It’s harder on the phone

Posted by Helen Hamilton Shaw, director of services at Legal Futures Associate LawNet

Have you called your own firm recently?

It’s been nearly two years since we launched our Excellence Mark programme of client service support for LawNet member firms. And during this time we’ve completed over 1,000 mystery shopping exercises which have revealed some interesting insights for our firms.

I’ve just been comparing the data from last year with this, and it’s great to see the overall scores improving across the board. It’s certainly true that what gets measured gets done. It’s positive to see that the hard work and focus across the network to improving client service through training and measuring performance is paying off.

But looking at those figures, one of the things that stands out is the discrepancy that still exists between the scores achieved for the walk-in mystery shopping enquiries and those made on the phone.

Last year there was a 10% difference in the overall average score between this two. This year that has narrowed slightly to 9% but it’s still a significant difference. And one worth thinking about in more detail.

Why is this so important and what can firms do about it?

Well, the ‘why’ should hopefully be obvious. The first point of contact that many clients and prospective clients will have with your firm will be on the telephone, yet our statistics show us that it’s much harder to provide high levels of client service over the phone.

It’s more difficult to build rapport and express empathy when you’re not face to face with a client. Many people don’t like talking on the phone and so try to get callers off too quickly, which can appear as though you are not interested in them.

So how can you help your teams deliver better customer service on the phone?

Here are our top tips:

  • Consider the basics:
    • How quickly do you answer your phones?
    • If there’s a call-back needed, do you take a message and return it within 24 hours?
    • Is there someone available to answer the phone at all times?
    • Look at the systems you have in place – is voicemail used appropriately?
    • Are your voicemail messages up to date or are you still closed for Christmas?
    • Do you need to look at bringing in support answering services to help during busy periods?
    • Do you provide regular training for your teams?
    • What impression do your callers get when they contact you? Do they feel welcomed and valued?
    • Aim for a warm, friendly and efficient tone – no matter how busy you are when the call comes through;
    • Adopt positive body language whilst talking on the phone. This really will impact how you come across to the caller. Make sure you smile and even stand up when talking to people;
    • Everyone wants to be treated as an individual, so personalise the conversation by using the caller’s name;
    • If the call is put through to you from someone else, make sure you have taken down any key information passed over to you and check it with the caller, rather than asking them to start all over again and repeat information they have already given; and
    • Use the call to establish if the caller is happy to receive information from the firm or come in for a meeting if appropriate. Always look for the next step in the enquiry process.

As with everything, it’s so important to test yourself. So if you haven’t tried calling your firm recently, why not give it a go?

    Readers Comments

  • Tim Bishop says:

    I think you’re spot on – I think solicitors are missing so many opportunities on the phone to increase their levels of work.

    With regard to providing telephone backup, around five or six years ago we did some internal research. To our horror, we found that, on average, our Salisbury office was failing to answer approximately 6 telephone calls each every day during office hours. This was despite the fact that we already had a couple of receptionists available, and we made other provision for other staff members to answer external calls if reception was tied up. Six calls every day! I almost fell off my chair when my schoolboy maths worked out that we were not answering 1500 calls annually! And what’s worse, it’s likely that a significant of those were potential new instructions – who I suspect would not bother to ring us back.

    Needless to say we immediately took on a telephone answering service.

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