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When people drop by (invited or not), you show them in the door as you greet them. If it’s at the office, you walk them back to your office. If it’s at home, you walk them to the living room.
They sit, you sit, and the greeting stage starts to wrap up.
What do you do now?
You offer them something to drink. In the South, it’s usually iced tea or water. I imagine there are other options in other places (certainly coffee, right?). But you always offer them something to drink. It’s basic hospitality.
So why is it that I’ve been visiting law firms lately and there’s no beverage offered?
Beats me, but it’s a mistake.
Why It’s Important to Quench Clients’ Thirst
Offer a beverage. It’s important. It’s something we do for practical as well as social reasons. People dehydrate, and they need fluid. Plus, it’s an important ritual. It builds trust. It makes people comfortable. It’s part of why people hire you (or don’t), regardless of whether you pay attention.
When you skip this step, you damage the relationship right from the start. Don’t let that happen.
Providing beverages isn’t a casual, no big deal piece of the puzzle. It’s central.
Do you think these coffee (and other beverage) delivery services for offices are a fluke? This stuff is big business because it matters.
Quick story: we recently divorced an office coffee guy. He brings the supplies and equipment and sells lots of beverages other than coffee. Interestingly, he earns more than most lawyers. Not bad, huh?
Don’t Let Your Clients Be Fish Out of Water
The drink thing needs to be part of your systems documentation. It needs to be the job of someone in the office, and you need to be ready. Some firms have the front desk attendant handle drinks. Some leave it up to the person handling the meeting. It doesn’t matter who does it as long as it gets done. Someone needs to be responsible, and it needs to be checked off the list.
There’s not one single best approach to offering a beverage. You can do it in your own way as long as it gets done. Don’t let it slip.
About a year ago, we eliminated the kitchen from our space plans. We created a cafe concept where we put a “cafe area” into our offices. The cafe has a glass-front refrigerator with cans of soft drinks plus a self-service coffee machine with those little single-cup packets. The lawyers walk their clients back from the lobby and stop by the cafe area on their way to a conference room. Of course, our receptionist offers a drink if the client is going to have to wait a bit out front.
Come up with your own system for offering a drink. Build it into every process, and make sure it gets done. The drink system is as important (and maybe more so) than every other system you’ve got. Social rituals play a critical part in turning strangers into friends and prospects into clients.
Check your beverage system. Be sure you’re being hospitable. Be sure you’re doing it for each visitor and for each visit.
So what have you got to drink? I’m thirsty.
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