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From iPads to High Heels: What Attorneys Can Learn from Apple and Zappos

Pepperoni Pizza
Pepperoni Pizza (Photo credit: mhaithaca)
What can attorneys learn from companies like Apple and Zappos? A great deal, according to Jack Newton, co-founder, president and CEO of cloud-based law practice management company, Clio. So, what does selling shoes and iPads have to do with the legal profession? According to Mr. Newton, who addressed a room full of attorneys during the keynote address at our fourth annual ‘super’ marketing conference, it’s all about the customer; or, in this case, it’s all about the client experience.
It’s Not About What You Sell; It’s About How You Sell It
Mr. Newton explained that (perhaps surprisingly:) 53% of customer buying behavior is about how you sell your products and/or services, while only 47% of that behavior is about what you’re selling. In other words, companies like Apple and Zappos are wildly successful because they set themselves apart from the competition by giving their customers an experience like no other.
Lawyers, Newton said, can draw from these examples and look for ways to provide an exceptional experience for their clients. So, what does a great experience look like? He gave a couple of anecdotes, including a personal one.
Real Life Success Stories
Newton explained that, one day, he was walking outside with his new iPhone in his hand, and accidentally dropped it; the screen shattered into a million pieces. Nervously, he brought it into an Apple store, assuming he would have to shell out $500 for a new phone; instead, the Apple representative surprised him by giving him a new phone, no questions asked. At that moment, he said, he became a lifelong Apple fan and customer.
Apple prides itself on solving its customers’ problems. The company even developed a handbook that includes specific language to use when addressing customers’ emotional needs. The mantra is not to sell, but rather to make customers happy. Happy customers, the company believes, will buy products. Evidently, the strategy is working, because Apple continues to be one of the most successful companies of all time.
Another story Newton shared related to online shoe retailer, Zappos. Zappos is another company that believes in providing exemplary customer service, and that is one of the reasons why it continues to be incredibly successful in a market that is, frankly, saturated with competition.
Newton recounted the story of a customer who called into Zappos, and then endured a lengthy return phone call with a company representative. During the call, the customer said he was getting hungry, since the call was taking so long. Later that afternoon, the customer received a knock on the door: it was a delivery man bringing him a pizza. It was a gesture from Zappos, thanking him for his patience; and it created a lifelong customer relationship.
While Mr. Newton explained that (clearly) this isn’t always the most cost effective way to do business, it is a great way to build loyalty, which can translate into something far greater than a simple sale. Loyalty creates advocates and builds brands.
So, how can attorneys learn from these stories, and apply them to their practices? Newton offered eight tips attorneys can use to build client loyalty:
8 Ways to Build Loyal Clients
Solve Your Clients’ Problems. In other words, take a page out of the Zappos’ playbook. Even the smallest gestures (you don’t necessarily have to buy a pizza) can pay off in big ways.
Listen to Your Clients. Perhaps your client is having a bad day, or is experiencing a personal tragedy; find out what the root of the problem is, and see if there’s something you can do to help.
Keep Your Clients Informed. People often feel more anxious when they don’t know what’s going on. Make it a point to send regular emails or updates, to alert clients of any changes that are on the horizon.
Imagine Being Your Client. Mr. Newton talked about the Four Seasons hotel chain, in order to flesh out this example. The Four Seasons puts each of its employees up at one of its hotels for a night, so the employees can truly understand what the experience of staying in a five-star resort feels like. Since they each understand what it’s like to be a guest, each staffperson takes pride in delivering an exceptional stay.
Trade Efficiency for Service. Instead of trying to move too quickly through a client call, take the time to make personal connections.
Correct Mistakes You Didn’t Make. Even if you didn’t make the mistake that is causing your client stress, try to find ways to solve their problem.
Reduce Risk for Your Customers. Find ways to reduce risk for the clients that do business with you. Offer your clients the opportunity of a fee refund, if they’re unhappy with your work.
Find and Optimize Customer Interaction Points. Be proactive with your clients. If you haven’t heard from one of them in a while, send them a note, to see how you can make life easier for them.
Clearly, success in business can hinge on building connections with clients in genuine ways. In looking at the success of Apple and Zappos, who can argue the fact?