are appropriately setting and managing expectations, that often involves difficult conversations with people. And people just generally want to avoid that, right? They want to say something right now, that’s going to make the person happy. The problem is, you can do that. But if you’re not accurate, and you’re inflating expectations, you are paying the price down the road. So how does this work? You just tell everyone that you suck, and then everything you do beyond that is just gravy, and you’re good to go. So unfortunately, it’s just really not that simple. Don’t do that you’ll lose all your clients. So what areas do you target? Number one, operations. Your clients need to know how your operation works. What time do you open? What time do you close? What times are people available? How long does it take someone to get back to the person, they need to know how things work? Number two timeframes, they need to know how long it takes your firm to do certain things, how long it takes for any other entity that’s involved to do certain things. The courts courts are slow, these people need to know that otherwise, they’re going to think you are the problem. So you need to explain timeframes to clients. process. This is more of a 30,000 foot view. These people need to know what the client journey is going to look like from start to finish as best as you can explain it. And they need to know whether it’s going to be sequential, and predictable. They need to know like family law, divorce and custody, whether it might be all over the place, they need to have an idea of what the process is going to look like, costs. People hate talking about money, you need to talk about costs with clients. You need to talk about costs, even if there isn’t certainty, especially if there isn’t certainty use ranges. But you need to have these discussions

Becca Eberhart
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Bill Farias
And finally, results. And this is more geared toward what not to do be very, very careful about predicting results. All right, if you make predictions, if you say maybe probably, and it’s what someone really wants and their ultimate goal, if you are not accurate, you will pay the price that is all they will remember. So be very careful when you’re talking about results to clients. So what is the game plan? Number one, you need to set the expectations right you need to create the onboarding material, you need to make sure that you are having or your staff is having these conversations with clients to put these expectations in place, it is going to be much easier to manage them down the road. Number two pushing down expectations and you can think of this as sort of the other side of this coin is avoid inflating expectations. Okay. Again, use ranges use other tools that we’ll go over to make sure that expectations are pushed down. And finally managing and again this goes to a different points in the case certain things will happen and if you believe that it will benefit the client and your relation shipped to have a conversation about expectations and how they should change to remain consistent with the case that should happen, you need to actively manage the expectations throughout the case. So what are the limits to this? All right, there are limits. And number one is sales, okay? During the sales process, people want certainty, and they want to have confidence in you. So if you are going to drill down on expectations, during the sales process, they’ll go elsewhere, you’re not going to land that lead. The exception is, if there is a major expectation that you feel your firm will not be able to meet, then absolutely, you need to have that discussion, you do not want to onboard someone with an expectation you can’t meet because it’s going to be a nightmare. But generally stay away from drilling down on expectations during sales, you want to do it during onboarding, quality, this is the objective factor. All right, this is the result they are getting the service you are delivering the fact that you know that managing expectations has a significant impact on client happiness is not a license to suck. Alright, you have to continue to get better, you have to continue to work on getting your clients better results. And finally, integrity. So you want to push down and manage expectations. But you need to be honest with people. All right. So again, you can use ranges, one tool that I use is if there is a range, I will err on the side of caution on that range. So I keep the expectations down. But you do not want to misrepresent, obviously, I’m gonna go over some of the tools that I found helpful in setting and managing expectations. And these are all sort of related. So number one is uncertainty. I know in family law, I did criminal defense for a while. And there is plenty of uncertainty in those areas of practice. And I know there’s plenty of uncertainty in many areas of practice. And what you want to do is you want to use this to your advantage, okay, you want to talk to the client about it, and you want to help them understand this element of the law and the process. But you don’t want these people to lose confidence in you, right. So the way that you accomplish that is you focus them on the micro, okay, we believe that this is the best next step, we believe, based on our experience, this is what you should do, and focus them on that next step. Effort, Right, this is another one, this is what we are doing. This is what the staff is doing to move your case forward, focus them on the effort that you are making on their behalf. Time, time comes up again, because this is the most common complaint, I can’t tell you how many people come to me and say, I thought so and so was going to finish this by this time, it’s gone way over. This happens all the time. This happens all the time in law, it happens all the time in business in general, err on the side of caution when it comes to time, there is a general rule to add a third. So if you think it’s going to take two days, tell them it’s going to take three, you don’t have to follow that rule. But the bottom line is, like everything else we’ve been talking about, you want to under promise and over deliver on time, be very careful about your predictions on when things are going to get done. And finally, focus them back on integrity, right? You can go to the law firm down the street, and they’re going to tell you exactly what you want to hear. But we’re doing right by you. We are honest with you and transparent, and we’re telling you exactly like it is and they will appreciate that you are flipping using this uncertainty into these people trusting you. So what do you do with this? First of all, don’t assume that your staff knows this. I know some of you might be saying duh, obviously you want to under promise and over deliver. But again, you have that human element of people want to make other people happy. Right? So people don’t like to have difficult discussions and when you are properly setting and managing expectations, that involves difficult discussions. So just train them on this concept, this idea. And finally put a lot of effort into onboarding. Okay. So I found that people don’t like to read, I’ve tried this a million different ways. If you’re gonna give them a ton of stuff to read, they’re just not going to read it. So you need to be creative. You need to add videos, you need to add charts, you need to deliver it to them in a way that they are actually going to want to consume it and you want to put a bunch of time and effort into doing it upfront so that it’s much easier to manage the expectations throughout. So we have been doing this for some time and focusing on it. It’s something I continually bring up. We’ve been gathering net promoter scores from our clients for a while now. So nine and 10 are promoters they’re going out and telling other people about the service, anything below might be problematic. We have about 95% promoters. And I’m very confident that it has a lot to do with how we’re managing this issue. So if you take this seriously, if you train your staff on it, if you incorporate it into your process, you will be a long way toward optimizing client happiness, which is the single most effective way to create raving fans that will help you take your business to whatever level you want. That’s all I got. Time for questions? Anybody have any questions? So a net promoter score, Billy tercio was here earlier, she’s the one who taught me about it. But it is basically serving the clients and asking them on a scale from one to 10. How likely are you to promote our business? How likely are you to tell other people about our business, a nine or a 10 is a promoter, a seven or an eight is neutral. So they don’t really hate you. But they’re kind of on the fence. And then anything below seven is a real problem.

Unknown Speaker
Well, quite difficult to avoid really valid results, conversation when you are doing sales.

Bill Farias
Well, at first it was but now it’s sort of like second nature. And again, I use the tools that I highlighted. But absolutely, people want to hear what the result is going to be. And people want you to predict. And what you have to do is just not bite the bullet, unless you are 100% Certain, and I know you do criminal work. So this was just as much a problem in my criminal practice. I did that for about seven years, and you just can’t bite, right, you have to go back to there’s a lot of uncertainty, the judge has a ton of discretion, here’s what we are going to do. I’m confident these are the best next steps. So I stay completely away from predicting results. And I’m training my staff on it. In fact, I caught an email from an associate, coincidentally, about a week ago, and there was a hearing that didn’t go too well. And she emailed the client, you will probably end up getting shared custody, I saw that email. Don’t do that, right. Because you never know what can go wrong in many legal practice in many practice areas. So you have to avoid that at all costs. Again, people want to hear it. So your staff is going to want to make them happy. But I avoided at all costs. Yep. So we at first were doing it only at the end. Now we are doing it after major events. So if there is a key meeting, if there is an important hearing, we will send the NPSL because we want to know sooner rather than later whether there is an issue. So there is no exact number, but we are doing it far more frequently and implementing it earlier. The NPS. So we have a client service specialist, and we’re actually in the process of optimizing this some so that it can be more automated. But we have a client service specialist who collects this info, gets it into a spreadsheet, and then we can analyze it and take the necessary steps.

Unknown Speaker
To communicate with that person, we need to send it in the app.

Bill Farias
So we have a project management platform that allows all staff to see where the cases are at. And so the client service specialist knows we actually use, they go into And they know, look, there’s a hearing coming up on Tuesday. So on Wednesday, we’re reaching out to the client, you’re sorry.

Unknown Speaker
A client comes to you or your clients, here’s my situation, what do you have?

Bill Farias
Know what I do is I give them a realistic range of possibilities. And I correct and I but the bottom line is I err on the side of caution even on the range, because that’s problematic, too. People are only going to hear the best case scenario and they will hold you to it. So be very careful even about the range. Marco

Bill Farias
people who don’t listen to reason and what we just get rid of them immediately. So we have a process to flag these people. And we accumulate this data and we give people the benefit of the doubt and Marco you do family law so you know very emotionally driven, right. So if they have a bad day, we can deal with it. If the data starts to accumulate, that it’s going to be a problem and it will be difficult to meet their expectations. They’re gone. And we do the you know, it’s not you, it’s me, we want, we want to find the best lawyer for you. So we just get rid of them. Well, we’ve been kind of on the fence about this. So I asked for the Google review at the end if the person is a promoter if it’s a nine or a 10. But we are actually thinking about sending it out when we get a favorable NPS. So if it’s after a great hearing, why not take advantage of that opportunity to say, Hey, can you please fill this out? Or can you please leave us a review? What we don’t want to do is ask multiple times. I’m not even sure if someone can do that. But we just want to be careful not to ask them multiple times. But I don’t I don’t have a problem with sending it out during the process. We haven’t done it yet. But that’s something we’re considering.

Unknown Speaker
Yes, over time, and then like, what’s your process that gets triggered by that? It’s like below which,

Bill Farias
yeah, so the NPS data is accumulated on a Google sheet. And it automatically spits out what the average is. And there is a breakdown of each individual person, and what the score was and the exact feedback. And then what happens is we have a system for identifying the anybody who gave us less than a nine. And automatically that sort of goes up the chain. So first, it goes to the paralegal and attorney, hey, here’s what’s going on client so and so is complaining about this. And then depending on what comes out of that, it’ll go up the chain to me, so that I can take a look at it, usually

Unknown Speaker
multiple times a client to see where they are different stages, or once you send them an either in the middle after major thing or at the end.

Bill Farias
Yeah. So that’s something that we’re also in the process of figuring out we have sent it out multiple times. I’m not sure what the best answer is to that. Certainly, I think whatever process you implement, needs to be geared toward capturing these issues consistently, right? You don’t want to do it just once at the beginning. What if things go south, three months down the road? So we’re earning on the side of sending it out regularly? All right. Thank you.

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