Client billing – shaking the old image

We recently received an invoice for fixing a broken boiler. It simply said “Attended to faulty boiler, Supply & fit new fan assembly” and a total of £250. Within 5 minutes I was on the phone venting my frustrations and asking for a break down of the charges. If only they had detailed the two components – time and materials it would have prevented a call and probably created a repeat customer.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, last year we used a local firm of solicitors to create some legal documents. We discussed price at the outset, a price range was proposed and a fixed fee was agreed . Despite various changes to the document over a period of several weeks, the price remained the same. The effect? A very satisfied client.

Having supported lawyers and mediators for a number of years we’ve seen how clients often perceive the legal profession as having a license to print money. Often bills are generated with a heading “Services provided” and a total. Could the client relationship be improved with a few changes? Clearly in more complex cases this is not possible, however in the age of online law shops and a push towards fixing costs (where possible), providing accurate estimates or in some cases fixed costs is key to winning new business.

The goals and corresponding benefits are clear:

  1. Improve the client experience without significant case administration.
  2. Shake the historic perception associated with the legal profession.
  3. Enable traditional lawyers and mediators to compete with the online alternatives.

Whatever client billing system is used (whether an accounting package, case management system or manual set of processes) taking time to standardise and automate the billing process can only help you keep your existing clients, who then gossip about your service.