The Upsetless Client Handoff

Don't drop the baton in the client handoff

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I just finished up with my new dentist in Bangkok. It was a grand adventure. Details in a moment…

One of our biggest concerns is the client handoff. We worry that we’ll be dealing with client upset if the lawyer who did the intake isn’t the lawyer who does the work.

And sometimes there will be upset.

The Sources of Client Angst

However, my observation is that most of the upset that happens during a handoff isn’t about the handoff. More often than not, the upset is about something else. It comes from a variety of sources.

The upset might be related to:

  • general distress regarding the matter,
  • buyer’s remorse,
  • inactivity on the matter, or
  • a failure to communicate.

In my experience, the failure to communicate is the biggest issue. This is the most common cause of upset.

When we have a client meltdown at the outset of the representation, our assumption is that it’s related to the handoff. In fact, the client typically blames the meltdown on the handoff. But it’s a meltdown that is nearly always avoided when the handoff is coupled with adequate communication.

When the handoff takes place, it’s essential that everything be explained to the client. It’s imperative that the client feel cared for and managed. The client needs to know that things are moving forward and that everything is under control. It doesn’t simply require communication. It requires communication on steroids.

How the Dentist Put Me at Ease

Back to the Bangkok dentist.

I had my first appointment this morning. Here’s how it started:

1. Arrival

We (Lisa and I went together) walked into the building and were immediately greeted by a receptionist. She stood up and guided us to the elevator. She put us in, joined us, and pushed the button for the third floor. She rode up and pointed us to the reception desk on that floor and explained to the receptionist there who we were and handed us off. She left. It was a very smooth transition from the entryway to the lobby. We felt expected, welcomed, and cared for.

2. Greeting

The new receptionist greeted us, gave us each a short form to fill out, and seated us in the lobby. The form took just a moment to compete, and we turned them in. Then she asked us to sit back down and explained that we’d wait just a few minutes. Again, it was smooth sailing. Everything was explained, and we felt right at home in the lobby.

3. Lobby

The lobby was beautiful. There’s a grand piano surrounded by nice seating. The place is impressive. Everything about it screamed, “We know our stuff.” The decor inspired confidence. The practice had tangiblized the intangible.

4. Quick Start

Within three minutes, we were underway. The wait was minimal, and we didn’t have time to wonder and worry. Lisa was taken back to the dentist. He was the head guy, an older gentleman. Lisa had a quick exam with very modern technology, and the dentist took a look and sent her for X-rays. The dentist repeated the process with me a moment later.

5. Technology

The X-ray room was straight out of the future. I’ve been to eight or ten dentists over the past 30 years. I’ve never encountered more modern technology. The technician was smooth and guided us through the process quickly and easily.

6. The Big Guy

Without waiting, we each were taken right back to the older dentist. He reviewed the X-rays and showed us the issues in our mouths up on a screen. Lisa needed a cleaning. I needed a cleaning and two fillings.

7. The Handoff

The big guy explained that we’d have the work done immediately. He explained that the entire process would be handled by another dentist, and we were whisked off to a different room. Lisa and I each had a different dentist who immediately went to work.

8. Action

The assigned dentist went to work. Things were happening. The drill was spinning, and the assistants were scurrying about. The dentist gave me a play by play in English. Before I knew it, the fillings and cleaning were complete. At one point, the dentist explained that one of the previously identified fillings would be unnecessary for now but that she wanted to do one somewhere else. I nodded in agreement.

9. All Done

After two hours in the office, I was back up at the payment desk. They charged my card, scheduled a future appointment, and thanked me. They then directed me down to the exit.

The process went smoothly, and I was impressed by the professionalism and competence. It never occurred to me to worry about the handoff. I never had a worry or concern. Things went the way they were supposed to go. I had no idea whether a handoff is normal in a Bangkok dental practice. It all flowed. It all felt like I was in good hands.

You’ll note that the dental practice took care of me, communicated with me, and told me what was happening and what to expect. I was never left to worry or wonder whether things were right. I was managed well from beginning to end. It was pretty awesome.

Address the Root of Client Angst

If your handoffs are smooth, feel normal, and involve communication, direction, and care, then they won’t be a problem. They only become a problem when the client feels unattended, unloved, and unappreciated. When clients are left to worry and wonder, they do exactly what you’d expect: they worry and wonder. When they’re wrapped up in a system that takes care of them, they just assume they’re being cared for properly.

Handoffs in your office can go as smoothly as handoffs in the Bangkok dentist office. You’ve got to build a system around the process and get your team focused on delivering an excellent client experience. When clients are happy, they don’t look for a reason to complain. Keep them happy by keeping them moving and communicating as you go.

Handoffs don’t have to result in upset. They can be a positive experience for everyone involved. I’ll be going back to my dentist in Bangkok in October. I’ve already booked my slot. Your client can be as happy with you as I am with my new dentist.

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