By Legal Futures Associate Moneypenny
In a busy marketplace, first impressions are crucial. The way inbound calls are answered gives clues as to a firms’ values, priorities and approach to client care. Whether it’s dealing with existing clients, handling new business enquiries or speaking with other professional services providers – the human, friendly touch is vital. Each and every call has tremendous value – both to a firm’s ongoing revenue and reputation.
Mismanaged and unanswered calls can be costly. 69% of those faced with voicemail ring off – that’s perhaps a lost instruction, missing out on new a recruit or a disgruntled client. As such, call handling is a key commercial priority for the legal sector.
Whether you’re writing an inbound call management strategy internally or calling on the help of an outsourced communications provider, there are several key things to consider. Here, Bernadette Bennett, Head of Legal Sector at leading outsourced communications provider, Moneypenny, shares her six steps to creating and implementing a successful plan.
Monitor and review
A full audit of existing comms provides an opportunity to improve your understanding with qualitative and quantitative insights. Gather data about incoming calls. What are the call volumes, broken down by time and day? Can you spot any patterns with busy periods or average talk times?
Talk to call handling staff about how they feel it works currently and any frustrations they have. Pay particular attention to the feedback of staff who answer the phones, but whose sole job it is not. Does answering the phone stop other important activities from happening? Also consider the types of occasion when callers get frustrated and whether messages are taken accurately. As they say, ‘the devil is in the detail’ so comprehensive information gathering and an understanding of actual rather than perceived needs, provides an important place to start.
Calls to law firms come from a wide variety of people and organisations – as such the nature of these calls and the callers’ needs are very different. Categorising calls helps you to understand what those callers need and how you can best respond. Categories might include clients, prospects, suppliers and recruitment.
This might help to identify the need for a different number for conveyancing enquiries, a dedicated recruitment helpline, out of- hours support to reflect typical enquiry times or training for call handlers.
Consider the caller journey
Building on step two, stand in the shoes of the different caller groups and think about their whole experience of interacting with your firm. Do new business enquires receive the same level of professionalism and care over the phone and through the website? Can clients get connected quickly and efficiently every time? Consistency is key, particularly for firms with multiple offices and departments.
Digital switchboard services with intelligent speech recognition can have value here too – as they allow calls to be directed and filtered effortlessly to exactly where they need to go; be it specific team members, on their mobile phones, tailored information lines or an outsourced receptionist.
Setting benchmarks and standards
Standing in clients’ shoes can help to determine and set standards. Ask yourself how quickly phones should be answered and who is primarily responsible (is it an owned, shared or outsourced job). Think about how callers should handle tricky clients, the sort of language they should use (things to say and not say) and the wording of specific scripts – if there will be a standardised response to all calls.
Standards might include – how the caller is greeted, the number of rings in which a call must be answered, the detail that must be captured when taking a message and how quickly call backs are made. Over time, this will provide useful benchmark information as part of a process of continual improvement.
Writing an inbound call management plan may reveal there is insufficient resource to present a consistent brand image of your firm. If this is the case, consider how an outsourced supplier can help. This might be for overflow support – freeing up the in-house team at busy times, out of hours support – so that callers never have the frustration of leaving a message as they can talk to a person, or a fully outsourced solution – which means all calls are always answered by a third party.
A partner will work with you to identify needs and agree service level standards, write and approve call handing scripts and agree how messages are taken and relayed. More importantly, an outsourced provider will make it their business to understand your values and needs so they can guarantee a positive experience for callers.
The benefits of outsourcing call handling are numerous. It ensures scalable support in line with demand, reduces the ‘noise’ so teams can focus on client work, keeps teams working efficiently without distraction and keeps you ‘open’ and contactable around the clock, 247.
Increasingly, law firms are taking steps to actively keep volume way from the phone by making better use of digital tools. Adding FAQs to websites and creating specific landing pages for different audiences can have real value – as will the addition of managed live chat.
Communication is key for law firms. Handling calls quickly, efficiently and professionally will support you in your goals to improve service, revenues and reputation. Calls that ring out or result in poorly taken messages and slow call backs undermine all your efforts elsewhere. For firms striving to offer the very best standards in client care – it’s imperative to recognise that it all starts with a phone call.