Nurture customers with solid first impressions

Here are key ways to differentiate your firm from your competition.

By Jeremy Melis, professional services senior segment marketing manager on 3/1/2014

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You're evaluating a proposal from two law firms who want to handle your international expansion. The first comes from Strong, Brand & Moore in an overnight envelope bearing the firm's impressive logo; inside that envelope is an equally professional-looking prospectus. The other proposal, from Smith and Associates, comes written in crayon and stuffed inside a plain white envelope decorated with a coffee stain. Who are you more likely to go with?

That example is extreme, but nothing compared to the degree of my shock when I see more industry buzz around "customer experience" for online retailers than for the "experience" professional services firms must provide. Where should the experience be more important? When clicking "add to cart"? Or when bankers/consultants/financial advisors/lawyers hold your mortgage/business/retirement/life in their hands? These transactions are very important to the client – and that first impression sets the customer's expectation for the whole transaction. A service provider has to make a first impression that says, "You can trust us with this." Have you gotten the autogenerated voice mail that says, "Based on public data provided by the DMV, you may be paying too much for car insurance?" It doesn't exactly scream, "Trust me!"

It's also important to use the power of the first impression to differentiate yourself from the competition – thus the importance of marketing and branding. In a recent survey of more than 450 law firm administrators across North America, 46 percent said their firm planned to invest in marketing and branding in 2014; 31 percent stated it was a key focus in 2013. Law firms, like other professional services firms, need a way to stand out, be remembered and, ultimately, be selected as a business partner. I've seen this firsthand as more and more businesses in this sector use UPS envelopes customized with their logo to extend the reach of their brand. In fact, 25 percent of the survey respondents called the branded envelope a "no-brainer" for express shipping. View the full survey results. What is your first touch point with potential clients, and how is your firm working to maximize that opportunity?

The experience shouldn't stop with the first impression. In The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, the authors mention how every impression – or "cue" – must support the desired experience for the client throughout the entire process.

Disney is one example cited: Two of Disney's desired impressions are happiness and cleanliness, which are reinforced in everything they do, from marketing to personnel hiring and training to the execution of the brand in the parks. In the survey referenced above, 87 percent said client service was their No. 1 priority for the coming year. However, fewer than 1 in 4 employ best practices such as conducting satisfaction surveys or tying employee goals or incentives to client-service performance. And some said they spend more time trying to gain new clients than tending to existing clients. This doesn't sound like the Disney model, does it? For it to be meaningful and effective, client service has to be more than lip service. What experience are you trying to deliver? And how are you reinforcing that desired experience throughout the client life cycle?

UPS can help you deliver positive impressions with your current and prospective clients. Learn more here.

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