By Legal Futures’ Associates Moneypenny 
As the legal sector readies itself for life after lockdown, it’s important to recognise some of the fundamental and new client behaviours that will inform and shape how firms respond – particularly when it comes to handling new enquiries and pursuing new business.
People value human interaction
Call duration in the legal sector has increased by 25%  during lockdown – largely due to callers having more time on their hands and because many want to engage in more general chit chat and feel connected to others.
The pandemic experience has created a new expectation of the brands and businesses we interact with. We want more authentic and personal connections so, while life after lockdown might see call durations and volumes return to normal, our desire for meaningful human contact will remain.
59% of clients consider being treated as an individual as more important than how quickly their needs were met or an issue resolved . During a pandemic, this need to be heard is even more important and the businesses that do it well, will be remembered for it.
If someone isn’t available immediately, a friendly individual noting down a message offers a much more positive experience than reaching an impersonal voicemail. Even before Covid, statistics showed that people do not like leaving voicemails and 69% of people will hang up, which could leave them disenfranchised and looking elsewhere. And even if someone does leave a message there’s no guarantee it will be answered. A third of people listen to voicemails from those they know and as few as 18% of people listen to voicemails from strangers.
This desire to talk also presents an opportunity, as longer interactions – be they over the phone or via live chat – can provide invaluable client insights. It is possible to gauge appetite for a certain offering, improve the understanding of audience segments and tailor products and services accordingly.
Real people who can show interest, empathy and urgency stand-out and make clients feel important and valued.
People will tell you a lot about themselves if you let them
Enquirers via live chat tend to offer more personal information than through any other marketing channel.
Live chatters discuss their circumstances openly, share their concerns and offer up valuable insights. It seems that the act of typing rather than talking is freeing and it presents a significant opportunity to improve customer understanding and nurture prospects through the sales cycle. This might include background as to why someone wants to pursue divorce now, or the detailed events that have led to a family seeking a power of attorney for an elderly relative.
Live chat also helps to make your website work harder by turning visitors into enquirers and can be used to triage enquiries to keep volumes away from the phones.
People prefer the phone for new business
Despite a boom in the use of social media to contact businesses, the telephone still remains the most important communication method for customers to connect with businesses in the UK. In fact, 43% of UK businesses say phone calls are even more important due to the lockdown .
Ensuring that calls are answered professionally and efficiently will be critical to speedy business recovery and ultimate survival. 38% of all new phone calls in the legal sector are new business leads so missed calls cost business and reputation. This is also evident in the rise of Google’s Click to Call function. Clients may conduct preliminary research online, but still want and need to talk to a person once they know what they want.
People want reassurance and expertise
The desire for reassurance is one of the top reasons why customers and clients call businesses.
Even after lockdown ends, economic uncertainty will continue and so clients will need ongoing support and expertise. Reassurance comes from being accessible and efficient at all times of the day and night.
During the pandemic, people have relied on the support of professionals more than ever. Be it lawyers, accountants, insurers and medical experts, qualified advice has been critical in helping individuals and business navigate unchartered waters. In a post-COVID world, it’s likely we will all turn to trusted advisors more readily.
Of course, this certainly requires effective call handling and live chat services but for many legal firms it will also mean the use of helplines too. Helplines show commitment and expertise and provide reassurance, all while dealing with heightened demand for particular services and maintaining the human touch. Reassurance comes from being at the other end of the phone, every time.
People are inherently impatient
While the last few months have seen everyone work at a slightly slower pace as businesses adjust, it won’t last forever. People are inherently impatient, as the statistic surrounding the universal dislike of voicemail shows (point 1). Once lockdown restrictions are eased, clients will go back to expecting quick responses to their enquiries and calls. As enquiry volumes increase and the world adapts to a ‘new normal’ it will be vital for legal firms to have the phone and live chat resource in place to cope. That means staying accessible and valuing every enquiry.
The pandemic experience has forced everyone to re-evaluate what matters. The businesses that offer the human touch and are accessible, friendly and caring, will do well. It all starts with responding to clients’ expectations, catering for new behaviours and perhaps most importantly of all, answering the phone.
By Bernadette Bennett, Commercial Manager – Legal at Moneypenny
Moneypenny handles more than 2 million calls and live chats each year for more than 1,000 legal firms in the UK, including 60 of the Top 200, thanks to its dedicated team of 60 legal PAs. Established in 2000, Moneypenny is the world’s market leader for telephone answering, live chat, outsourced switchboard and customer contact solutions. In total, more than 13,000 businesses across the UK benefit from Moneypenny’s mix of extraordinary people and ground-breaking technology.
For more information about Moneypenny’s work with the legal sector, visit https://www.moneypenny.com/uk/legal-answering-services/