It bears repeating that intake is not a warm body position. With any client-facing role, it is important for your intake specialists to be in the proper mindset. You want them to handle calls with confidence and compassion, empathy and authority.
Additionally, their schedule needs to allow for time to process calls, document, and exercise humanity. Have realistic expectations for the number of calls your team can handle.
In a recent conversation I had with Scott Blackburn of Legal Conversion Center, I asked him what the magic number was when it came to minutes per hour on calls. That number is 32. Only 32 minutes per hour engaged with callers! With that in mind, you’ll want to plan the size of your intake team based on the average number of PNC calls per day. Accordingly, add an additional intake specialist for leads your firm generates as your growth strategy begins to bear fruit.
You can’t control call flow. Having more than one employee dedicated to intake is ideal. This is not always possible. If your intake specialist can’t take a call because he or she is already on the phone, have clear instructions for how that call will be handled. I prefer calls go to an outsourced call center (overflow) as opposed to the receptionist. Simply collecting a name and phone number is unlikely to halt the caller’s search for an attorney and you’ll likely lose the opportunity.
I don’t recommend having staff who “pinch hit” when the phones are busy either. First, intake is a priority in a firm that shouldn’t be passed off to someone who doesn’t handle intake. That person is busy with their own work which will need to be promptly dropped when the phone rings. That’s frustrating. That person is consumed with other thoughts – not in the mindset to lead with empathy and authority to serve the caller’s immediate need. Plan with this in mind.
An ideal intake department is a team of engaged individuals with one person always waiting for the next call. If your firm doesn’t experience high volume, you understandably may not have a person on staff dedicated to intake.
Companies like Scott Blackburn’s Legal Conversion Center ensure the phone is always being answered by a skilled intake professional – not a paralegal trying to focus on their own tasks. Scott’s company isn’t just collecting details for an attorney to call back later either – they are retaining cases. Such an arrangement may prove beneficial for a great many firms that don’t have the volume or the resources that warrant a dedicated intake team.
For those that do though, don’t worry how to keep your intake team busy “between calls.” The most common complaint among law firm clients is lack of communication. If your intake team needs a task they should continue to hone their phone skills by calling clients, soliciting feedback, and keeping them informed of the fact that when there is more information to share, their attorney or legal assistant will give them a call.
With regard then to the roles and responsibilities of intake professionals, keep it clear and focused:
- Answer calls from prospective clients. Existing client calls, other business from opposing counsel, courts, doctors, and insurance companies are not calls you handle. That’s what the receptionist is for.
- Follow firm procedures for call handling to build rapport, show empathy, lead the caller, and sign cases.
- Demonstrate thorough knowledge of the firm’s practice areas, history, strengths, values, and processes.
- Exercise professionalism and accuracy as a representative of the firm in all written and oral communication.
- Accurately document information according to firm procedures.
- Consult with your managing director when unsure of how best to serve a potential client.
While I continue to encourage firms to specialize their workforce – intakers in intake, receptionists in reception, etc. – it’s worth considering how to use your team to improve your business operations. If you hire the right person for intake, you will soon find that you have a knowledgeable, warm, empathetic leader on your team. When he or she is not signing new clients, they should be staying in touch with the folks they signed in the past to follow up on their treatment and assess client satisfaction.
For many of the firms we work with, their outreach and follow-up throughout the intake process is so robust that communication after sign-up pale in comparison. That’s not good for client satisfaction!
I encourage intake professionals to take good notes on more than just the details of the case – where was the client heading when the incident occurred, were children in the car, was it a favorite car received as a graduation gift… these little details will make touch points with your signed clients more meaningful.
Stay in touch with the signed client to see how treatment is coming along, if they’ve gotten back to work, if they replaced the car. These interactions show care and concerns – and result in positive reviews and referrals.
Now that we have discussed the strategy of your intake team, let’s move to tactics. Namely, how to handle calls.