They say opposites attract - and that may be true when it comes to lovers but hear me now when I say there is no room for opposites when it comes to collaborating with your clients. Knowing a little about how your clients are using technology can really help strengthen your relationship with them.
I spent seven years working in the I.T. departments of large law firms. I spent as much time in the training room as I did at the Help Desk. Here's an example of a typical exchange with a secretary while trouble-shooting a corrupt document:
- Hi Adriana, its Lisa. I just received a file from RussellRiley and every time I try to open it Word freezes up.
- What what word processor are they using?
- Hm, that's a good question. I don't know.
- Lisa, haven't they been a client of ours for over 5 years?
Bang-Bang-Bang my head on the desk. Five years of documents flying back and forth and she's never asked. We (the tech department) spent a lot of time dissecting issues that could have been more readily resolved had we a little, wee, tiny bit of information. Many times, the attorney wouldn't want to ask the client a simple tech question for fear of looking technically incapable or inferior. This, of course, only made me furious and worse, made me waste too much valuable time. So I came up with this tech compatibility survey that I hoped we might send to the client during the engagement process. In my dreams we would have kept this info in our CRM (yeah, I dream big, baby!) or just a simple database that we had at hand. I also looked at it as a great way to form a bond with the client.
Consider what banks have done to foster long-term relationships with their clients. They've got it all figured out. I do my banking on-line (and so should you) with Wachovia . I invested quite a bit of time inputting the details of numerous payees into my personal, business and savings accounts. They have all of my info, I talk to them, they talk to me - we COMMUNICATE. And unless Wachovia cheats on me then runs off with my cat and money - I'm not going anywhere. They've got me by the furballs.
Well, the firm I worked for never adopted my master plan (Congress was between sessions) but I haven't stopped dreaming. I don't see why more law firms aren't using technology to leverage their client relationships in the same way as banks. So I'm putting it out there for you. If you're a solo or a small firm, you can start using something like this TODAY. Maybe it will be you that makes my dream come true. Just be sure to let me know so I can cross this one off my list.
The document is a simple form asking some basic tech questions. It's a template, a suggestion, an idea. If you have some thoughts about additions to the form or comments about how to make it better - leave a comment. Perhaps together, we can create The Perfect Compatibility Questionnaire.