You’ve set up your new website, invested in getting to number one in Google, implemented other online and offline marketing activities to support your business objectives and then, wait for it…. The phone rings! Great! A new client, right? Easy! Sadly, for too many firms, this isn’t the case.
In an increasingly competitive market place, law firms invest enormous amounts in marketing and lead generation activities. They invest yet more in getting the very best lawyers they can to carry out the work. Yet most firms pay little heed to one of the most important parts of the process: converting enquiries into paying clients.
In our experience, most law firms view answering the telephone as an ‘admin’ task. And not just any admin task, one that is frequently delegated to employees who may have the least to gain from converting an enquiry, those that are further down the salary bracket or those that might be least engaged with the long-term health or growth of the business.
In our view, call handling should be viewed squarely as a business development (BD) task. After all, what’s the point of investing your hard-earned cash on generating new enquiries if the leads are being lost at the first point of contact?
If, for example, your average fee value is £1000 and you lose just 2 leads per day due to calls not being handled effectively, you are sacrificing almost half a million pounds of additional turnover per year!
Does this sound like your firm?
A 2016 report by Professor Ian Cooper on the conversion of conveyancing enquiries into new files found some damning statistics:
Some more sobering stats:
To a significant extent, how calls are handled and routed internally depends on your firm’s culture. Are calls passed to partners, fee-earners or heads of department quickly? Can administrative staff or junior lawyers handle them?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, the following elements should be part of the call handling procedure for any firm taking business development seriously. At a minimum, your call handling staff should record:
This might seem like a lot of information, and if this list is read from top to bottom it becomes a bit of an interrogation! What you must encourage call handlers to do is to work these elements into a conversation. Don’t worry, that’s not as hard as it sounds!
The next two elements are what will really inform your marketing going forward:
There’s no perfect or ‘one size fits all’ solution, the best solution is one that sticks and becomes a habit. Any lead-managing process is better than no process.
In any given firm, in our experience, there can be many barriers to adopting a conversion strategy. Asking staff (who may have been doing things the same way for years) to adopt new processes and procedures can be a wrench. At the very least, your call handlers should be given training on the following elements:
Qualifying prospects. A little bit of qualifying goes a long way. Again, the extent to which you qualify leads is dependant to a huge extent on your firm’s culture and client base. You can quickly qualify leads where there is a time-bar or where the client may be seeking legal aid. In other situations, a little more digging may be required. While excessive questioning might seem intrusive, the reality is that most potential clients will be happy to share details and information to give you the tools required to handle their particular situation.
Properly qualifying leads will save a huge amount of your fee-earners valuable time and effort.
Handling frequently asked questions. Again, this can save valuable time and effort on the part of your fee-earners. This works not just for prospects, but for existing clients too. Having ready answers to frequently asked questions improves your customer service and streamlines your efficiency. It goes without saying that information like your address, telephone numbers, email addresses and driving directions to your office should trip off the tongue!
Telephone manner. In many firms, reception staff are given carte blanche to answer telephones and deal with clients howsoever they choose. One of the best ways to deal with this is to implement a ‘Culture Code’. This gives staff direction and certainty of approach and will also help with your recruiting and retention of staff.
Sales training. As previously stated, the handling of incoming calls should not be viewed as a purely administrative task. If there’s one thing that would improve most law firms’ profitability overnight, it’s switching away from this mindset and towards one that regards this as the most important frontline business development task!
Your firm’s culture. While you could give detailed scripts and processes to call handlers, it’s easier and preferable to give a set of principles to call handlers. At Moore Legal Technology we use our culture code to give our staff the means to handle queries, questions and situations as they arise. As Mark Fields, President of Ford said, “Culture eats strategy for Breakfast”.
Instead of trying to break free from the price-driven race-to-the-bottom, most firms are simply sucked into it.
We live a in a world of price-comparison sites and we’re used to purchasing insurance, flight tickets, holidays, and gas, electricity and broadband in this way so why should legal services be different? Well, the answer as we know is that most of those things listed are ‘must haves’ – with the exception of holidays and flights (and you could argue that point, I suppose), we need the other things – just like we often need legal services.
Just as the client can intuitively understand price, so are search engines, comparison sites and other algorithms. Numbers are just data and area easy to sort. The other elements of a successful legal transaction are much more difficult to compare – the overall experience of working with you, strategic advice, help avoiding pitfalls, additional services and access to a greater spread of expertise are all essential elements that a single number cannot convey.
It’s easy to get sucked into a price war. It’s easier to change price than anything else. Brand, market position, value proposition etc. all require considerable time and thought. Changing a number doesn’t.
Clients who begin their relationship with you based on price will simply switch when a cheaper alternative is available, harming the long-term profitability of your firm. They simply don’t place a high value on your service. Do you really want that type of client?
If you are reputable firm with expert staff (paid accordingly), then a price war doesn’t suit you. For one, you know it won’t give you the opportunity to properly deal with the client and any issues that may arise. You know you probably won’t be able to do your very best.
So, how can you avoid getting drawn into a price war?
When following up with prospects & enquiries, make sure you do it:
Quickly. If you receive an email, a call or a web form enquiry, follow up promptly. The likelihood of that lead converting drops dramatically the longer you leave it.
Often. People are busy. It’s not enough to call back once or twice and leave it at that. The likelihood of converting is much, much higher if you persist.
At the right times. This is mainly common sense. Ringing on busy days (Mondays & Fridays) or during working hours is fruitless. Ring between 4:30pm – 6pm and before 8:30 if possible.
Differently from other firms. Don’t leave the standard “Hi, it’s such-and-such from So-and-so law firm, returning your call…” Be a bit more personal – refer to their enquiry in detail, give them your direct dial and explain WHY you are the right firm to help – i.e. “we have specific experience of just this type of matter and I have a solution in mind for you…”