Posted by David Kerr, client relationship director at Legal Futures Associate Moore Legal Technology
You’ve set up your new website, invested in getting to number one in Google, implemented other online and offline marketing activities to support your business objectives and then, wait for it… The phone rings. Great! A new client, right? Easy! Sadly, for too many firms, this isn’t the case.
In an increasingly competitive market place, law firms invest enormous amounts in marketing and lead-generation activities. They invest yet more in getting the very best lawyers they can to carry out the work.
Yet most firms pay little heed to one of the most important parts of the process: converting enquiries into paying clients.
In our experience, most law firms view answering the telephone 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.
In our view, 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 if the leads are being lost at the first point of contact?
If, for example, your average fee value is £1,000 and you lose just two leads per day due to calls not being handled effectively, you are sacrificing almost half a million pounds of additional turnover per year.
Does this sound like your firm?
- Inbound calls are answered by a member of your admin team who has never received any formal sales or call handling training;
- Your call handlers make no effort to differentiate your firm from others;
- There’s an inherent reluctance to sell; and
- There’s no central database of call-handing data (i.e. priceless marketing information), including things like name, address, email, telephone and so on.
A 2016 report by Professor Ian Cooper on the conversion of conveyancing enquiries into new files found some damning statistics:
- In more than 90% of all calls, the call handler failed to attempt to build a rapport with the caller. The discussion was entirely factual, transactional, formal and administrative. In many cases, callers are made to feel like they are a nuisance to the firm.
- In more than a third of all calls, neither the caller nor the call handler knew who they were talking to – there was no introduction or asking for a name. Almost no law firms ask for the business. In fairness, this is done badly across all organisations and at all levels.
- Most damningly of all, 97% of call handlers failed to ask for the business when they had the chance.
Some more sobering stats:
- A typical law firm will lose 90-95% of potential leads;
- Most potential clients will contact on average five different firms’
- People who call are between 5-10 times more likely to convert than those who email or fill in forms;
- Properly nurturing prospects increases conversion rates by 50% and reduces ‘cost per lead’ by 33%; and
- It’s anywhere from 4-10x more expensive to attract new client rather than keep an existing one.
How should law firms handle incoming calls?
To a significant extent, how calls are handled and routed internally depends on your firm’s culture. Are calls passed to partners, fee-earners or heads of department quickly? Can administrative staff or junior lawyers handle them?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, the following elements should be part of the call-handling procedure for any firm taking business development seriously. At a minimum, your call-handling staff should record:
- The date
- The call-handler’s name;
- The caller’s name, email address, contact number, service they are interested in, and how they found you (web, radio ad, press, print media etc);
- Next steps;
- The date of those next steps, their format (call, email, meeting etc); and ultimately
- The outcome (new instruction etc).
This might seem like a lot of information and, if this list is read from top to bottom, it becomes a bit of an interrogation. What you must encourage call handlers to do is to work these elements into a conversation. Don’t worry, that’s not as hard as it sounds!
What should you track?
The total number of leads – and their sources. This is vital. Only by tracking the overall number of leads can you accurately track the number that convert into new business. It’s also important you track the sources of the leads. There are two elements to this – the means of making the enquiry (telephone calls, emails, walk-ins etc) and the practice area.
The number of enquiries that convert into appointments. The next step is to track how many of these leads become appointments or meetings. Once you establish the percentage of enquiries that convert to appointments and the number of those appointments that convert to clients, you have a baseline to measure, manage and improve on.
How many of these appointments show (or fail to show)? This is essential information in that it can illuminate a failure in your process. Are your call handlers attempting to set poor-quality appointments? Are they working on qualifying leads or just asking people to come in?
How many people who attend a meeting or appointment become clients? An obvious one – how many people sign up?
How many return to sign up after the initial meeting? Again, this can highlight elements of your process that are done well, or badly. To what extent are these prospects nurtured? How do you follow up with them after the meeting?
The next two elements are what will really inform your marketing going forward:
What is your cost per lead by source/practice area? That is, how much are you paying for each telephone enquiry, for each email enquiry and so on? Once you know that, you can find ways to reduce it.
What is your cost per client by source/practice area? How much are you paying for each converted client per practice area? Once you know this, you can more accurately determine how profitable each client is and, importantly, how much you should invest in acquiring new ones.
In part 2 of this blog on Friday, I will discuss training your staff to convert calls, handling price objections, and how and when to follow up with prospects.