A phone call with a potential client is arguably the most valuable lead capture device. They're interested in your law firm, they have specific questions, and the added value of having an interaction with the person who does your intake is immense.
Often, attorneys and receptionists believe that a phone call is a victory and that the work stops there, once they talk to someone they'll hire you. Don't make this mistake. Don't trip on a fourth down at the one-yard line because you weren't paying attention.
When someone calls you, they are thinking about hiring you.
Your receptionist might be tired, hungry, ready to go home, or preoccupied with another task. This leads to curt phone calls that aren't thorough and don't leave the caller ready to take the next step in your law firm. If your receptionist isn't answering the phones with a warm and empathetic tone, answering questions without annoyance, and helping the caller, then that caller is going to call another law firm.
How My Vet (Almost) Lost $150 for 20-Minutes of Work
To skip all the nitty-gritty unrelated details, two months ago, I got a rescue dog from a shelter that is closing down. It's my first dog, and she has been exposed to health risks due to the poor conditions of the shelter.
Not to give you the mushy details, but after about a month of regular potty breaks, certain things just weren’t solid for a solid 48 hours (like what I did there?). Google gave me conflicting advice, so I called my vet.
Let me paraphrase the conversation for you that I had with one of the vet technicians.
Me: “Hello. My dog’s having trouble going to the bathroom. She ends up going in her crate while I’m at work. I’m wondering if I should come in today or if I’m overreacting?” Tech: “Well, have you tried plain chicken and rice?” Me: “No. But last week she threw up all night, and it might be connected. It started around the time we got prescribed a new allergy medication for her.” Tech (full of snark): “Allergy medication is the mildest medication given, that wouldn’t be causing it.” Me: “Okay, so do you think I should come in today, or is this something normal that happens with dogs? This is my first one.” Tech: “Has she gotten into any food?” Me: “No, she hasn’t. And she’s been on the same dog food for a few weeks now.” Tech: “Are you sure she hasn’t gotten into any food? Human food? Food she’s found outside?” Me: “No. I live in a one-bedroom apartment without a yard, so I’m always with her when she’s outside. I can see the kitchen from my couch.” Tech: “We have an appointment later today at 3:30 if you want to come.” Me: “Should I come or try to feed her the chicken in rice first?” Tech: “Look, I don’t really care whether or not you want to come in, but just let me know so I can book the appointment.” Me (feeling like I've overreacted): “I guess I’ll try the chicken and rice and make in appointment if it keeps happening…”
I left that phone call feeling stupid for overreacting to such a minor ailment with my dog. I worked in the food industry for four years, so I can be quite understanding about someone having a bad day, but to say "I don't care" just blew my mind. After relaying my lousy customer service experience to my fellow dog-loving boss, Charley, he encouraged me to make an appointment.
When I called the vet office again, thankfully, the actual vet answered the phone and validated my concerns and made an appointment for me.
Fast forward to 3:30 PM. We’re in the vet for about 15-20 minutes, see the vet for only three of those minutes, and leave with two antibiotics and some fancy-schmancy dog food. By the way, this 20-minute adventure cost me $150.
And let’s not forget, I called the day I made the appointment, meaning that there is a good possibility that no one would have made an appointment at the time and the clinic would have made zero dollars.
What the Receptionist Could Have Done Better
Let's unpack a few things that the vet tech did that made me uncomfortable making the appointment.
Assumed I knew something that she did.
The words you use related to your practice nature feel like common sense to you and your staff. But remember, you have years of daily experience and interaction with these concepts. Something simple to you may be foreign to the caller. Don't assume that the caller knows what you do about their legal issue.
Did not encourage me to make an appointment.
Some clients need very little convincing that they have a problem and need your help. They've done nearly all of the leg work for you; all you have to do is encourage them to take the final step.
Used the words "I don't care."
This is just poor client service. This one I don't feel like I have to explain. Even if you cannot help the caller directly, refer them to someone who can.
When is the last time you've listened to a phone call at your law firm?
Think about all of the times you have spent hoping for the phone to ring, willing it with all of your ultra-impressive brainpower of believing into existence, and then creating marketing campaigns to actually get high-quality clients calling.
Not only have you and/or your team spent a lot of valuable time creating systems that get people's attention enough to want to call, but you've also probably invested money into the marketing that brought them there. Don't let that valuable caller be deterred because of bad client service on the phone.
Intake might be the biggest problem in your law firm, and you don't even realize it. We highly encourage attorneys to record and listen to intake in their law firm. They are always surprised to find out that high-value clients are being turned away, the warm and bubbly receptionist was short with a caller, or the receptionist forgot to ask for valuable information.