Claire Smith, Head of Business Development at Moneypenny  explains why firms should leave voicemail in the last decade and make 2020 the year to invest in a more modern solution.
Voicemail has been a firm fixture in both our personal and professional lives since the early 80s. It’s something that the majority of us will have used daily and for many, it’s been an essential business tool. However, as technologies such as SMS, social media and instant messaging have arrived, voicemail has lost its shine and its efficiency. Now, if someone is unable to take your call, there are other ways to get a message to them – many of which will be received and responded to in less time than it takes to retrieve a voicemail and return a call.
Research shows that 69% of callers  who reach a voicemail just hang up. Unless these callers already know your firm well, there’s every chance they will put their valuable business into the hands of a competitor. Today’s consumers expect immediate responses not recorded messages.
Perhaps one of the most well-known businesses to ditch voicemail is Coca Cola, which declared it obsolete in 2014  when the company disconnected the feature from all phones in its headquarters and saved $100,000 dollars in the process. Bosses also reported increased productivity, a simpler way of working and better overall communications.
While your firm may not be ready to ditch voice messaging altogether, it certainly should not be relied on as a ‘catch-all’. Instead, there are steps you can take to improve your client experience and capture valuable leads. And, when better to start than the beginning of a new decade?
Audit your practice
Before making drastic changes or investing in new technology, it’s important to have a clear view of how effective your existing business communications channels are. Explore the most common times and days that calls are missed and how long callers are left waiting before they are answered. Then ask yourself why – is it due to lack of resource, prohibitive opening hours or poor staff training? Also, consider how many voicemails you receive in comparison to how many calls are missed – this will give you an idea of the willingness to leave a message among your market. Your telephony provider should be able to provide a report including all of this information and analysis will demonstrate the potential value of improved call handling – both in terms of finances and reputation. A telephone answering calculator  can help you establish the scale of the issue, determine what it’s costing you in lost revenue and identify the budget needed to make improvements – return on investment is key.
Moreover, consider the effect that voicemail could be having on your firm’s overall brand. It’s unlikely that you have a clear view of the messages individual lawyers have on their voicemails and there’s a chance they could be out of date and inconsistent. To the outside world, this appears unprofessional. Outsourced services play an important role in not only capturing leads but protecting the brand that firms work so hard to develop by significantly improving customer service.
Get an edge on your competition
In a busy marketplace, it can be difficult to create a point of difference between you and your competitors. When you’re offering a similar service with comparable pricing, it’s vital to do all you can to stand out. Take this opportunity to make outstanding client care your USP and build a reputation for being accessible, responsive and helpful – three traits that time-poor consumers hold in high esteem. Offer people a range of different ways to make contact with you, whether that’s by phone or live chat. Likewise, surprise enquirers by how simple and stress-free it is to communicate with your brand in comparison to others within your sector.
Use technology to become a 24/7 firm
Today’s consumers expect to communicate with law firms when it suits them and that often means outside of traditional 9-5 office hours. On average, around 10% of business calls take place out of hours – either when people are travelling to work or during evenings and weekends when they have more time to carry out all-important ‘life admin’.
As it’s not practical to employ someone to take these calls around the clock and voicemail can’t be relied on either – only 33% of people listen to voicemails from known contacts and as few as 18% from strangers  – it’s time for a different approach.
Investing in a telephone answering service can plug this gap and ensure that everyone contacting your organisation connects with a friendly, knowledgeable individual who can log their enquiry regardless of the time of day or night. Outsourced technology like this can be used to manage overflow calls, cover out of hours or even manage all inbound calls.
Stephen Oldham, founder of Stephen Oldham Solicitors, invested in outsourced telephone answering to offer extra support when he’s out of the office. He said: “Working on my own and attending court regularly meant that I was missing a considerable number of calls, and ultimately, new enquiries. I relied on voicemail, but I knew this didn’t fill potential clients with confidence, which was bad news considering my line of work is so competitive.
“Coming out of court to a number of missed calls was often quite stressful, but I can get on with my day knowing every enquiry is captured.”
Firms must also bear in mind that a growing number of people would rather communicate digitally than by phone. The addition of live chat to a website gives clients and prospects a simple way of doing so, while at the same time tackling the issue of capturing out of hours enquiries – 38% of live chat conversations take place out of hours and at weekends.
Voicemail is no longer fit for purpose – it doesn’t work for law firms and it certainly doesn’t work for clients either. While it may not be prudent to completely rule it out, it’s never been more important to understand what mode of communication suits your audience best and to meet their needs. By ditching old practices and embracing the technologies and tools that can help you keep clients engaged, prioritise client care and capture new leads, your firm is set to thrive.
For more information about Moneypenny and to find out how telephone answering and live chat could benefit your firm visit: www.moneypenny.com 
To use Moneypenny’s missed calls calculator visit: www.moneypenny.com/telephone-answering-service/calculator-gr/