If your intake team is operating much as they did ten or even five years ago, you have fallen behind. Behind the times, behind the expectations of today’s empowered (and vocal!) consumer, and behind your competition.
The Covid pandemic brought forth countless frustrations, disappointments, and setbacks. Yet, many firms seized the opportunity and moved the needle toward progress.
The legal industry may not be regarded as the fastest moving business. When we do address challenges or face hard times, however, we tend to meet the moment. Firms that embrace change enjoy an outsized share of the market and the success that comes with it.
The reality is that the landscape of the legal industry has changed. Shrinking margins, astronomical marketing costs, and increasing competition show no signs of relenting. Constant client demands and impatient prospects add to the challenges firms are facing. These challenges create toxic work environments, high turnover rates, and anxious leadership. This situation takes a toll on attorneys and staff alike.
Addressing these challenges at the front-end of your firm, with reception and intake, can have a dramatic effect on your practice. Doing so will permeate throughout your organization. Positively impacting your bottom line, your reputation, and even your well-being.
Optimize Your Entry Points
No one is living exactly as they had been “before.” Roles in society are shifting to work-from-home. Parents have had to alter schedules to account for time spent educating children. A lack of in-person interaction resulting from the pandemic has changed the culture. Firms have had to adjust the ways in which they can meet the needs of their clients and prospects.
How should your intake reflect the changing culture? Differentiate the ways in which prospects can contact you and consult with you and ensure your website is not an online brochure but a 24-hour self-service tool.
Call: Display your number boldly and enable click-to-call for ready-to-talk-now prospects. Use tracking numbers to identify your most effective efforts. Record calls (check state laws for permissibility) for training and quality control.
Chat: The second-best option for those seeking immediate answers is chat. Fully automated ai-chatbots walk prospects through qualifying questions providing your team with insights before ever having to get on a call. Live-staffed chat agents can improve conversion rates by providing information and empathy.
Form Fill: While some may be apt to engage in dialog with a machine, others may prefer the contact-us type entry point where they can elaborate on details. But don’t let leads die in your inbox. Utilize autoresponders and ensure there is a system in place.
Book an Appointment: Online appointment booking allows prospects to schedule a time convenient to them. Calendar tools provide reminders, follow up sequences and calendar syncing are all useful to today’s busy prospects.
Inquiry: Having options for assessment such as calculators, checklists, or the like, provide an option to “opt in” to your firm’s nurture sequence so that you have the opportunity to educate, build trust, and retain the client.
Elevate Your Front End
Your intake team – beginning at reception – is among the most important in your organization. Let them know it!
As we’ve addressed, an effective receptionist and intake team is incredibly important. To develop new business they must be respected and empowered as such. Consider as much when issuing titles to your employees. The First Impressions Officer conveys the importance that “receptionist” lacks.
Order business cards to go with the esteemed title and watch your team grow into their new titles!
Front-end training is far more than how to transfer calls. Training must include basic understanding of your legal niche. Supplement with hospitality, empathy and etiquette.
Host weekly listening sessions to review calls for wins and learning opportunities. Offer incentives like a long lunch to the best call handler. Start the week with a “catch phrase” (ex: “I’m here to help”) and challenge your team to tally how often they use it.
Most callers have not been through the experience of hiring a lawyer before. Remind your team to slow down and be patient.
None of the above is easy. If you don’t have the resources to invest in high-quality teams, consider outsourcing. There are call handling firms with the training and expertise required.
Speed To Lead
The on-demand world of instant gratification means that firms cannot wait to call back leads. Would you believe an astonishing majority take as long as 3 days to respond to inquiries?
Put autoresponders in place for all e-leads. This stops the prospect from continuing their search. Use a system that offers personalization. Ensure that notifications are in place for handling such leads. KerriJames custom builds these solutions for forward-leaning, growth-hungry firms.
Chat options and 24-hour call centers ensure that after-hours leads can connect with your team at any time.
The customer experience begins from the moment a lead places a call. Prompt and courteous answering is essential. Cut as much hold time as possible. Twenty-seconds is an eternity to a caller! Use dedicated phone lines, minimal transfers, overflow plans, and dedicated staff.
If you haven’t yet embraced a lead management tool, you must. Hard Stop. An effective intake system hinges on a tool that does so much of the work of intake for you. Whether you are a small firm trying to compete with the large firms, or a large firm managing an active intake department.
Let me tell you how I learned this.
KerriJames was born as a result of two marketers with two very different approaches to doing business. I lived in a relationship-driven, client-service-centered space. My partner James embraced online lead generation.
Once introduced to the magic of online lead generation I was equal parts delighted and overwhelmed. The phone was ringing. Leads were being dropped in the case management platform. Messages were being sent to dashboards. Notifications to the email inbox were relentless.
We had created a beautiful wild horse that needed to be broken.
With every lead costing dearly, I felt an irrepressible need to ensure NO LEAD WAS LEFT BEHIND. But the intake team simply wasn’t set up for success. Unattended leads die in inboxes. Requests went unanswered for too long – even if that was “only” thirty minutes.
This is especially true if you have a large intake team in which Everybody thinks Somebody did something Nobody did (read that again).
Centralizing leads from all sources into a single pipeline serves two incredible purposes:
Leads are managed and tracked (including fool-proof follow-up) for exceptional intake accountability and management, and
Data is collected to inform your marketing and intake operations!
For the firm seeking to be like those record-breaking athletes who know the impact of a full 8 hours sleep – this is invaluable!
Intake tells a whole lot about your firm, your team, your marketing efforts and your success. By carefully tracking your intake data, your team has a means to identify opportunities for improvement. The firm becomes more efficient and invests resources wisely. The data drives future decisions on everything from promoting team members to developing referral partnerships.
Utilize tracking phone numbers to identify your most effective marketing efforts. Record calls for quality control and training opportunities. Tie tracking numbers back to callers, campaigns, and costs.
Careful tracking of lead sources, conversion rates and acquisition costs provide your team with the insights necessary to compete in a costly environment.
Carefully track trends to anticipate opportunities and plan for shifts. The most effective companies are letting data drive decision-making in ways that provide a competitive advantage.
You don’t have to use your data to be more efficient, effective, informed, or intentional – but you do have to decide if you can compete against the attorney who is.
How many times do you follow up with a lead before considering it lost? If you didn’t know the definitive answer to that question you are leaving cases behind.
We’re all busy. Some of us take more time to process are options than others. But paying as much as $250 dollars to make the phone ring means that you absolutely must make every attempt to sign the case. That means employing a robust follow-up system.
No one wants to be harassed. I do believe a “pleasantly persistent” follow up means that you’ve attempted to reach the contact through various modalities over the immediate days following initial contact and then as far out as a month later.
In the case of personal injury especially, the need for an attorney may be pushed off until the prospect has grown weary of dealing with the insurance company. Or perhaps the pain has become chronic. Onset of injuries may not even present until days or even weeks after the injury-inducing incident.
If you are anything like me, your online queries take place late at night when a million questions cross the mind. But the return call to that inquiry may come in the midst of the get-to-school scramble, during meetings, while in the company of others, or any other inconvenient time.
And much as I’d like to believe I am effective in my own follow up. I too often get busy with other tasks and fail to attend to the call or message that came in when I was otherwise occupied.
That’s why a follow-up sequence is so important. A message at various times of the day is likely to catch me at some point in which I am available. Even if it doesn’t, eventually I’ll feel so guilty for consistently avoiding the message or call that I will in fact respond. Your leads are no different.
At KerriJames we employ a 21-point follow up sequence designed to engage the prospect. That is the only goal of the sequence. We just want the potential client to acknowledge the firm. Thus giving us permission to continue the conversation in a more meaningful way.
Consider how challenging it would be for your team to deliver 21 personal touches to a prospect at varying times. This is simply unattainable if you are attempting to do so manually. Again – this is where you must embrace a lead management tool.
A good lead management tool will include a follow-up sequence designed to personally reach out to the prospect on your schedule over a defined period of time. This is not only important for new leads – especially online ‘form-fill’ leads – but at other stages of the leads’ engagement from scheduled consultations to returning a signed retainer.
Your intake system should include a personalized and automated follow up sequence for:
- New Leads
- Cold Leads
- Scheduled appointments
- No shows to scheduled appointments
- Those who are “Contract Pending”
Again, these ‘touches’ should come by phone call, text, and email at differing times. Avoid lengthy messages. The aim is to engage the prospect by soliciting a response:
- Would you like to discuss further?
- Can I get you on my calendar?
- When’s a good time for us to chat?
- Are you still pursuing this claim?
- Have you decided to go it alone against the insurance company?
- Should I mark this case closed?
In many cases, a NO is as satisfying as a yes. Questions that force the prospect to make a decision are highly recommended. I end my sequences informing the prospect that I am indeed marking the case closed unless I hear otherwise. This creates a sense of urgency that will often compel a prospect to take some action if they have any interest in pursuing a claim.
If you focus on these strategies to optimize your intake process, you will not only out-compete your peers, but you will grow faster than you thought possible.