Every law firm hopes that a website reader will make that crucial move and dial your phone number or click the chat button to initiate a conversation. What happens in the 30 seconds after the reader initiates contact could mean the difference between landing a multi-million-dollar case or disappointing the caller.
It’s critically important for law firms to have an efficient, well-oiled intake process that swiftly connects leads directly to an attorney who can answer the potential client’s questions. It’s also important to have an effective follow-up process that provides additional information and tracks that lead from first contact all the way through to settlement agreement or jury award.
A haphazard process involving yellow sicky notes and missed connections could leave a potential client feeling lackluster about your firm, which results in a decision to move on to your competitor.
Your intake process needs to be tight for every single inquiry.
Thousands of dollars of revenue could be at stake.
You’re investing significantly in online marketing — if you don’t have a solid intake practice, it’s like throwing that money away. Your marketing drives potential clients to your firm’s door. What if your intake process then slams the door in their face?
That happens if your intake is inconsistent, slow or nonexistent. If you snooze, you lose in today’s marketplace. One of those potential clients may have a multi-million dollar case that could make or break your firm.
Many lawyers procrastinate when they hear the word “intake.” Their workload is heavy and it’s hard to hammer out the details of an intake system. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. You’re trusting your staff to take calls and answer email and chat inquiries. Certainly your staff know how to collect basic information. And surely they handle each potential client courteously.
What if they don’t?
Losing That Big Case Is No Laughing Matter
Don’t have a sense of urgency about your intake process? You should. If everyone in your firm – staff, paralegals and attorneys — don’t know their role in intake, that needs to change.
Here Are Some Examples
It’s hard to believe that simple, common-sense mistakes are being made everyday by law firms with intake, but it’s true. Consider some of these:
- A panicked and injured driver was just slammed into by a large truck this morning. When he calls your firm, he’s greeted by an electronic recording rather than a real person. Click, hangs up.
A mother’s 5-year-old son just died 3 days after a tonsillectomy, and the hospital is stonewalling her. She wants answers. She calls your firm. The receptionist not only sounds unfriendly, she puts her on hold. Click, hangs up.
A guy is shopping for dog food at a large chain pet store. He slips and falls in a beagle’s piddle in aisle 5. He’s injured (not to mention wet) and he calls your firm to find out if he has any legal remedy. After being transferred three times, he gets someone’s voicemail. Click, hangs up.
You’re out of the office and your receptionist sends you a text with the name and phone number of a caller who says she’s been severely injured at the factory where she works. You’re busy with another client and figure you’ll call the woman back tomorrow. Click, hangs… wait, no, she doesn’t hang up because she’s never even gotten you on the phone. She’s already talking to one of your competitors who gave her a prompt and professional response.
To say we live in an age of immediate gratification is an understatement.
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT WHEN YOU CALL A LEAD WITHIN 60 SECONDS OF CONTACT, THE CHANCES OF CONVERTING THAT LEAD ARE UP TO 500%.
Texting is also appropriate. An estimated 95% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes, with most on average being read in less than 5 seconds. Do you want to lose a big case for no other reason than you waited too long to return a call?
Quick Tips for Excellent Intake
Even if you believe your firm has a fantastic intake process and everyone at the firm is on board, there may be room for improvement. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- ALWAYS MAKE SURE every caller to your firm is greeted by a human voice. Full stop. No exceptions. This caller may bring a very large case to your firm. The least they deserve is to speak to a real person. Cross-train your staff and paralegals so that more than one person knows how to answer phones at the reception desk, and consider hiring an off-site answering service for after-hours and weekend callers.
BE COMPASSIONATE. Almost every one of your callers has just had a horrible experience. They’ve been in a car crash, they were burned at work, they’ve lost a loved one in a wrongful death situation. They want someone to listen! Everyone answering your firm’s incoming calls should be patient, empathetic, caring and kind. A genuine expression of caring goes a long way and starts to build a relationship. The caller on the other end of the line doesn’t know that they’re your 50th call today, that you have a headache blooming behind your left eye or that your furnace went out this morning. Hard as it may be some days, a staffer must always have a cheerful and engaging voice when answering the phone and be able to switch effortlessly to sincere comfort and concern if a caller is in distress.
DON’T PUT CALLERS ON HOLD … unless it’s a very brief hold so the receptionist can make a soft hand-off and introduce the caller to a waiting attorney. And while you’re at it, really think through your on-hold elevator music. Is it soothing and effective? Is it respectfully informative? If not, consider silence. After all, the caller is only going to be on hold a few seconds, right?
RETURN PHONE CALLS FAST IF YOU RECEIVE A MESSAGE. Some law firms have a commitment to provide call-backs in 5 minutes or less. Five minutes! With dozens of law firms to choose from, most callers are already moving on to the next name on the list if they can’t reach you directly. If a potential client submitted a website form or took part in a chat and left you their number, call them. Call them now.
IF YOU DIDN’T REACH THEM, KEEP TRYING! Research shows that you should try up to 6 times to contact a lead if they don’t initially answer an email or returned call. The conversion rate jumps from 48% to 93% between the first and the sixth call.
Technology Can Help
There is a lot of technology out there designed to assist law firms. Create a clear internal process and consider investing in legal software like Lead Docket to automate and measure your intake. Landing just one of these potential clients more than offsets the cost of software; it’s worth its weight in gold.
Beyond a software infrastructure, it’s important for attorneys to play a pivotal role in the intake process, too. When a staff member or paralegal provides the name and number of an active lead, attorney follow-up should be fast and compassionate. Turnaround speed is critical. Your competitor may be getting that lead at the same moment and whoever rings back first generally lands the client.
Here’s the Takeaway
You work really hard day after day, year after year to represent your clients aggressively and build your law firm’s size and reach. You need an intake process that works just as hard as you do. Whether that means investing in software or training your staff or both, it’s worth the investment. Create an air-tight system that effortlessly conveys potential leads from first online chat or phone call through a conversation with an attorney through follow-up communications that carry them all the way until settlement or jury award. How well your intake process performs could mean the difference between landing a multi-million-dollar case or having it snatched away by a competitor.