When you offer premium pricing in your law firm, are you including the basics that everyone has come to expect? Raising your prices can elevate you in a whole host of ways. When you raise your prices, there are some people that will simply say, that's not for me, I can't afford it. They will have a belief system that says it's a waste for me to spend a certain amount of money on this product or service.
In this episode we discuss:
- It’s important to know what your own rules of professional conduct are going to require and exclude.
- You don't have to price consistent with what other people in your industry are doing.
- Focus on the idea that you have power in how you communicate that impacts the experience.
- What are you saying to your prospects and clients about your business?
SEE THE FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW
Allison Williams: [00:00:05] Hi, everybody, It's Allison Williams here, your host of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you to grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:31] Today we're going to talk about your law firm's perceived value. So I'm excited to record this podcast because this is one of these moments where I get to reflect on life as it happens and share with you guys something that I think is going to be really valuable. That is a very common life experience that I think you can translate into something meaningful for your law firm. So in essence, I'm going to talk about today as an experience I had recently while I was traveling. Now, because I don't tend to harbor negative feelings about less than positive experiences when I travel, I expect that there's a wide variety of challenges that the hospitality industry has always had, and in particular post covid, I know that there have been some additional challenges, so I don't necessarily want to call out anyone in particular, but I do want to talk about this experience because I think this experience is one that I recently learned is not unique to me and my thoughts about it are not unique. And I think that if we start to really think about the customer service experience we are having in different places, we can very much grow from what we are experiencing so that we can make a better business.
Allison Williams: [00:01:51] So the experience was that I checked-in to a beautiful resort. I was attending a conference, it was out in Arizona. And unfortunately, because this conference is on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, I had quite a long day of travel and once I got to my hotel, I was really ready to check in and just kind of kickback for a moment, recharge my batteries and get some work in before the next day of conferencing started. So when I got there, I had a pleasant enough experience, and then at some point, I had the experience I'm going to share with you guys, which was actually before I tell you about the experience, I actually want to tell you a little bit about the hotel. So the hotel was not just a hotel, it wasn't like a Holiday Inn or, or an Embassy Suites. It was a resort. So I was staying at a place that is very commonly thought of as a vacation resort. It is billed as such when you go on to their website and it looks every bit the part, you know, when you come up, you see miles of manicured lawns and you have at any given moment, there is always someone on a riding mower that's cutting the grass. And you see beautiful flowers that are lining every entranceway, every driveway, every, every place that you walk on the property has, has exquisite attention to detail. And when you go through the property itself, the property itself is, is rather benign-looking. In other words, the property the buildings are not architecturally sophisticated. They're, you know, your standard hotel. But when you go inside, you open up the rooms and you have this beatific, almost, almost the light. I'm trying to think about the way to describe the light like it rains down on you like, like sun rays or coming in through the room. And the, the way in which the archway is designed very much contributes to that effect. So you're always having an experience where you are seeing something divine to greet you as you encounter a new space. So when you walk into the lobby of this particular resort, you have that same experience of lighting. The lighting is situated in such a way that the very decadent archway is accentuated by the lights, and that level of detail you can tell is very intentional, right? You also feel intentionality and just the way that there is a certain fabric of wallpaper on one wall versus another, which tends to give the illusion of a greater space. They have mirrors strategically placed very, very artistic and creative mirrors placed in different places around the resort, but in particular in the rooms in the, in the bedrooms, so that you feel the expansion of space in the room and then you have like a plushness to everything that you would sit on. So the bed itself, the sofa in the bedroom, there was a table and chairs for like a little work area, very plush seating. And then of course, out on the patio you also have very plush seating. So if you wanted to have your morning meal out on the patio before it got hot outside, you could absolutely do that. And so it was just everything about the experience was tailored to give you a feeling of opulence and beauty and, and simply richness. And so I loved staying at this resort.
Allison Williams: [00:05:34] I only recently investigated the price of this resort because of the experience that I'm going to tell you about shortly. It was $469 a night, which in the lovely state of Arizona and in this particular location in Arizona was not exorbitant. But it is a higher price point for a night at a hotel. And I was staying there several nights. So when I have that type of experience, that level of attention to detail, that plushness, that richness, the feeling that I have is being catered to and taken care of, right? Everyone is there to help me. Any time that I stood still for just a moment and looked around as if I did not know where I was going, or as if I didn't know what I next needed to do. There was a human there that immediately greeted me with a smile and offered to assist. And the entire experience of the team there was that energy. We're here to help you, we want you to have a wonderful experience. So the experience that I had that really was a disconnect for me, involved checking out. So on my final day there. I ended up going through the process of checkout and I actually I ended up leaving a day early. Long story, irrelevant, but I'm checking out and I go to the hotel lobby to wait for the shuttle to take me to the airport. And so I go into the lobby, I find a person immediately, a person is there greeting me with the smile and offering to help. And I ask this person for coffee because I don't see a setup of coffee in the lobby. And my experience of hotels, no matter whether you're staying at the Motel 6 or you're staying at the most posh resort in the US or even internationally, is that there's going to be coffee somewhere on the premises available for you at your convenience. And so I ask where the coffee is and the person tells me, Oh, we don't have coffee here in the lobby, but you can purchase a K-Cup if you would like.
Allison Williams: [00:07:40] And when I heard that I was I was kind of stunned. I thought that maybe I misheard. And I said, I can, I can purchase a K-Cup. She says, Oh, yeah, we don't give coffee away, but you can buy a K-Cup and then take it back to your room and make some coffee. And I just, I stood there so stunned, I didn't know what to say. I was, I was flabbergasted, like really just genuinely flabbergasted. I was like, what the f? You know, and of course, my immediate disconnect was the fact that I'm having this very posh, plush catered to, we want you to have what you need, we want you to take care, we want you to feel taken care of experience in everything. Everything from the wallpaper to the three-ply toilet paper in the bathrooms to the beatific artwork on the walls. Everything about the experience was plush and divine and exquisite. But yet, despite paying almost $500 a night for my hotel room, which it actually ended up being just over 500, by the time you encounter the taxes, and the, and the fees and all of that, you're going to require me to pay you even more money for coffee and not even good coffee. A K-Cup. I mean, don't get me wrong, I have a Keurig at my office, I have a Keurig at my house. So I am definitely a convenience coffee drinker. But good coffee is not typically thought of as available at America's Next Top K-Cup. Right. So I just it just was such a disconnect for me that I actually took to the Facebook streets and decided to share my thoughts. And I was surprised at how many people had either expressed that they had had a similar experience or that they understood and were similarly outraged by my experience.
Allison Williams: [00:09:35] So I'm going to share with you the post and then we're going to share a little more commentary and wrap it up. So what I wrote was this: Value is all about perception. When I am spending $469 per night at a high-end resort, it is jarring to be told that there is no complimentary coffee in the front lobby, but I can purchase a K-Cup if I desire. How is it that the $105 per night hotel has free coffee in the lobby, but the $469 resort would dare to charge me for a cup of coffee? Make it make sense. I have no problem paying for value. I work hard, I earn well, I deserve my success and I experience it without hesitation. The price tag of my hotel room never entered my awareness. I literally had to look it up for this post. But the deprivation of the industry-standard free coffee in the lobby is what I will remember of this beautiful resort.
Allison Williams: [00:10:41] Question of the Day. When you offer premium pricing in your law firm, are you including the basics that everyone has come to expect? And that really is the key here. So as I said before, a lot of people dropped in comments. It was somewhat of an echo chamber, even though there were some people that said, well, maybe because it's a high-end resort, they don't want to cheapen it by giving away coffee. And that really has not been my experience. I travel very frequently, and even during the pandemic, of course, there was an immediate cease-fire. But by 2021, I was back on a plane just about every other month at minimum, and I tend to stay at nicer hotels and I tend to, I tend to stay at the conference location if I'm going to a conference, which also tends to be at higher-end hotels. Right. So I'm used to paying what most people would consider to be a higher price point for a night at a hotel because my comfort and convenience helps to make me my best for whatever I'm doing as I'm traveling. And one of the things that I have come to expect of high-end and low-end resorts is the coffee.
Allison Williams: [00:11:55] Now, some people also pointed out, I thought this was clever. Some people said, well, you know, are you really getting it complimentary if you're paying $469 a night? And the answer is of course not. Right. Of course, intellectually, I understand that they could have very easily tacked on another ten bucks, and I would be no more concerned with paying $479 a night than I was about paying $469 a night. But for that extra $10, they could buy all the K-Cups they wanted or actually chip in for good coffee and have it available without additional charge in the hotel lobby. Right. And that, I think, was a very key point, because there are a lot of us that move through the world thinking, I need to recoup what I can, where I can out of fairness. And fairness to you as the business owner is never going to be the primary or even tangential consideration of the people that you serve. The people that you serve are thinking about what's in it for me. Right. And so when they are paying more, they expect more.
Allison Williams: [00:13:04] Now, for a lot of lawyers, when I've talked to them about the idea of pricing strategy, we've talked about how raising your prices elevates you in a whole host of ways, right? When you raise your prices, there are some people that will simply say, that's not for me, I can't afford. They will have a belief system that says it is a waste for me to spend a certain amount of money on this product or service.
Allison Williams: [00:13:29] With hospitality, a lot of people would say and, and I've had people say this to me, by the way, I've had seven and eight-figure entrepreneurs say this to me, Well, why would you choose to spend X dollars a night when you could stay someplace else and think about it? You're not in the room all day, right? You're at the conference. So what difference does it make? And one of the things that I have been very committed to is maintaining a high vibration, maintaining happiness, peacefulness, a feeling of abundance, a feeling that I am worthy of exceptionalism in my life. And that is what continues to inspire me to create more, not the fact that I have to create more to pay for more. Right. There's plenty of money in the bank at this point. But the, the idea that the richness that I want to share with the world through the gifts that I bring to others is magnified by the richness that I experience in the world. Right. You cannot be encapsulated in an impoverished state and create richness.
Allison Williams: [00:14:36] And now I'm not talking about people who grew up in money, who always had a lot of money, who intellectually understood where money comes from, from a cause and effect perspective. And they're really not creating money. They're simply reproducing what has already been produced for them. Right. So if you are somebody who has come from a lot of money, and your folks are in khakis and t-shirts, and driving the used Honda and flying in economy, that is a very different person than the person I'm speaking to. Because that person has through the way in which their parents and their forefathers and foremothers have moved through the world. They have an experience of life that begets money without having to adjust a mindset around it. But for most people, most people did not grow up with a silver spoon in their mouth. Most people did not have generations upon generations of wealth passed down to them, such that if they never worked a day in their life, they would very easily be able to afford an affluent lifestyle and be happy with that. And even people that come up in that condition, they still don't have the same level of satisfaction, according to psychological reports, as the person who, whether they created their money or they created plus had some given to them, are able to accomplish by virtue of producing. Right. It is what we produce in life that gives us satisfaction whether we are producing a family or we are producing a business or we are producing a craft or we are producing a creative art, right? What we are ultimately contributing toward gives us a sense of our value. So when you think about that, it is critically important that we keep ourselves in a mindset that says what I surround myself with.
Allison Williams: [00:16:27] The opulence and beauty of my environment is going to have an effect on me that I am going to use to continue to keep myself inspired because I want to be worthy of more. I have to give more. And that includes giving more not only to others but also to myself. So I recognize that some people may say the price of the hotel is an issue. Right. But those are not my people, candidly. Those of you that recognize that there is a value not just in the price of the hotel, but in the quality of the experience. Should think about that for your own law firms, because when you are giving an experience to a client, it is the experience that will draw that person back to you and will generate more referrals without you having to go out and spend X dollars per lead marketing on the internet. It is the relationship and the experience that is created through the relationship that you have with that experience that is ultimately going to yield those passive returns infinitum into your future. And so the very fact that I know I am paying a high price point, even though frankly I didn't remember what it was until again, I had to look it up just to be able to complete the Facebook post. I knew I was paying a higher price point and I knew I was going to have a higher price point experience. Right? Those two things go hand in hand value for value.
Allison Williams: [00:17:51] So when I don't receive value, when the value that I am anticipating does not come to me and someone says, Oh yeah, we're going to require you to pay for that, even though at this point I do believe free coffee in a lobby at a hotel is industry standard. You are going to have a perceptual disconnect, right? You're going to give an experience to your, to your client that says we value you except with something that is small and minor and less of an inconvenience and cost to us. We're going to pass it along to you for our own benefit.
Allison Williams: [00:18:28] So as I said before, lots of different ways this could have been handled. It could have been that only if a person asks for coffee will you make a K-cup available to them if you're going to use K-Cups, right. If you don't want to have coffee sitting out but you want to have coffee available for one-off consumption, you can simply give it to me. Or if you don't want to give it to me and you want to charge me for it, wrap that charge into some of the gratuitous fees that were already included in the bill. Because then I don't feel like I'm being nickeled and dimed. I don't feel like you are trying to call even more out of me for a posh experience that was already paid for with a posh price point at the time I signed on. So there are lots of different ways that this can happen in law firms, right. I've seen a lot of lawyers talk about the idea of itemizing the expenses. Right. So we're going to, we're going to charge you our legal fees but then here's the cost of stamps, here's the cost of FedEx, here's the cost of transcription, here's the cost of papers, right? Copy charges and all of that. And when you think about the itemization of that type of bill, some people have said that itemization is nerve grading and I don't want my clients to have that experience. So what I do is I take a cumulative average like every quarter. I look at how much on average we are spending over the totality of our cases. And then we divide up all of those fees and we make a determination are we going to have a service fee that's $75 a month, or $50 a month, or $25 a month, whatever it is, across all of your clients so that those ancillary costs are taken care of. Maybe that's a way that makes it less painful to a client to see it. You can certainly do that. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:20:17] And I have mixed thoughts about that, I think that in certain jurisdictions you will need the itemization for justifying the reasonableness of your bill. In other jurisdictions, charging the flat fee inherently because it is generally lower because you're spreading it over a higher number of people, that will be considered to be a reasonable fee. There are other jurisdictions that would say if Susie didn't have any cost that month and you choose to charge her the fee that really subsidizes other people's fees. That really is not fair. But you know, you have to know what your own rules of professional conduct are going to require and exclude, for you personally. Where I think this conversation ultimately yields is thinking about the customer experience and what is considered standard in your industry. I think a lot of law firms, most that I have dealt with, itemize their fees. So I don't know that you're going to have the same type of reaction from your clients, but maybe you will. Right. And of course, the only way you'll ever figure that out is to talk to them and ask them and ask them directly. How did you feel when you received your bill? How do you feel about this part of your bill versus that part of your bill? And yes, that requires you being open to receiving feedback that may or may not be positive, that may or may not require you to have to make an adjustment. But inquiring in and of itself is a value.
Allison Williams: [00:21:47] The other thing to think about is what is standard in your industry. Now, one of the things that we have talked about, especially with pricing, is that you don't have to price consistent with what other people in your industry are doing. So you can say in this industry, family law attorneys give free consults, right? Every lawyer in my, in a 25-mile radius of my law firm, is giving free consults. And I don't want to do it, but I feel like I have to because that's what the standard is. Now, there's a very different expectation here when we talk about standards, right? I'm certainly not saying that if anyone else does it and it is considered standard, you must do it right. There's a distinction between making a decision that you are going to deviate from a standard that is not beneficial because I truly believe that you start your relationship off on the wrong foot when you give away something as valuable as legal advice, consultation, and guidance for free. So I don't agree with that approach from a, from a moralistic perspective, from an ethical perspective and from a client relationship perspective. But aside from that, if you decided that you were going to do that, in that scenario, your deviation from industry standard isn't inherently giving someone a negative experience because they haven't signed on yet. Right. Because they. Because they are not, making themselves available to a standard that is not serving them. You are making a different choice for yourself, right? I don't know that you can draw that parallel here. I don't know that you can draw that parallel when it comes to, when it comes to talking about when you're going to charge a certain way to an existing client. Right. Because there's something different to be said for bringing someone into your business as a prospect versus servicing someone who's already paying for your service. So I don't know that they are comparable thoughts, but even if you were to draw an analogy between the two, I think the distinction here that you always have to be mindful of is what is the perception given to the client? So in my scenario, the, the perception was simply, yeah, you can pay for a K-Cup or you can not have coffee. That was the very clear, definitive message. There was no I'm so sorry that this was a surprise to you or let me see what I can do. I am sure a person could make a one-off decision to comp me some coffee if I appear to be an unhappy customer. That person didn't make that decision. That person just sat there and said, Yeah, you've got to pay for it. Right. Different experience than you can have when you have a qualitative intake conversation, by the way. Shout out to our own podcast here. We just did a podcast episode a couple of shows ago about intake training strategies, so if you haven't checked that out, go back and listen to that.
Allison Williams: [00:24:45] But really important that we stay focused on the idea that you have power in how you communicate, and that very much does impact the experience. I don't know if the perception that I would have had of this hotel would be what it is now. Had that person that told me, yeah, you can buy a K Cup would have seen that that landed very poorly, that I was stunned by the charge, and that I didn't appreciate it and I declined. Right. Had she said, Ma'am, we want to make sure that you have a wonderful experience. Why don't I do this? Let me go ahead and get you some coffee. I'll show you the variety of K-Cups that we have available. And this one's on the house, right? If that had been done, I still would have thought the policy of charging for K-Cups in a resort that charges the functional equivalent $500 a night, I would have thought that problematic. However, the fact that the person would have done something to try to assuage my concern would have made me feel that even though I don't agree with the policy, I would still patronize the hotel in the future.
Allison Williams: [00:25:51] Now, I have no desire to do that because I feel that I was treated with indifference. I feel that a policy that clearly did not sit well with me was not addressed. There was no apology. It was just kind of a casual, yeah, we charge $500 a night. Oh, yeah. And we charge for K-Cups. Right. So what I want to leave you within this conversation, what I want you to take away from this episode, if anything, is the idea of asking yourself what is the perceived value of your law firm? What are you saying to your prospects and clients about your business, and how are you using your pricing strategies in order to have a strong conversation with the public about the value that you bring to the marketplace? All right, everyone, I'm Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. You've been listening to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. I'll see you on our next show.
Allison Williams: [00:27:02] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today's show and take advantage of the resources mentioned. Check out our show notes. And if you enjoy today's episode, take a moment to follow the podcast wherever you get your podcast and leave us a rating and review. This helps us to reach even more law firm owners from around the country who want to crush chaos in business and make more money. I'm Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor everyone. Have a great day.
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is the Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest-growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm by 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest-growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining, and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications, and money management in law firms.
Podcast: Intake Training Strategies
My favorite excerpts from the episode:
TIME: 00:17:51 (38 Seconds)
So when I don't receive value, when the value that I am anticipating does not come to me and someone says, Oh yeah, we're going to require you to pay for that, even though at this point I do believe free coffee in a lobby at a hotel is industry standard. You are going to have a perceptual disconnect, right? You're going to give an experience to your, to your client that says we value you except with something that is small and minor and less of an inconvenience and cost to us. We're going to pass it along to you for our own benefit.