Posted by Andy Cullwick, head of marketing at Legal Futures Associate First4Lawyers
As many as one in five new enquiries to law firms do not get a response, according to research for our latest white paper.
It’s a surprising and somewhat shocking statistic when you consider the significant sums that many firms spend on marketing in order to attract prospective clients.
Given the fall in claims volumes, you would also expect them to be better at capturing and converting leads rather than seemingly letting them slip through their fingers.
Of course, our research only spoke to a representative sample of firms and was focused on personal injury (PI) and wills, but we know that it’s likely to be a similar story across not just other areas of law but other sectors too.
So what else did our research show, why is it happening and what are the consequences of ignoring customers? More far-reaching than you might think.
What we found
For our white paper, ‘From first impressions to follow-up calls: Creating a customer journey’, we commissioned customer experience specialists insight6 to conduct a mystery shopping exercise of 50 PI and 50 probate practices, both online and over the phone.
The good news was that the majority of shoppers described their interactions with firms as warm, engaging and jargon-free.
But it found few were consistently achieving the gold standard of returning calls within 15 minutes of the enquiry and some were taking hours or days to respond, if at all. A whopping 20% of wills enquiries were completely ignored; while PI shoppers who made phone calls fared better, 16% of those who emailed or filled in a web enquiry form heard nothing back.
The study also uncovered significant discrepancies in the way that different departments handle incoming enquiries. For example, 77% of those with a PI enquiry via the web received a call from a fee-earner compared to 46% of wills shoppers, and PI shoppers were three times as likely to receive a follow-up call within five days.
First4Lawyers carried out a similar exercise among PI firms five years ago and comparison does show that most are a lot better at following up with potential clients once they have spoken. However, that counts for nothing if the initial conversation never takes place.
Why are firms ignoring customers?
It is a curious one and I don’t think anyone is ignoring prospective clients on purpose. More likely it’s down to a failure in the systems and processes the firms have – or don’t have – in place.
The difference in response rates between different practice areas, for example, indicates that firms are letting individual departments decide how they deal with incoming enquiries, which makes little sense.
Management should ensure a consistent approach. You’re only as strong as your weakest link and, when it comes to referrals, a PI client will expect the same level of service from colleagues handling their will.
Interestingly, one audience member at the recent PI Futures conference where I presented our white paper suggested that some firms may be ignoring enquiries deliberately due to lack of resources or because they thought they were coming from timewasters or simply weren’t viable.
There is merit in this suggestion but, if true, it is a somewhat short-sighted approach. Cherry picking what look like the strongest enquiries is bound to result in some good ones being missed, and it’s not just those that you don’t respond to who are left with a poor impression of your firm, it’s everyone else they speak to.
People love to talk about a bad experience far more than they do a good one and that’s the kind of word-of-mouth recommendation that no business needs. Far better to invest a few minutes of your time in listening and, if you aren’t able to help, leaving them with a positive impression by trying to signpost them to someone or somewhere who can.
What needs to change
The white paper identifies three key areas where firms should be focusing their efforts, including consistent customer service frameworks that cover the whole business and user experience technology.
The latter sounds fancy but it really doesn’t have to be; it’s more about going back to basics and mapping out how a would-be client interacts with your business. You map out the touchpoints – phone call, website, social media etc – and then create user journeys for each type of client to help you identify what happens when and what you may be missing.
Last but most certainly not least is review and comparison websites, which law firms traditionally aren’t fans of but are commonplace in insurance. With nine out of 10 consumers saying they use them in their day-to-day life as the quickest and most effective way of getting a good deal, they are becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
There is a misconception that any such website for the legal industry will be little more than a ‘race to the bottom’ on price, but research tells us that consumers also want to know about experience, speed of service, success rates and reviews.
A trusted comparison website that offers information on all those five drivers in one place will be a win-win for all involved.
A version of this article first appeared in Insurance Claims.