A ‘mystery shopping’ exercise to test law firms’ ability to communicate with customers has shown progress, yet the proportion of solicitors willing to follow up incoming calls from the public remained “drastically low”.
Cloud telephony consultants Concert Networks commissioned mystery shopper service Shopper Anonymous to make 120 calls to 40 firms.
It found that while there were improvements in several areas from last year’s research, the legal profession still had “a communication problem” compared to other industry sectors.
According to The legal services communication report 2017, when ordered by law firm department the results showed residential property a clear winner in terms of call handling.
Call routing between departments was better overall, but the time spent on hold was not: “Ringing around a whole department to get someone at their desk may result in the client speaking to someone, but the outcome for the client is still poor if they have to spend many minutes on hold to do that,” said Concert.
Perhaps the biggest change from year to year found by the survey was a leap from just 2% of firms that made a follow-up call last year to 23% in 2017.
Despite the advance, the report’s authors said the figure is “still drastically low”, adding: “Law firms have a distinct problem with placing follow-up calls to interested parties.”
The survey pointed out that other research showed some 80% of sales required five or more follow-up contacts. While on average across industry 44% of salespeople gave up after one attempted follow-up, the figure in the legal industry was closer to 77%.
From one law firm department subject area to another, the results were different, ranging from 42% of residential property departments following up enquiries to just 3% of wills and probate.
The survey also highlighted an example of what it described as a “perfect call” – received by Manchester firm JMW Solicitors. It was made at 11.43am and was answered after just two rings.
The caller was never placed on hold, the call took four minutes altogether, and at the end an email summarising the quote was promised – and was delivered a few minutes later, followed up by a text message, another email and a phone call.
The highest performing firm overall was eight-office Worcestershire and West Midlands firm, Thursefields.
Scott Armstrong, Concert’s head of business development, said he was “amazed” by a general lack of follow-up: “Most organisations in different industries would be champing at the bit for in-bound enquiries to be coming through their door and would do everything they could to provide the best possible experience and to follow up those enquiries.
“It’s business that’s coming to you because they’ve done their due diligence and they’ve searched the market; they might be coming through from referral, so it is amazing to think that you’ve got business effectively there for the taking but nobody is doing any follow-up.
“Any firm that can do that effectively is already stealing a march on their competition.”
But he said that, in recent years, an improvement in call handling was apparent, perhaps because more firms were employing business development specialists to work alongside lawyers.
“Maybe those firms recognise that is not for the lawyers to be doing it – it’s not really something they’re particularly effective at, so they are therefore investing in bringing those skills into the firm.
“There are law firms out there who recognise that and we are seeing more and more law firms bringing those skills in-house.”
He concluded: “If a lot of law firms start to look at customer experience… others will start to wake up and say ‘we need to be looking at this as well’.
“In this sense, law firms are [just] bringing themselves in line with the rest of the world in terms of using technology, following processes, and converting enquiries.”