Who do you not want as your customers?

by Jon Lin on October 18, 2010 · 0 comments

in Legal marketing

Marketing is not my day job.  However, I couldn’t help but jump into a recent discussion in the Legal Marketing group on martindale.com Connected titled “Firm Sets Client Expectations via Its Web Site.”  It’s also been talked about at Above the Law and WSJ’s Law Blog.  The topic of discussion is how Pincus Family Law Firm in Columbia, SC has a page on its website called Client Expectations on which they declare how they work and the experience that clients should expect to have with working with them.  They begin by saying:

We do not work on the weekends and do not provide emergency numbers for the weekends.  There are times we may look at and answer your email over the weekend, but this is generally the exception and not to be relied upon by you that we are accessible on weekends.

Obviously, not what you typically hear a law firm say in private or public.  Definitely pretty bold.  However, most replies in the thread pointed to the firm as an example of poor client service and what not to do.

But are we too quick to judge without knowing more about the firm and their situation?  I argue yes.  As I mention in my reply to the discussion:

One of the most important things to understand in terms of marketing and strategy is who your target market is and who you choose to serve. That also means there should be a conscious decision on who NOT to serve. Most companies, not just in the legal industry, do not do this well.

This is key.  All clients are not created equal.  Maybe Pincus only wants clients who in their minds are not “pains in the neck.”  If you are a potential client of theirs and you are adamant that you can’t reach them on the weekends, they may be more than happy to let you go to another lawyer.  Setting the correct expectations and meeting or exceeding them is a critical contributor to customer satisfaction.  If the Client Expectations page on their site is their way of communicating this, I would be willing to bet that they clients they do have are more than satisfied with Pincus’s service.

For those who are not buying this argument, I would compare Pincus Law Firm to Southwest Airlines.  They started out and told everyone not to expect first class, assigned seats, meals, or the ability to book through a travel agent, among other things.  This is the Southwest equivalent of “we are not accessible on weekends.”  Instead, they promised low prices, simple fare structures, and friendly service and delivered on these very well.

This “not accessible on weekends” model doesn’t work for many airline customers, myself included.  Southwest is probably fine with that because it does work for the many many other customers that they were targeting and those people have made Southwest is the most successful airline in history.

Now, whether Pincus strategically used their Client Expectations page to segment potential clients, consciously or not, is another matter.

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