If it’s not, that multi-million dollar case may go to a competitor.
You’re investing significantly in online marketing — if you don’t have a solid intake practice, it’s like throwing that money away. Your marketing drives potential clients to your firm’s door. What if your intake process then slams the door in their face?
That happens if your intake is inconsistent, slow or nonexistent. If you snooze, you lose in today’s marketplace. One of those potential clients may have a multi-million dollar case that could make or break your firm.
Many lawyers procrastinate when they hear the word “intake.” Their workload is heavy and it’s hard to hammer out the details of an intake system. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. You’re trusting your staff to take calls and answer email and chat inquiries. Certainly your staff know how to collect basic information. And surely they handle each potential client courteously.
What if they don’t?
Losing that Big Case Is No Laughing Matter
Don’t have a sense of urgency about your intake process? You should. If everyone in your firm – staff, paralegals and attorneys — don’t know their role in intake, that needs to change.
Here Are Some Examples
It’s hard to believe that simple, common-sense mistakes are being made everyday by law firms with intake, but it’s true. Consider some of these:
- A panicked and injured driver was just slammed into by a large truck this morning. When he calls your firm, he’s greeted by an electronic recording rather than a real person. Click, hangs up.
- A mother’s 5-year-old son just died 3 days after a tonsillectomy, and the hospital is stonewalling her. She wants answers. She calls your firm. The receptionist not only sounds unfriendly, she puts her on hold. Click, hangs up.
- A guy is shopping for dog food at a large chain pet store. He slips and falls in a beagle’s piddle in aisle 5. He’s injured (not to mention wet) and he calls your firm to find out if he has any legal remedy. After being transferred three times, he gets someone’s voicemail. Click, hangs up.
- You’re out of the office and your receptionist sends you a text with the name and phone number of a caller who says she’s been severely injured at the factory where she works. You’re busy with another client and figure you’ll call the woman back tomorrow. Click, hangs … wait, no, she doesn’t hang up because she’s never even gotten you on the phone. She’s already talking to one of your competitors who gave her a prompt and professional response.
Law Firms Explain Why Robust Intake Tracking Is a Must
“Being the first one to communicate allows you to secure the client and prevent any further attorney shopping. It’s like if your cesspool is backing up at home, you will call plumbers until you get one on the phone. You don’t wait for a call back or operate on their time schedule.”
Executive Director / Kaplan Lawyers PC
“Clients want a lawyer that is responsive and the initial contact is the first impression you make. I have called PNC’s back while on vacation or at night. They have all said that they were impressed by this.”
Attorney / Evans Law Firm
“People like to buy. They don’t want to be sold. On the estate planning, probate, and nursing home crisis side, we have to listen and provide relevant options in order to convert a lead inquiry into an actual client. If we care, we listen, and we provide common sense options to their problems, we’ll have their business all day long.”
Attorney / McNeely Stephenson Law Firm
Millennial Attorneys Are Wearing Track Shoes – They’re Fast!
One of your young competitors is fresh out of law school. He’s a digital native and he’s hungry. Not to mention he has student loans that need to be paid off, which provides a whole other level of motivation.
When a lead comes his way, he doesn’t wait. His mobile phone might as well be intravenous because it’s with him all the time and he checks it every 30 seconds or so. Some attorneys even receive leads directly to their mobile phones. They take calls from potential clients when they’re at home, at a restaurant, or playing golf. Millennials are wired for that kind of immediacy.
And increasingly, as Baby Boomers retire and Millennials come into their own, a new generation of clients expect that kind of speed with their digital communication. They want to connect, and now! To say we live in an age of immediate gratification is an understatement.
Texting is also appropriate. An estimated 95% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes, with most on average being read in less than 5 seconds. Do you want to lose a big case for no other reason than you waited too long to return a call?
Here’s a 1-2-3-4-5 Tutorial on Intake
Are you convinced yet?
Even if you believe your firm has a fantastic intake process and everyone at the firm is on board, there may be room for improvement.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks, as our grandmothers used to say. What needs to happen?
- ALWAYS MAKE SURE every caller to your firm is greeted by a human voice. Full stop. No exceptions. This caller may bring a very large case to your firm. The least they deserve is to speak to a real person. Cross-train your staff and paralegals so that more than one person knows how to answer phones at the reception desk, and consider hiring an off-site answering service for after-hours and weekend callers.
- BE COMPASSIONATE. Almost every one of your callers has just had a horrible experience. They’ve been in a car crash, they were injured at work, they’ve suffered medical consequences at the hands of a negligent surgeon. They want someone to listen! Everyone answering your firm’s incoming calls should be patient, caring, empathetic and kind. A genuine expression of caring goes a long way and starts to build a relationship. The caller on the other end of the line doesn’t know that they’re your 50th call today, that you have a headache blooming behind your left eye or that your furnace went out this morning. Hard as it may be some days, a staffer must always have a cheerful and engaging voice when answering the phone and be able to switch effortlessly to sincere comfort and concern if a caller is in distress.
- DON’T PUT CALLERS ON HOLD … unless it’s a very brief hold so the receptionist can make a soft hand-off and introduce the caller to a waiting attorney. And while you’re at it, really think through your on-hold elevator music. Is it soothing and effective? Is it respectfully informative? If not, consider silence. After all, the caller is only going to be on hold a few seconds, right?
- RETURN PHONE CALLS FAST IF YOU RECEIVE A MESSAGE. Some law firms have a commitment to provide call-backs in 5 minutes or less. Five minutes! With dozens of law firms to choose from, most callers are already moving on to the next name on the list if they can’t reach you directly. If a potential client submitted a website form or took part in a chat and left you their number, call them. Call them now.
- IF YOU DIDN’T REACH THEM, KEEP TRYING! Research shows that you should try up to 6 times to contact a lead if they don’t initially answer an email or returned call. The conversion rate jumps from 48% to 93% between the first and the sixth call.
What If You Have Only the Potential Client’s Email?
Some leads may not want you to call them. At least, not at first. They take part in a chat and give the operator an email only. Or, they submit a form and leave the phone number field blank.
Regardless of why – the potential client can’t talk on the phone while they’re at work, they feel awkward talking about their accident – time is still of the essence. The above pointers still apply:
Send an email, and fast. Be compassionate, especially if their message gave you details about their claim. If they don’t respond within a few hours, email again. Don’t pester – just show compassion and a willingness to help quickly.
- Make sure a person, not a recording, answers every call.
- Show compassion.
- Don’t put a lead on hold.
- Return calls and texts asap – in under 5 minutes, or faster.
- Don’t give up – keep contacting.
Do Some Reconnaissance
You might say – Yes, well, this is all very nice but we don’t have problems at my firm. Callers are always greeted politely, cheerfully and compassionately, and at my firm they never travel through phone-tree, voicemail, elevator-music hell.
Are you sure?
Do some reconnaissance and check out the experience for yourself. Just as the CEO of a manufacturing company walks the aisles of Home Depot or Best Buy to see how his company’s products are displayed and to overhear what customers say about his brand, you need to do the same kind of first-hand fact finding with your firm. Make a random anonymous call here and there and listen to how you’re greeted. You might be surprised. Call after hours to check up on your answering service. You can even do a practice chat.
A Human Voice Matters
Even if a potential client contacts your firm by email, text or website inquiry form, reach back to them by phone for a real-time, personal conversation as quickly as is appropriate. This is the best way to show that you’re deeply interested, and it conveys a message that they’re important. Everyone likes to feel important. The inflection in your voice, your follow-up questions and your expressions of empathy quickly create a bond that will lead them to your firm. If you don’t have their phone number, make an effort to get it in your initial electronic communications.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of voice-to-voice contact. Even Millennials and 30-somethings adept at digital communication want to be actively listened to by a real person when they’re hurting, confused and in pain.
Pundits may say that live personal conversation is on its way out, but we at Gladiator disagree. There’s no substitute for human-to-human connection when the stakes are high.
Implement an Effective Intake Process that Comes Full Circle
Few attorneys like administrative tasks. But this is one that pays off in spades. Create a clear internal process and consider investing in software like Lead Docket to automate and measure your intake. Landing just one of these potential clients more than offsets the cost of software; it’s worth its weight in gold.
Beyond a software infrastructure, it’s important for attorneys to play a pivotal role in the intake process, too. When a staff member or paralegal provides the name and number of an active lead, attorney follow-up should be fast and compassionate. Turnaround speed is critical. Your competitor may be getting that lead at the same moment and whoever rings back first generally lands the client.
And what if the potential client doesn’t choose your firm? Your effort still is not wasted. You may impress the caller and plant a seed for them to recommend your firm to a friend or neighbor down the line. Always remember that your firm’s brand is at stake. If your response is slow or uncaring, that leaves a bad taste in someone’s mouth. They won’t easily forget a firm that treated them poorly, and they won’t hesitate to tell others about it.
A Case for the Chase: Lead Docket
You can’t afford to have a weak chase process. If you’re relying on emails, sticky notes and case files to handle intake, then you’re definitely losing clients. Developing an automated system will simplify your workflow and increase your conversion rate. While there are several options for lead tracking software, many of our clients prefer Lead Docket and we’d like to show why.
Did You Know?
A study by Velocify indicated that the optimal number of times to chase a lead is 6 – with a conversion rate of 93% http://pages.velocify.com/rs/leads360/images/Ultimate-Contact-Strategy.pdf
- First attempt – 48% conv
- Second – 70%
- Third – 81%
- Fourth – 86%
- Fifth – 90%
- Sixth – 93%
It’s all about the process. Developing a universally acceptable and reproducible process will greatly simplify your workflow. Lead Docket is a product that does just that.
Lead Docket builds tasks with customizable time frames, creating consistency in following up with leads. The system alleviates stress on your staff by providing effortless reminders when action is required. Because people aren’t always available at the same time each day, the software prompts staff to contact leads at varying times throughout the day.
Lead details are all on one screen, and automatic prompts keep the lead acquisition process moving. Lead Docket creates text messages for various situations and communicates directly with potential clients. This means you, your attorneys and staff don’t need to give out personal mobile numbers.
Once your lead tracking system is automated, you can use the data to hone your process. Lead Docket creates reports you can quickly review to determine what’s working and what’s not in your intake efforts. Putting a repeatable process in place can easily increase your signups by 20% or more.
Don’t let a lackluster intake process undermine what you’ve worked so hard to create.