Legal intake affects your closing rates. If you don’t have an answering service yet, what advantages do answering/reception services give you, and what can you do on your own to improve your firm’s intake process?
This blog is based on the transcript of a webinar originally posted to the Empirical360 Law Firm Success Facebook group by Elliot Alicea, co-founder of MarketingBros and Empirical360, and Manni Sandoval of LEX Reception, a legal reception service. The original webinar can be viewed here.
As a legal marketing company, we highly recommend that all of our clients invest in having a reception service, an entity that can answer after-hours calls, respond to leads, and more. They make busy lawyers’ jobs easier, and have been proven to improve closing rates.
Why is this? Because how quickly you get to your leads really matters when it comes to sales. CallHippo identified a 450% difference in response time for leads receiving a follow-up call within an hour of submitting an inquiry and those that didn’t. Velocify’s survey found that prospects who received a call within one minute of their initial inquiry were 391% more likely to convert. Other studies show that law firms who tried to contact potential clients within an hour of receiving a query were nearly 7x more likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those who tried to contact the lead even one hour later, and more than 50x as likely as law firms who waited 24 hours or longer.
If you don’t have an answering service yet, what advantages do answering/reception services give you, and what can you do on your own to improve your firm’s intake process?
When it comes to leads, it is important to always answer with a live person. Your competition is voicemail; 80% of callers won’t even leave a voicemail to begin with, and they are probably not going to give you a follow-up call. Automated systems have the same effect; people with legal problems like to know that they are getting authentic, human interaction. There is also a huge difference when the person answering does so with a smile, which creates a warm and inviting tone automatically. For the lead, this is their first impression of your firm, so it is important for the person answering the phones to not sound bored. If they don’t believe you care about the call, they won’t believe that you will care about their case. One classic tactic that LEX uses is to keep a mirror in front of you so that you can remind yourself to smile and be fully focused on the call.
The human element is also critical. The person who is answering the phones should be able to mirror the caller’s tone. A warm tone is always necessary, but a cheerful tone is not always appropriate, especially when people are having legal problems. Someone who just got in a car accident or whose family member just died without a will should not be met with “Great! I’d be happy to help you with that!”, for example. It would be better to say “I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me gather some information from you so I can better assist you.” Showing empathy builds trust with that caller; it relaxes them, and they feel you are going to understand them and hear them out. It also helps them feel more comfortable sharing details with you.
While answering a call, minimizing distractions is key to getting the information you need. Many people are working from home now during the pandemic, so we are all a little more patient with distractions than we would be normally, but still - when people are calling about weighty legal matters, they don’t want to hear background noise. It’s going to distract them from what they are talking about, as well as frustrate them, and it’s going to distract you from getting the right details. When you are distracted, the tone of your voice tends to sound bothered, because the call is taking attention away from the other tasks or things going on. People like to know that they have your undivided attention.
Now, about the intake process. The person answering the phones should gather contact details right away in case the call gets disconnected. Name, email, phone number. People might be calling you on their lunch break, when they can’t really discuss a sensitive matter, or calling you while they are driving and their service is spotty. Getting their contact information ensures that you have another way to reach them if you need to. Taking notes while they are talking will keep all of the important details in the same place for your later reference. Most of the time, callers will begin to talk about their case without the person answering the phones ever asking questions - they’ll begin with “Hi, my name is ----, I was referred to you by ----, my husband and I are going through a divorce and I’m trying to figure out what to do about our custody situation.” That will be the way the call begins, more often than not, so taking notes during this time can help reduce redundant communications later on (having the caller repeat themselves can be annoying to them) and keep the phone call brief.
The person answering the phones should set the expectations and ask for permission to ask questions as soon as they get the contact details. If they have 10 questions to ask, they should notify the caller, with a phrase like “In order to help you, I’m going to need a bit more information - do you have 15 or 20 minutes right now to answer some more questions about your situation?” This frames the call in their minds so they do not get flustered or rushed if they have somewhere to be, and prevents you from having an incomplete intake. It’s a respectful thing to do that shows that you understand that they may not have much time. If they don’t have time, they can tell you, and then you can set up a better time to communicate with them.
Maximize the time by having the receptionist ask specific questions related to the area of law. Don’t count on the potential client to just talk about the important points without guidance! Then, put that information to good use - don’t let it just lie around on a notepad, or it could easily be lost or pushed aside. It needs to go into a CRM system, so it’s important to have a process for entering data into a CRM or to have an intake answering service who integrates with your CRM and will do it for you.
Finally, the person doing the intake needs to get a commitment. A simple “What’s the best time to call you back?” works perfectly in order to establish a continuing relationship and move that lead on to the next step (which ideally actually would be an initial consult). A scheduling tool like Calendly, Acuity, Google calendar or LEX’s Setmore (offered for free with their service) can help make this process easy and smooth for both the lead and for your law firm. These automations save you time, but they also increase your conversion rates, because the more reminders and calendar invites go out to your leads, the more likely they are to show up to their appointment with you. If you’re getting 5 consultations a day and you close one client off of that, if you can have 10 clients show up for their consultations, you can double your closing rate and improve your overall pipeline health.
Calendly and a lot of these other scheduling tools (some of these are free!) integrate with Zoom, as well, which is helpful during this pandemic when more lawyers are using Zoom to communicate and can save you even more time and tedious work.
If you have a contact form on your website, and someone fills that out, how quickly are you able to respond to that? Phone calls are not the only thing that matter. It’s critical to respond to every communication quickly - a live person needs to be answering your web chat or calling back the people who filled out a contact form. This will make a huge difference in your closing rates. If you don’t have a service like LEX Reception, brainstorm with your staff about how you can get to your leads as quickly as possible. The lawyer that contacts the lead first often wins.
For law firms who are interested in LEX Reception specifically, their company is eco-friendly, planting a tree for every customer and donating to a different charity each month. They are also highly rated by lawyers across the nation. You can email Manni at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 1-877-505-3134, and you can also make an appointment with her at https://mannilex.setmore.com/. If you are an Empirical client, you get a $50 credit towards your second month of service.
Got more questions about intake and legal marketing? Reach out to Elliot at email@example.com or visit our website, https://legal.empirical360.com.
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