Hey, legal professionals, want to hear some rather startling – and depressing – statistics about customer service and the legal industry?
• Fewer than 10% of callers to a law firm actually get to speak with a lawyer.
• More than 40% of consumers who send an email or leave a voicemail will wait two to three days for a response.
• 11% of callers to law firms hang up within 10 seconds because they are frustrated to be greeted by a machine during business hours rather than a human receptionist.
All of this makes one thing rather clear: most law firms are terrible at customer – or client if you prefer – service. So for the law firm that actually does make an attempt to provide better customer service the potential gains and benefits are significant.
So how can you go about doing this? Here are some essential tips
Understand That Customer Service Starts at First Contact
To begin offering a better overall customer service experience you will likely have to reexamine and retool your entire client intake process. Firstly, you need to ensure that during business hours your phone lines are answered by a human and secondly that human – or humans – need to be right for the job.
It takes more than a pleasant voice and an affinity for the technicalities of a switchboard to be a great legal receptionist. This person needs to exude patience, kindness and sound attentive. Whether you are a personal injury lawyer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a criminal lawyer in Las Vegas, Nevada, a bankruptcy lawyer in Buffalo, New York, in fact a lawyer practicing anywhere in any niche you know one thing to be true; legal problems change people.
Often even the mildest mannered of people can become screaming, shouting and sometimes even sobbing ‘maniacs’ when they need a lawyer. They can be rude when they are usually the model of decorum. And that first point of contact, the receptionist, needs to understand this and be willing and able to deal with these outbursts and difficulties without losing their cool themselves.
However angry they are if a potential client gets the impression that they are being listened to – and understood – it’s unlikely they’ll feel the need to continue their search for a lawyer elsewhere.
Outline Your Policies Properly
During an initial consultation with a new client you should do more than listen to the basics of their story and talk fees, although we admit those are both very important. You should also take the time to outline your firm’s policies and practices. Explain how – and when – their queries will be answered, how they will be kept apprised of the progress of their case and how billing issues are handled.
By taking the extra few minutes to do this you will be setting up a feeling in the client that their issues will be handled properly and their case handled with the level of attention they feel it deserves.
Don’t Leave Clients Hanging
Every lawyer knows the frustration; you have no news for the client on the progress of their case but they keep calling. It’s tempting to avoid those calls, have them sent to a voicemail and then just pretend that the message was never received until you do have something solid to report.
From a client service point of view though this a terrible idea. The number one complaint to bar associations across the country is a lawyer’s failure to communicate. It will take just a minute to make a quick call, or compose a brief email, assuring the client that you are still working on their case and while there’s no news right now they can be assured they’ll hear as soon as there is.
This simple act is often all it takes to reassure a client they made the right choice when opting to entrust your firm with their case which will not only mean they have greater trust in you but that they are also more likely to recommend your services to others in the future.