One an increasing number of lawyers are using a live chat box on their website, that is, a pop-up instant-messaging window that asks the visitor if he'd like to chat with a customer representative. These boxes are a powerful law firm marketing tool since they're effective at capturing “impulse” surfers, but if you don't have an employee available to chat on the other end they can do more harm than good.

What Should Happen When a Potential Client Uses the Chat Box?

Ideally, whenever a visitor to your site types something like “I have a question” in your IM box, a real, live human being on the other end should respond within a few seconds. If a query goes unanswered for more than 15 seconds or so, this potential client may:Can potential clients reach a real person in your live chat box?

  • Immediately go on to the next law firm in his queue, since he doesn't have time to waste and assumes you're not interested in his business.
  • If he's especially patient, type in another query (perhaps with more information this time) and wait for an answer.
  • If this query also goes unanswered, assume that “no one's home” and stop wasting his time looking around your site.

At the very least, you should train all your office employees to reply in some fashion when that IM bell dings. Even an office assistant can easily type in something like “I'm sorry, our lawyers are not available now, is there a number where they can reach you?” or “Can we schedule an IM discussion later today?”

At this point, you may be thinking something like, “Well, a client likes to see that I have the IM box on my site, but practically no one ever uses it!” That may well be the case, but is it really worth losing that one prospective client who tries to contact you via IM and is greeted by silence? And think about it some more: what if this person recounts his experience to his friends, and warns them to stay away from your “ghost” site?

Ben Glass
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Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.