Posted by Chris Davidson, a director at Legal Futures Associate Moore Legal Technology

Davidson: Call handling should be viewed squarely as a business development task

Our ongoing mission is to help our law firm clients use the internet more effectively to grow their business. As such, from an online perspective, we look at every component of the journey their prospects make, from initial internet search to becoming a client, and even beyond that, helping our clients look in more detail at the experience they provide to their clients.

We’ve always been able to help our law firm clients achieve positive rankings for their services and target locations. We’ve never had any problem generating traffic for their websites. However, rankings and traffic are, in our opinion, mere vanity metrics unless site visits are converting into good-quality enquiries which our clients can convert into profitable new business.

We are proud of the fact that the conversion-focused, content-rich websites that we provide for our law firm clients do a good job when it comes to converting visits to enquiries. The figures we provide our clients with each month back that up. Our clients generate new business enquiries because of their online presence. Lots of them.

It can, as a result, be a touch disheartening on occasions when we attend review meetings with clients and the data doesn’t seem to stack up with what they are seeing in terms of new files opened.

Sometimes that can be because the enquiries haven’t been of a good-enough quality, or for the right types of work. In such cases we can help fix that. Very often a change of approach to content is required, or calls to action, or the visual aesthetic of the site. But it’s fixable, and we can continue to make changes, based on data, until the phone is ringing with the right type of enquiries.

Sometimes it’s down to a lack of sophistication around attribution, and again, this is something we can help with, particularly with the recent development of our own CRM tool.

What we don’t have any great control over is our clients losing prospects because of calls not being handled properly. Through the call-tracking software we implement on our client sites, we can record calls for training purposes, but that can be akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Answering the telephone can often be viewed as an ‘admin’ task. And not just any admin task, one that is frequently delegated to employees who may have the least to gain from converting an enquiry – those who are further down the salary bracket or those that might be least engaged with the long-term health or growth of the business.

Call handling should be viewed squarely as a business development task. After all, what’s the point of investing your hard-earned cash in generating new enquiries online if the leads are being lost at the first point of contact?

For many law firms, the phone is still one of the best ways to convert a prospect into a client. Typically, we see a difference of anywhere between five and ten times the number of enquiries coming in via the phone as opposed to online enquiry form fills.

I’m sure, however, that we’ve all experienced days where we are particularly busy, or not having the best of days, and we’re maybe not the best version of ourselves on a call. There’s nothing worse that putting the phone down after a call with a prospect thinking that you’ve not given yourself the best chance of converting.

Don’t leave things to chance. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to increase client conversion rates by following the following tips.

Have a script in place

A script ensures that every potential instructing agent that calls your law firm will get the same response no matter no matter who picks up the phone or what mood they are in. This level of consistency is important, since you want to ensure that all potential clients have a similar, positive, experience with your firm and brand.

Answer quickly!

For most, a phone call is the first touch point they will have with your business. Make sure that your calls are answered quickly. Letting the phone ring out, or answering then keeping somebody on hold for any length of time, isn’t going to create that all important positive first impression.

Be nice

You’re just off the phone with an irate client who has taken all their frustrations out on you. You’ve listened to them rant for 10 minutes. You’re just about to make a cup of tea and the phone goes again.

You’re not really feeling up for it. This is when the script and falling back on the process can prove useful. It’s important to answer the phone in a consistent, upbeat way every time.

Increasingly we are seeing front of house staff being incentivised in some way to make them take ownership of their part of their firm’s sales and business development function.

Experience and research has demonstrated that, in the modern working environment, not only do staff respond to incentives, but they attach a value to the way they are treated, particularly if they feel that their role is viewed as having a level of importance attached to it.

Nothing helps focus the mind and bring on a smile better than incentivised targets!

Establish the caller’s needs

Make sure to ask the caller how you can help. Often within a busy law firm environment, the fee-earner that the caller wants to speak with will be unavailable. If that’s the case, focus on being helpful, ensuring the caller feels listened to, establishing what the caller needs are and what the next steps will be. Again, the script can come in useful here.

Get them in the diary

All our lawyer clients tell us that once they get in a room with a prospect, they are great at closing! If the individual that the caller wishes to speak to isn’t available, make sure you request an appointment.

When asking for an appointment, provide several available times to increase the likelihood that a caller agrees to one.

Before hanging up

The most important thing to remember before hanging up the phone is to repeat important information. What did the caller need? Who did they want to speak to? If an appointment was booked, repeat the date and time. Give directions to your office. Explain parking or nearest public transport links if necessary.


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