For the second year in a row, I spent Valentine's Day in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. (Appropriate enough on this holiday where "love" is front and center.) And, for the second year in a row, I had dinner at Davio's.
Davio's is billed as a Northern Italian Steakhouse. Last year, I sat at the bar alone having dinner. Given that devoted couples were surrounding me, I felt a bit like I had a giant "L" in the middle of my forehead. But the bartender – and the patrons at the bar – were welcoming, warm and fun.
First point I want to make to law firms: Davio's was certainly defined by its great food and service. But it was also defined by its clientele – not a snooty person in the bunch. How is your firm defined by your clients? Do they represent the best of your firm?
That was last year. For Valentine's Day 2012, I invited a Philadelphia friend, Cheryl Disch, to join me (I was still worried about the "L" carrying over from last year). We sat at the bar, and we agreed it was one of the finest experiences we've had in a long time.
What made it great? Here is a list:
- I ordered a Pinot Noir and the bartender said that the Merlot was a part of Happy Hour and he thought I might enjoy it. I was game, so he helped me save $10 for each glass of wine I ordered.
- He brought a signature appetizer as a thank-you for being there (much more generous than the typical amuse bouche) – the Philly Cheese Steak Spring Rolls – Davio's is known for them. They are as extraordinary as they sound.
- My friend arrived and another bar server recommended a different type of calamari than what she first ordered – giving her another option. She chose what he suggested and was thrilled with it.
- We lingered a long time – much longer than the loving couples – talking over wine and dinner. They checked on us in a courteous way, but we never felt prodded or rushed.
- Before our check arrived, we were each given a long-stemmed red rose and a cellophane bag of fresh delights, such as chocolate-dipped strawberries, biscotti and more. It was probably clear that we were business friends, not a "couple" in the Valentine sense of the word, but we appreciated the restaurant's attention and generosity just the same.
- Then, our check was presented. We turned to each other and were stunned at how reasonable our bill was. My friend double-checked it to ensure all our selections were represented.
What else can law firms learn from our experience?
- Corporate counsel always say they hate surprises. No, they don't – they just hate the bad kind. Surprise your clients with the service-equivalent of an amuse bouche or lower-priced Merlot (which was excellent, by the way).
- Surprise your clients by submitting an invoice that is lower than your clients expect. It's not that hard.
- Be sensitive to the pace of your clients – don't impose your Type-A impatience or Type-B laissez-faire tempo on your relationship. Adapt to their styles and speed.
- Whether your clients are internal or external, ensure that the experience they have with you is positive start-to-finish. One of my favorite quotes about the lawyer-client relationship was by a general counsel of the European arm of a Fortune 100 company. He said, "My lawyers commit little acts of murder every day."
What does that mean? Unmet expectations, missed deadlines, unreturned phone calls, and otherwise a series of relationship disappointments.
Don't do that.
Last week I blogged about my disappointing experience at Del Frisco's in New York. It's a pleasure to share this Davio's story with you.