Mismanagement of calls and poor communication between departments could see firms missing out on business.
Of course you would never ignore, neglect or forget any enquiry from a potential new client. And I am sure none of your colleagues would ever be so remiss. However, Ian Cooper’s recent Survey Report for Lawyers on converting telephone enquiries into profitable business paints an entirely different picture.
Out of 254 mystery client telephone calls, he reports that in 97% of calls nobody asked the caller if they would like to go ahead or make an appointment. A gentle nudge and a show of enthusiasm may be all that is required to stop that caller dialling the next number on their list.
When asked about the firm’s approach to new business, 85% of firms admitted that they do not have a properly thought-out structure or strategic system to manage how new business enquiries are handled.
Ian Cooper’s results are not dissimilar to our own experience when carrying out mystery shopping campaigns for law firms.
Enquiries are sometimes handled like a hot potato, being passed on (not quite so quickly) from one member of a team to another.
There are a number of factors that come into play and need to be considered.
Knowledge and understanding of a firm’s full range of services is essential if receptionists are to be able to direct calls effectively to the appropriate departments. When was the last time that your receptionists, or anyone in the firm, received an update on services that your firm offers? In one recent example, an employment enquiry was directed to the family team as the receptionist misunderstood the term ‘settlement agreement’ to relate to a divorce settlement.
A few years ago, enquiries via a solicitors’ website were generally seen as time-wasters ‘just shopping on price’. That has changed significantly, with firms with modern websites now deriving a substantial chunk of new business from the internet.
Whilst a firm may have invested, often substantially, in a new website and search engine optimisation to drive new enquiries, attitudes amongst all fee-earners may not have been updated accordingly. We often see a real disparity across departments in how efficiently they handle enquiries that come via the internet. Enquiries that are largely ignored are unlikely to become instructions and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Soft-skills training is an area in which there has been little investment in the last few years, and the way in which a price is quoted can make a huge difference in the proportion of enquiries to become instructions. If a caller is quoted a price without any effort being made to build a rapport then, again, it is no surprise when the caller takes it no further.
Ian Cooper’s report provides some great examples of curious comments by call handlers which definitely raise a chuckle or a groan – such as ‘I think you would be better trying another firm. What with the holidays and so on, we are a bit busy at the moment’.
Of course that could not possibly happen in your firm.
Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas