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  • Writer's pictureSaundra Smyrski

The Truth About Client Satisfaction- #1 F-orget Your Feelings

Mother in a hospital ICU holding child with brain injury
"Significant watershed (brain) injury... we're so sorry."

I completed a poll recently, to pinpoint the top areas of concern (annoyance) for personal injury lawyers... almost unanimously- #1. Clients.

Ha! Well, it was more so related to client expectations, communication with clients, clients not adhering to recommendations, etc.

The overwhelming response leads me to believe, if you were to temporarily stifle your "politically correct" filter, and be brutally honest, you'd likely agree there are some clients you wish you'd never entertained. As would I admit, likewise, there are some patients I wish I was never assigned.

Law and Medicine- while they may differ in many ways, there are many similarities that connect us, as well. Client/patient customer service challenges being a shared headache.

While I surely do not have a magical formula for 100% client satisfaction, (anyone who says they do is delusional at best), I sure as hell learned a thing or 2 about client/patient expectations from being the parent of a patient with one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel.

If you take in this unique insight and apply its unconventional principles to your practice, your client satisfaction and overall experience can only benefit... significantly, as has mine.

Lesson #1- F-orget your feelings

**If you were offended by this, chances are, this is a good place to start.

Oct. 30, 2021, my son went in to cardiac arrest, as the result of a series of negligent events on behalf of his healthcare team. From 10/30/2017- 11/05/2017- I did not sleep (Navy Seal status). Barely ate. Refused to leave his bedside. Became hypervigilant. Growing increasingly agitated at the continuous beeping and clicking and humming of the freaking machines that surrounded me. Add in the constant opening and slamming of the door, coupled with the frequent assessments on my grey-tinged, swollen, already battered and bruised son, and eventually, the 563rd time they (healthcare team) came in to paralyze my son to fix his breathing tube, the pot boiled over and I lost my cool.

I became irate, clearly irrational (hindsight), and demanded an end to them constantly "harassing" my son (they were not). As tears rolled down my face, and through gritted teeth, I said some things I'd never in my healthy mentality say. At least not to this team- the receiving hospital who ultimately saved my son from the damage the preceding facility caused. (Referred pain)

Well... They ended up booking me an emergent stay at the Ronald McDonald House on the basis of an "I need a favor, this lady has lost her mind," plea.

Not once did they furrow their brow. Not once did they lash back. Not once did they insinuate that I was crazy, overreacting, or unrealistic. Not once did they do anything to further infuriate me, or make me feel worse than I already felt.

They did afford me space to go through the motions. They did sit beside me, so I didn't feel so alone. They did actively listen as I shared my fears and frustrations. They did reframe their care to (as much as possible) to meet me where I was at, in that moment in time.

Helpful opinion:

When clients turn to you for guidance, they're typically not experiencing the best days of their lives. While they may not be parked in an Intensive Care Unit, the crisis in their mind is often just as intense.

Where you see an opportunity to collect data- they see an opportunity to be heard. Where you see a simple IME appointment, they're thinking about having to relive the trauma for the umpteenth time. Where you see social media as a negative hinderance to a case, they see social media as a positive outlet with healing properties. The key- to see not what you see, for you already know what you know, but instead to see what they see. To attempt to see life, through the tainted lens of your client, which often happens later (too late) on down the road.

Believe, most people don't wake up deciding to be assholes. Neither do people anticipate the need for legal support. Or, the impending conversation of removing their child from life support.

Perhaps most of all, may we always remember this principle- "No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."~ Theodore Roosevelt. It's easy to get in the habit of going through the motions. Before you know it, it's not Mrs. Cynthia Smith's case, it's case #2546857... it's not Mrs. Jones in room 362, it's patient 362 bed 1. We must remember, our clients/patients, are real people, with real feelings, turning to us for real support, free of judgement and bias and the implementation of our personal feelings and opinions.

Initially, that support entails feeling like they've been heard. Feeling like they're cared about. Feeling like they are not just 1 of 3000 things you have going on (even though we both know they are). Once your clients believe, truly believes:

1. You've heard and understood their cry for help

2. You are 100% on their side, and

3. They are in good hands... hands that are doing everything they can...

only then, will they be inclined, and able, to listen, take in, process, and reciprocate a healthy client- attorney/ patient- provider relationship.

When experiencing difficulty with a client, ask yourself, are all 3 of these beliefs currently being satisfied? They can fluctuate at any given time. in doing so, you're likely to see, there's something missing.

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