Designed Empathy by Dominos
By: Taylor Budnick
As an avid lover of both pizza and convenience, when I think of the value of empathetic research by businesses Dominos Pizza immediately comes to mind. I have no knowledge of whether Dominos has actually increased its customer satisfaction overall, only that the company’s empathetic shift has won-over at least one fan (myself). I remember seeing commercials on TV in which higher-level employees read pretty harsh customer complaints about the lack of quality of Dominos pizza. These commercials were empathetic; Dominos understood its customer’s dissatisfaction and appreciated their feelings. Dominos placed itself in its customer’s shoes, developed better tasting pizza, and continued innovating to develop my personal favorite delivery feature: “Dominos Tracker.” If fast, easy to order, delivery pizza is what I am craving, Dominos is always my go-to. Online ordering spares me the hassle of talking on the phone, plus my order (cheese with pineapple) is already saved, so ordering takes a matter of seconds, and the pizza tracker is great for those of us who lack patience when waiting for delivery by tracking an order’s progress every step of the way.
As my Dominos experience demonstrates, customer satisfaction and retention are the valuable results of empathetic research by businesses. Law firms would benefit from the value of empathetic research because lawyers share these same concerns of improving client satisfaction and retention.
Lawyers are stereotypically un-empathetic. It is facts, not feelings that are important. I was actually told by a lawyer that “we are a law firm, we do not have feelings.” Empathy could improve client satisfaction because, by putting oneself in the client’s shoes and recognizing the emotions that drive a particular client to seek legal help in the first place, lawyers will be better equipped to advocate for their clients’ specific needs. Moreover, empathy in the legal profession will help to dispel such negative perceptions of lawyers as arrogant, solely focused on money and winning, ruthless, etc. Like Dominos, lawyers first need to recognize that clients have negative feelings towards lawyers. Upon such recognition, lawyers can place themselves in the client’s shoes in order to figure out how to best structure their business in a way that alleviates a client’s stereotypical understanding of lawyers. Communication with clients is essential, and lawyers can be more empathetic by simply toning down the legalese so that clients don’t feel patronized, or just ensuring that no client’s phone call or email goes unanswered so that clients feel their concerns are heard.
Law schools can generate more empathetic centered curriculum or opinions, which will lead to more empathetic, practicing attorneys. Law schools can include an array of more practical/real-word centered classes in the curriculum, such as courses specifically directed at interviewing clients, correspondence with clients, or mediation type of situations, all of which present a lawyer with ample opportunity to exercise empathy and identify with a client’s emotions. Moreover, rather than just focusing on the legal issues in a particular case, law schools could encourage students to understand the specific emotions that surround a given issue as it can provide better insight into possible solutions and moreover, which solutions will satisfy the client’s emotional needs in addition to his or her legal needs.
A Lawyer’s Golden Rule:
Do unto clients as you would have lawyers do unto you.
By: Natalie Schultz
Thinking like a lawyer does NOT mean thinking like a robot. Empathy: the lost, essential human aspect to the legal profession. Currently, law school does not teach empathy in its curriculum. Law students are trained to mechanically think and analyze the law, which ultimately desensitizes their emotions and fogs their perspective on other important aspects of legal representation. As a starting point, laws schools need to generate a curriculum that adheres to the empathetic skills required for effective representation. It is a valuable tool that should be recognized and implemented before lawyers enter into the legal profession. Just as medical students are required to learn about bedside manner, law students, at a minimum, should have the option to learn about empathy.
As a foreseeable result of law school educations, lawyers treat clients as merely variables in their jobs and forget to treat clients as people, not just legal problems. Lawyers forget the broader scheme of what legal services provide. Inevitably, the lost skill of empathy hinders a lawyer’s ability to connect with clients on an emotional level, which is a huge shortcoming. Lawyers often lose sight of what they actually do for a client—specifically, that a lawyer’s legal problem is someone’s personal problem. Every consultation with a lawyer is the customer’s worst day. Lawyers should encompass empathy to eliminate or, at the very least, minimize the client’s humiliating, exhausting, stressful, and awful experience of having to have a lawyer.
Further, empathy is the most essential quality of human civilization and the core of all successful business models. Businesses currently thrive from empathetic research because it provides insight about reaching their customers needs, wants, desires. Just as a business creates products and services that adhere to target customers- a law firm should function the same. It is understood why people seek lawyers- but designing a service that would amplify and foster empathy to clients creates so much potential value. Empathy builds advocacy. Being an advocate for another is more than knowledge of the law—it is knowing and understanding the person you represent each step of the litigation process.
Acknowledging, then acting on the reason behind a person’s visit to a lawyer is key. Firms can create an empathetic environment for customers by simply creating a friendly atmosphere; non-verbal indications go a long way. Warm colors in the office space, the availability of beverages, soft music playing—these are all little environmental enhancers that add an extra touch of comfort. Moreover, firms should have a two-minute “meet and greet” with every new or prospective client. Having this greeting from a partner, rather than a secretary, goes a long way. The mere personal touch of a friendly greeting given by a representative of that firm would provide comfort and assurance every client desires and deserves. Further, it sends the customer the message that they are valued and affirms their choice to choose that firm or seek representation at all.
A legal service should adhere to every aspect of what the client is going through- not just the legal issue that brought the client there in the first place. Paying for a legal service is an emotional experience. Clients should get more for their money and feel that their needs are being met legally, and emotionally. As experts in helping people solve personal problems, lawyers should understand the important emotional aspect of this profession and actively shape legal services around these possible empathetic strategies. It is an important asset to a thriving business that should not be overlooked.
A Shorty Story.
By: Brian Pike (@BrianCPike)
Susan wasn't sure if she was ready to go inside. She pressed her hands into her eyes as she sat in the parking lot. She could barely believe that she was able to drive herself to her appointment considering that the accident took place two months ago. It still felt like it happened yesterday.
As she got out of her car, she remembered pouring over countless law firm websites in her area, listening to her friend's recommendations, and reading reviews online. None of the materials she read seemed to really make her feel. . . comfortable. In fact, she remembered feeling hopeless because most seemed to focus on winning. She remembered feeling like all emotion had been removed from the issues she read about. In fact, many of the advertisements she saw were terrible.
That was when her friend recommended Red Cedar Law. She pulled up their website and found it unlike any of the others she had seen before. Instead of reading about winning statistics or high-payout cases, she found pages dedicated to telling stories written by previous customers.
"I never had interacted with the law before," wrote one customer, "My attorney, James, sat down and simply listened to me tell my story, free of charge. While free of charge sounds good, it was the fact that the attorney listened free of judgment that made me feel the value of their service." Susan smiled as she remembered reading that story and countless others before making a phone call and setting up her appointment.
* * * * * *
"Hi Susan, I'm so glad that you came in today to speak with me," said Cindy, the attorney who spoke to Susan when she arranged her appointment.
"Thank you Cindy, I have to be honest and say that it was very difficult for me to get here today. This is the first time I've driven alone since the accident, but I knew this was important."
"Thank you for making that drive Susan. It sounds like that drive meant a lot more to you than simply making it from one destination to another. I want you to know that I am ready to listen to you tell me about what brings you in today beyond what you said on the phone whenever you feel comfortable."
"That sounds great Cindy. Before we begin though . . . could you tell me what it is your doing right now? I mean, I read the materials on the website, but I want to know what makes Red Cedar different when it comes to dealing with its clients."
"Well I can already tell that you have done your research! Why don't I begin by telling you a little bit about what drove us to create a different type of law firm, and some of the processes that underlie our firm's approaching to interacting with clients?"
"That sounds great," said Susan.
"Well, to begin with, I have to be honest and say that I never had really interacted much with the court system myself growing up. I always knew that I wanted to be lawyer, which in retrospect, seems ironic given my lack of understanding from someone in your perspective. All that changed when I took a new client-counseling and empathic listening course my law school offered. This was around the same time when President Obama suggested that a Supreme Court justice should have empathy. Something about that speech seemed to connect with me. That, and the class completely changed my perspective on client intake, client perspectives, and interactions with lawyers."
"Our class was completely different from anything else I had experienced in law school. Starting off on day one, our teacher arranged to have us sit at a table in a fictional law office. This was before we had done any reading or had any understanding of what the class would be about. We each sat down alone in the fictional law office and waited for a "client" to come in and tell us a very deep story about what brought them to our office. "
"As law students, I remember thinking I needed to take copious notes and look for great legal points for us in these stories. As I hunched with my head down in my legal pad, I remember thinking- something about this feels wrong. So I stopped taking notes, and listened to the story, trying my best not to comment or judge. This was the first in many exercises where we learned how to train our emotional intelligence."
"In the remainder of our class, we continued to work on a number of role plays where we adopted different perspectives: attorneys, paralegals, receptionists, and clients. We were challenged to share a personal story in these role plays, and we even went to law firms to see what it felt like to sit in the client's chair. These were invaluable experiences to someone like myself, who had never sat in that chair before."
"We also covered client complaints, we read complaints to bar authorities, and we spoke to satisfied and dissatisfied legal customers. Most importantly however, we learned how the science behind emotional intelligence."
"Fundamentally, the law is a service industry. We learned that lawyers interact with individuals in some of their hardest times of need: personal injury cases, probate and family planning, divorce, and even death and incarceration. In these circumstances, empathy is an important and necessary tool every lawyer should utilize to maximize client satisfaction and provide the support that customer's such as yourself seek."
"Empathy involves recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how others feel. I may never have been in situation exactly like you have, but I can appreciate and attempt to feel what you are feeling in a nonjudgmental fashion. I'm not here today to give you a silver-lining about the accident that brings you into our office, nor am I here to impress you with legal arguments. We are both human beings, and as a fellow human I need to feel what you are feeling before I can best serve you."
"I'm sure you've seen other firms that will tell you they have seen over a hundred cases like yours. I'm not going to do that today, because your cases is exactly that: its your case. I've never spoken to your before, nor do I have any idea about who you are, what you think, or how this incident has impacted your life."
"At Red Cedar, these conversations are the first part of our partnership with you as a customer, and also as a person. Our mission as a firm is to improve the image of the profession through meaningful and impactful customer interactions."
"So, with all of that said I hope I've answered your question," finished Cindy.
"Yes. I think I've made the right choice," said Susan.
"Great Susan. Tell me what brings you in today . . ."
By: Jordan Ebert
Starting the first day of legal training, future attorneys are well-versed in understanding and arguing each side of a given issue. What may often be overlooked in the process are the perspectives of each party involved. Perhaps the legal industry and law school curriculum has believed this empathetic view of its clientele is best left to marketing majors and salespeople, but in a customer service driven industry, its significance cannot be ignored.
Just as companies outside the legal field are bringing their employees closer to their customers' experience by cultivating a culture of empathy, law firms must do the same to not only build their current customer base, but also for retaining existing relationships.
Firms may not be able to place those within the organization into the legal process to create an appreciation of the solution they are to provide, but they can develop a deeper understanding of what they are attempting to accomplish for a client.
For example, in the corporate environment, a firm may implement an additional consultation, used solely to understand the client's concerns and impact of a particular issue beyond the legal repercussions or process. Or if feasible, make visitations to a company's facilities to familiarize themselves with that company's culture and operations beyond knowledge of their business practices that is readily available. Regardless of the method, the significance of understanding what their client has at stake must be demonstrated to those within the firm and passed on to their customer independent of the particular partner or associate that secured the relationship in the first place.
This is an essential improvement for any firm to potentially implement to limit the loss of customers to lateral movements of associates or preventing their organization from being degraded to "hired gun" status along with the wealth of other concerns currently confronting the industry.