Law firms risk missing out on significant amounts of business because they fail to properly handle incoming calls and emails, mystery shopper research has found. 

Potential clients had asked for firms to call them back, but 23% waited more than two days to do so – if indeed they called back at all. Around a third of firms called back within 15 minutes of being contacted. 

The research, by Insight6, a business specialising in 'customer experience', involved mystery shoppers contacting 50 personal injury firms by telephone and through their websites, then ranking their experience of the first contact and efforts to convert them into clients. 

While many failed to follow up the lead promptly, most shoppers reported being happy with their interactions with firms, as four in five found their overall treatment warm and engaging, with few complaints about the use of jargon. 

Almost two-thirds of potential clients gave firms at least an eight out of 10 when rating whether they would recommend the firm to others. But researchers found firms did not give a sense they really wanted their custom, with just half reporting their subjects attempted to add value or ‘go further’ for them. 

One mystery shopper said she tried three times to find the name of the person she was speaking to, only for the person on the other end to tell her ‘it didn’t matter because she was going to lunch’. 

With another potential client, when she told the firm she had suffered an accident, the call handler replied: ‘'Lovely, thank you’ with a level of enthusiasm that was entirely inappropriate’. 

The research was commissioned by claims management company First4Lawyers. Its managing director Qamar Anwar said personal injury was a market with no real price competition – making other factors even more important.  ‘The quality of service, from the moment the phone rings or the email pings,’ is crucial. ‘This is especially important given legal regulators’ efforts to encourage consumers to shop around for a lawyer. 

‘The dynamics between lawyer and client are changing. Consumers are just one click away from seeing a competitor brand. Firms now need to be doing everything they can to stand out from that competition.’