Two events recently highlighted the decline for customer service and relationships in the services industry–and particularly in mine, which is legal services. First, I was having lunch with one of my outside counsel. He was picking my brain as to why I retain certain law firms, and the effect of billing rates on who I retain. That got my mind jogging on a number of topics regarding my selection of outside counsel–and how billing rates are only one aspect of who I choose. See more below.
Second, I was at a hospital trying to get lab work done. The lab sign said they closed at 4:45pm. My watch and the main hospital clock said 4:43, but the door was locked anyways. I knocked and two individuals opened it. I was promptly told the lab was closed because it was past 4:45. When I pointed out that it wasn’t yet 4:45 at the time of our discussion, they pointed to their own wall clock, which was set nearly 10 minutes ahead. I needed this work done, but the clerk calmly said he had a lot to do before closing and couldn’t help me. I was given his manager’s phone number if I wanted to complain about it. He wasn’t disrespectful, but he obviously didn’t care.
The second incident crystallized some thoughts I had during that lunch. There is a lost art to building relationships, offering great service, and seeing yourself as a “partner” to your business clients–and it’s being lost in the law firm world much more quickly than it should–something I lamented to my outside counsel.