Captain’s log, stardate 20190523
Sent by Jonathan Stark on May 24th, 2019
Longtime friend of the list Anthony English wrote in with a real world example of a professional (in this case, his lawyer) displaying a lack of empathy and missing an opportunity to add value and increase customer satisfaction (shared with permission):
Hi JS, We’re selling our house, and our buyer’s lawyer just contacted our lawyer with a series of (probably minor) amendments they want to the contract that our lawyer drew up. Our lawyer asked us for our replies to the matters raised. Now, the matters raised are things like: “Special condition 32.1(c) - delete.” Yes, I could look up the contract to see what that special condition says. But what I don’t know is what that means. Is it waiving a $100 fee if the buyer is two hours late for settlement? Or does the clause waive our right to sell the house as is? As a client, I don’t want deliverables. I want to know whether they’re important.
Imagine that you were selling your house. If you’ve never done such a thing, I can tell you from experience that it is a stressful, emotional, and overwhelming experience. The last thing I would want to do in a situation like this is to cross-reference a bullet list of changes against a giant contract full of legalese.
On my best day, I am incapable of mentally processing a non-trivial legal document. During a home sale, I’d have straight-up tunnel vision trying to make sense of it. There are too many variables and risks and emotions at play.
My fear of doing the wrong thing would increase my likelihood of doing the wrong thing.
On the other hand, my lawyer (Hi Joe!) would be much better qualified to translate the change requests into plain language that I could easily understand.
Because Joe 1) is comfortable with legalese, and 2) he wouldn’t be in the middle of prolonged panic attack.
Here’s the thing…
By definition, clients who hire you for your expertise do not understand what you understand. Things that are hard for them are easy for you. In fact, this is precisely why they hire you in the first place.
This differential is where your value comes from. It’s not your job to close the gap - it’s your job to achieve their goals.
In other words, I don’t want Joe to educate me about the law. I want him to get me what I want.