Communication is essential to successfully obtaining and retaining clients, as well as nurturing relationships of all kinds. This is certainly nothing new, but it is interesting how many C-suite executives misstep when in the client communication arena.
This makes understanding client communication better a must. To assist in increasing the C-suite knowledge base on the topic, I called upon Eric Campbell, CEO of National Family Solutions. Mr. Campbell and his team are in the midst of emotionally charged legal disputes daily and have developed a playbook to overcoming communication roadblocks.
National Family Solutions (NFS) provides access to legal professionals to those who may otherwise not have the ability to get quality legal representation or advice. They connect with people in need through QAStart.com and NFS’s LinkedIn page. NFS does not serve up legal advice, only access to qualified legal professionals with a client base of people going through family legal proceedings, like divorce or child custody.
As one can imagine, NFS clients are often overwhelmed and going through one of the most emotional moments in their lives. This puts Eric and the NFS team right in the middle of emotional hurricanes daily, allowing NFS to hone the critical skills to best assist people in such a chaotic emotional state.
You are probably thinking, what does this have to do with client communication? NFS’s approach to these emotional situations are unique, get results, and can be applied to personal communication, as well as professional. Client interaction can be challenging at times and being able to breach psychological obstacles efficiently can be valuable.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Economics & Management Sciences (2016), “Communication, whether interpersonal, group, verbal, or nonverbal, is a process of transferring feelings, beliefs, and situations between people in a strategic and thoughtful ways to achieve the intended result.”
To get that “intended result” in business, I asked Mr. Campbell to provide insight into how he and his team at NFS navigate communication roadblocks under some of the most emotional situations one could experience.
How does problem solving play a role in client communication?
Problem solving plays a big role in what we do for our clients. It is an essential asset our team uses to help people see the big picture when the walls appear to be closing in life. When a parent is going through a family legal case, being able to see the big picture allows him or her to see how actions affect the children. For example, when our clients get caught up in the minutia of a child custody battle, we get them to thing about what’s in the child’s best interest long term and help them adopt the crucial co-parenting skills they need to raise their child in a peaceful environment. Although going to court and getting an order is beneficial, it’s much more important to attain the skills necessary to get along with the other parent.
Employing problem solving is also a valuable communication tactic when dealing with such powerful emotions. It can often bring a more logical tone to the communication process, whether it is talking to lawyers, spouses, or our team. Problem solving can also help people build realistic expectations when it comes to the future.
How do you and your team handle these momentous emotions in an organized way?
I believe that transparency is important in what we do as a team. Our departments coexist and we constantly share, discuss, and dissect the problems and solutions that we have experienced and utilized, as well as future problems we may encounter and how to solve them effectively.
Every week we have a cross-departmental meeting, cater lunch, and share stories about what has happened a week, or sometimes months prior. During the meeting I dictate key points that resonate with the team and revisit them the following week. What successes were made, as well as failures?
This transparency not only brings up important issues, but it also allows us to avoid secrecy that honestly inhibits any company from moving forward in a strong way. This is a valuable communication lesson we have implemented to empower the team, as well as myself, to make better decisions and find solutions that help our clients down the road.
One excellent example is the need for client issues to be escalated to upper management, or even to myself. If we know a woman is being abused by her husband, or her child is at risk, those situations need to be moved up the chain of care through effective communication. Being transparent as a team ensures these instances are handled the right way.
The word “team” is consistently in your vocabulary, is this a state of mind at NFS?
Absolutely. National Family Solutions is 100 percent about working together as a team. It is in many ways at the core of our company in order to help people get access to legal professionals while overcoming such an emotional moment in life. Without a strong team, we simply couldn’t be effective in our mission.
For example, we will bring in experts, like family lawyers, psychologists specialized in the family and childhood development, private investigators, and other knowledgeable resources to get valuable training. We do this in-office or via online meeting platforms.
I believe that we should continually strive to learn more, because if we don’t stay in-tune to what is happening around us, we can lose the ability to communicate in a meaningful way. It also builds the team too. For instance, after we have a training session, myself and the team are pumped up and motivated to use the new tools we have to help our clients.
The resources we draw from are often the resources we share with our clients too. So having knowledge of what our professional assets do helps convey a sense of comfort to our clients. This is extremely helpful in those emotional moments.
We may not be able to relate absolutely, but we can have a bit of knowledge of what resources can help through training and building that team cohesion. I’ll tell you that there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the “me against the world” stress fall from a client’s shoulders.
Does empowering your team through personal development have an impact on clients?
If a company, i.e. the decision makers in a company, is not empowering their team then something will break down. As founders, co-founders, CEOs, COOs, CFOs, etc., we have a professional responsibility to develop our teammates by providing resources to advance skills and knowledge.
A more empowered and knowledgeable team, the more passion and confidence they will have when interacting with clients. This can impact how they communicate both verbally and non-verbally. If a client sees and hears confidence and passion to help them from a teammate, they are more likely to diffuse the emotional time bomb ticking away internally.
By empowering our team, we are also empowering our clients. This is vital, because it is the number one mission of National Family Solutions to empower our clients. For instance, a mother needs to be empowered and become proactive, standing strong against her abusive spouse for herself, as well as for her child during a long legal case.
On the same note, many fathers believe that if they can’t afford the high cost of attorneys, they cannot go through the court system and establish paternity and child custody. This is a big misconception. We are a big fan of father’s rights and we believe it’s in the best interest of children to have both mothers and father involved actively in their lives.
To tie in that empowerment with your previous question about the vocabulary we use at NFS, our team uses a lot of empowering speech with purpose when communicating with clients. We pull vocabulary from books, like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and “Awaken the Giant Within” by inspirational author and public speaker Tony Robbins.
The words we use can make a big difference during client communication. For instance, we always want to avoid words that simply tell someone what to do. Instead we want to convey speech that empowers them to take action. Just like we do when empowering personal development as a team.
How does technology fit into the communication process?
Technology has become a powerful asset for National Family Solutions. Since our clients are going through emotionally rough times, we need to have a way to connect with them in order to maximize communication and get them help.
We now use Google Voice to message clients. This type of tech has been very successful for us, especially when communicating with Millennial clients. Email is still in use, but to be honest, messaging has surpassed email when it comes to communication and response rates.
Using messaging technology to communicate with clients has also helped us reach people who otherwise can’t freely communicate. This is crucial in cases of abuse, where shared computers and voice communication is potentially dangerous. We can almost help a client entirely via smartphone, from resources to empowering him or her to take action.
So NFS utilizes technology throughout the entire client relationship?
That is definitely the case now, because family legal cases can be lengthy and pretty chaotic. In many cases, the chaos is not even in the control of our clients, it falls on court delays or document processing bottlenecks. This can cause those already unpredictable emotions to become even more prevalent.
Seeing these unpredictable emotions are often caused by a lack of structure, we developed a playbook or guide for people going through the legal process called “Case Tracker.” It is an interactive SaaS solution that can be accessed via the cloud from any client, regardless of where they are.
The goal is to “widgetize” the process to help people during such a highly charged emotional time. Now our clients can move through a case management system that is module-based and tracks user progress. To move to the next stage, they need to accomplish the previous module, or goal. It essentially diverts emotions that may otherwise be cast onto ex-spouses.