Outsourcing important business functions such as marketing, HR and IT to attract cost savings, leverage expertise and gain greater competitive advantage has long been normal practice for law firms – so why have they been reticent to outsource aspects of customer service until now? And how can firms be sure to make sure it’s on brand when they do?
Claire Smith, Head of Business Development at Moneypenny, which provides telephone answering and live services to more than 950 UK law firms, including 65 of the Top 200, explains more.
Traditionally, the biggest motivations for outsourcing were cost-savings or a requirement for a particular skill set, but now there’s an acceptance that outsourcing can also be about innovation and collaboration with a view to improving business functions and even integrating new products and services.
This acceptance has stemmed from a change in terminology. Outsourcing used to be a dirty word, but its image has changed. Outsourcing now refers to agile partnerships, where strategic relationships help firms to address their challenges and take advantage of new services, technologies and thinking they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. This is particularly true of the field we operate in, with telephone answering and live chat services, and it means we can offer firms of any size the artificial intelligence powered solutions that they wouldn’t be able to build in-house.
Much of this change in attitude around outsourcing can be attributed to seismic changes in the legal services market and the impact of ever-evolving new technologies. With greater competition and a clear need to stand-out, recruit the best talent and allow lawyers to do what they do best – it is now crucial for law firms to rethink how they deliver value and recognise how a client buys legal services.
Research shows that 86% of customers would pay up to 25% more for a better customer service experience and by 2020, customer service will have overtaken product and price as a key differentiator. Today’s clients are informed, demanding and without brand loyalty and that’s why customer care is coming to the fore as a business-critical discipline worth outsourcing. Outsourcing presents a huge opportunity for law firms and the benefits are clear.
- Meet clients’ needs and expectations – In a 24/7 age, clients do not feel the constraints of traditional 9-5 office hours and will research and reach-out to potential legal partners at all times of day and night. They know what they want and if they don’t get it, will find another firm that can deliver. Outsourcing call handling and live chat means that firms don’t have to worry about meeting these demands with in-house resource and can offer a consistent 24/7 service using customers’ preferred channels.
- Quality, professionalism and consistency – Tardy responses to phone calls are among the regular gripes levied at law firms but they don’t need to be. Outsourcing customer care guarantees consistency and a high quality experience, smoothing out the bumps that occur when front-of-house teams are busy, and calls are redirected to other departments. Most legal practices underestimate the amount of calls they miss by almost a third and wrongly believe that voicemail will provide the back-up they need during busy times. In fact, 69% of callers choose to hang up rather than leave a voicemail message. Missed calls cost goodwill from existing clients and new business too – particularly as one in ten calls to a law firm is a new enquiry.
- Protect the front-of-house experience – Reception and front-of-house teams work incredibly hard. They typically handle the switchboard and greet clients – two tasks that can be at odds with each other. Outsourcing switchboard handling, even if just at peak times, can enable the front-of-house team to give the warm and personable face-to-face welcome that gives visiting clients a positive first experience. This also avoids calls being diverted to employees in other departments, which can compromise professionalism and customer care.
- Make your website presence work harder – A well-timed live chat pop-up can help to turn website visitors into potential new clients at any hour of the day. 41% of the live chats we handle for law firms are new business enquiries, many of which are outside of traditional office hours. There are unexpected benefits too. Enquirers via live chat tend to offer more personal information than through any other marketing channel, which presents an opportunity to improve customer understanding and nurture prospects through the sales cycle. Outsourcing live chat makes it easy to provide 24/7 customer care, meet changing consumer demands and make your website work harder too.
- Flexibility and agility – Outsourcing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing option – finding a partner that offers overflow support or resource which you can turn on and off as your needs flex, is a huge part of the value of having an outsourced solution. Outsourcing also provides a means for smaller practices to make use of tech-led services such as AI powered telephony, that would normally be outside their reach, creating greater organisational agility and competitive advantage.
Ensuring a positive partnership
Building a successful partnership with an outsourced partner starts with agreeing the parameters of the relationship, which should include identifying the business challenge to address, what success looks like and the breadth of services and support that are required. It’s also helpful to clarify the brand tone of voice and customer care commitments up front so that a clear brief and day-to-day operating manual can be agreed.
Thirdly, you should look for a partner which employs sector specialists and can demonstrate a real understanding of your sector. Excellent customer care relies on a true understanding of customers’ needs so a dedicated team with legal sector experience will be able to work as a seamless extension to your team – already familiar with terminology, the need for empathy and the value of efficiency and professionalism.
Outsourcing pivotal business functions and building strategic partnerships with experts, will give law firms access to the tools and skills they need to adapt to the modern world of business.
For customer care in particular, telephone answering, live chat and switchboard services support legal firms on the front line – shaping first impressions, engaging clients, bringing brand values to life and dramatically increasing the likelihood of a referral, repeat business or good review. Whether you call it outsourcing or a strategic partnership, the business value is clear, and it represents a huge opportunity for the legal sector.
To find out more about outsourcing telephone answering or live chat services to Moneypenny, visit www.moneypenny.com/uk/legal-answering-services