Do clients now prefer online contact to meeting face-to-face?
By Charlie Britten
27 Aug 2019
With the advent of the online revolution came email, Skype and other direct messaging services. Since data can now be accessed anytime and anywhere that has internet access, it can often seem that personal, face-to-face contact has become superfluous.
That thought has led to some wider societal concerns about the way some people use the internet and particularly social media. But is it true in business? Will your clients prefer to do everything online, or is meeting face-to-face still the most important form of contact?
Not everything has changed
Knowing to what extent your clients want or need to communicate and interact with you online is important if you are to provide the service they need.
The first thing to bear in mind is that it is a very long time since all business has been conducted face-to-face. Before the internet and email, there were telephones and snail mail. It is highly unlikely you will meet many clients who will want to do everything on a face-to-face basis, particularly if they lead busy lives.
The key question, therefore, is: when and how often is face-to-face best?
Advantages of face-to-face meetings
Psychologists know that face-to-face contact has many important benefits. It helps build trust and creates rapport, humanises the interaction and even brings the benefit of non-verbal signals like body language. If these are positive, it can create an important good impression.
This can be particularly important when dealing with matters such as legal cases, since a client may be feeling confused, uncertain and anxious about everything that is going on.
In addition, the personal touch can be an important selling point for a firm, while it also overcomes any technical problems that may occur, like a client’s wi-fi going down.
For all these reasons, it is also important that face-to-face communication is available as part of the mix in your interaction with clients.
The role of online communication
While the face-to-face meeting still has its place, it is important for law firms to know that a lot of the time - and to an increasing extent - clients prefer to use online means of staying in touch.
Recent research by Olive Communications has shown that there is now strong demand for law services to be available online. This reflects both the busy lifestyles and work patterns many people have and the modern desire to have things as immediately as possible.
It found that 34 per cent of consumers wanted solicitors to offer digital services like video conferencing, chat and instant messaging.
Another piece of research by Sapio for MMA digital found that while 55 per cent do still want some face-to-face contact with lawyers, 83 per cent want to deal with them online, with a key motivation being the desire to keep costs down. Only 29 per cent said they preferred to deal with law firms over the phone.
The study also found that the majority would start a search for legal services using a search engine like Google and nearly half would look for information on social media before making a buying decision.
It is generally reckoned that as younger people have grown up with the internet, they are the most likely to use online services. However, it is unwise to make assumptions about every customer, so it is wise to offer both face-to-face and good online services to everyone.
To do the latter will require each legal firm to make sure their communication strategies are up to scratch. A simple website with just basic information will not do. Clearly, a fully-utilised email system is vital, but there are also great advantages to be gained through content marketing and social media.
As noted above, A strong online presence can be helpful in attracting custom in the first place. But it also helps open channels for two-way communication and means the consumer knows they have plenty of options.
In this way, the client with the busy lifestyle who has little or no time to go to an office and meet a lawyer can still access a full range of services online.
Going the extra mile
Just as importantly, law firms can impress and delight existing clients by maintaining great communications with them. Failure to keep people up-to-date with their cases is one of the worst ways to disappoint a client, so a strong focus on using the wide array of digital facilities available to keep in touch means better customer service.
After all, it is by meeting the needs of clients - not just in terms of their cases but also through good communication - that firms not only keep customers happy and willing to come back, but also turn them into advocates who will recommend their services to friends and family.
How we can help
At BeUniqueness, we can help your firm develop a comprehensive strategy that can combine the best of online and offline communication. By doing this, you can keep in touch with your clients, market your services and develop your brand image in a way that helps you steal a march on your competitors.