The question, “What is intake?” may seem a silly one to you, but to potential clients, it’s far from obvious. For firms, the intake process starts when a prospective client initiates contact. It ends with the signup of that person as a client.
To clients though, the word “intake” has very little meaning. Or worse, it may not be what they are looking for when your receptionist sends them to speak with a member of your firm. The vast majority of callers contacting your firm are looking for clarity and confirmation. Rarely are they looking to be “taken in.”
Gary Falkowitz, perhaps the only man who shares my passion for improving intake, often tells a great story. In a room of 100 or so attorneys, he asked how many had ever needed to hire a personal injury lawyer. Five hands went up. Ninety-five percent of the room would have been first-time callers to a PI firm!
That truth is of critical importance. Most callers to a law practice are first time callers, unsure if they even have a case or need a lawyer. The caller is not yet ready for an intake. They do not expect to be ‘taken in.’ In fact, at this stage of what you and I may refer to as intake, you are the one under evaluation.
Let’s reverse roles for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of the caller, except this time, you’re calling a medical practice. You have years of wear and tear from the golf course. You are considering shoulder surgery to repair your rotator cuff. You do some research, ask a few friends for recommendations, and call a local surgeon’s office. The friendly receptionist gathers a few details. Then she asks you to hold while she transfers you to ‘Intake.’
HOLD UP NOW!
Are you ready to get all the papers signed for a medical procedure or do you have a few questions you’d like answered?! What if you are only calling to schedule a consultation? You see my point.
What you consider intake is NOT what your caller is ready for, and that in and of itself is a lesson on intake. We must consider the emotional needs of the prospect at every stage of the hiring journey. If you wish to earn the prospect’s business, you must meet them where they are.
I promise I will discuss the emotional needs of potential clients later. There are also specific scripts that align to those needs. But, for now, can we just stop telling would-be clients that we are connecting them with intake?
Language is powerful, and lawyers understand this better than most. One word in an exhaustive contract can completely shift liability. Let’s be careful with the words we choose. Choose words that put prospects at ease as they consider (1) their legal needs and (2) our ability to meet them.
Redefining your intake team as “Investigators” or “Evaluators” is one approach. Another is to suggest transferring them to someone on your consultation team. This may help disarm callers who are not yet ready for intake. Intake, which is the process of onboarding the client who has engaged your firm, will come next.
Make no doubt, you’ll still need to hire an Intake Specialist. A professional who answers phone inquiries, and responds to online forms and emails is indeed an Intake Specialist. They may also visit homes and hospitals to sign new clients. But do consider a different label to put your callers at ease. It puts them in the proper frame for what happens next.