On a previous blog (link to Blog 1) we discussed how your firm needs to redefine intake to meet the emotional needs of your prospects. A simple adjustment to your intake department’s moniker or the intake team’s titles is a good place to start.
Here are some suggestions for titles to consider as you bear in mind the emotional needs of your callers:
Investigators | Investigations Department
Advisors | Client Advisory Team
New Client Coordinator | Client Care Team
Legal Inquiry Advisor | Legal Advisory Team
Legal Inquiry Agent | Legal Inquiries Team
This language affects the hand off, which we always recommend. The hand off is when the receptionist passes the caller to the appropriate member of the staff. This leads us to a very important question:
Does my firm need a designated (see titles above) and a receptionist?
It does not matter if your practice is big or small. You need a dedicated receptionist that will receive potential new clients (“PNC”). Not all practices can afford both staff. In that case, outsource the receptionist.
Only a fraction of your calls will come from cold prospects. The rest will be from already known sources. Think referrals, service providers, court staff, opposing counsel, insurance professionals, and personal contacts. Most of these can be transferred to pre-recorded messages or transferred live. Leads can then be recorded and sorted to (let’s go with) a New Client Coordinator. Their job description is to receive and respond to prospect inquiries. This does not do them justice. The New Client Coordinator responds to leads with knowledge, compassion, and leadership.
YES – leadership.
Most callers do not know what they need when they contact your firm. The role of the New Client Coordinator is to lead the caller to an improved state. Full stop.
That is much different than the role of the receptionist. Their primary job is, well, reception. The receptionist addresses the person who walks up to their desk. It could be a new client, the copy machine repairman, or a delivery person. If the receptionist takes an extended call at the expense of a visitor, it impacts the firm’s reputation. Over time, it risks negative (and often public) feedback. It can also result in missed opportunities.
Whenever possible, leads should go directly to your newly christened New Client Coordinators. Why? To eliminate unnecessary friction for your callers and frustration for your staff.
If you’ve spent any time listening to calls (and I sure hope you have!) you know a new caller will launch into a somewhat rambling, often incohesive tale of woe. Seldom does someone contact a law office with good news. Intakes occur on what is a very dark day for the new client… an accident, a workplace injury, the end of a marriage, a criminal arrest. These traumatic events come with heightened emotions. Your prospective client’s state makes calm, logical explanations more challenging.
Here’s what happens in a typical law firm.
The caller immediately launches into a diatribe the receptionist can’t interrupt. If she does, she may be labeled rude or lacking in empathy, though in her mind, this is not her role. Reception is finally able to explain that she can’t help. She then tells the caller that she can transfer the caller to a member of “Intake.”
This heightens the emotional state of the caller. They may have to hold, where even seconds lead to greater frustration. Once connected with the intended member of the staff, the caller must repeat the entire story. One they have quite possibly already told to another law office, insurance adjusters, and medical professionals (and if they are anything like me, seventeen times at least to her husband, sister and mother). How’s that for a calming, positive experience? Does this sound familiar?
Let’s eliminate the transfer and all the frustration that goes with it. Instead, design your lead inquiry team so that calls go to them first whenever possible.
Tracking numbers that deliver calls to specific lines is a great way to ensure ad leads go directly to your dedicated intake staff. We will talk more later on the specific language used to quickly identify the caller, their needs, and their readiness to pursue an intake.
Imagine now a receptionist whose primary role is greeting clients and supporting office front-end operations (and perhaps gathering a five-star review or two!). The New Client Coordinator answers calls for new legal matters. This eliminates friction. Messages for attorneys and staff are either warm, transferred to the desk or delivered via email.
In this arrangement, you have an optimized intake process. Your firm prioritizes costly PNC calls. The folks greeted by your receptionist have a positive client experience. This can lead to favorable reviews that drive firm growth. Other business messages always get to their intended recipients.
If you are on a lean budget, remember this axiom: Focus on activities that generate revenue.
Let’s recap the key takeaways that have the power to transform your intake:
- Don’t call it Intake until after the prospect is onboarding as a new client.
- Don’t call your team Intake Specialists unless they are the person your Legal Inquiry Agents (or another term) hands off to once the retainer is signed. See options for improving the title and disarming skeptical callers.
- Whenever possible, channel leads directly into your designated staff for legal inquiries.
- If you must outsource, outsource the call handling receptionist instead of the intake.