What’s the Better Choice for Client Communication: Virtual Receptionists or Automated Attendants?

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From self-driving cars to smart assistants, automation has made inroads into nearly every area of our lives. The legal industry is no different.  

No, robots won’t be arguing cases anytime soon. But they are already being used to manage client communication. In fact, countless firms have relied on automation for years in the form of interactive voice response systems.  

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’ve almost certainly encountered the technology. IVRs are those pre-recorded message menus that route callers through buttons or voice prompt such as “press 1 to speak to sales” or “in a few words, tell me how we can help you.” For many firms, particularly small and solo practices, these systems can seem like the best possible option for fielding incoming calls—inexpensive, efficient, and non-disruptive.  

A caller’s experience with IVR, however, is a different story. And when that caller could be a new or existing client, you want their experience to be the best possible.  

What’s the ideal solution for fast, responsive, and personalized client communication? Let’s take a look at two of the most popular options available to today’s legal professionals: people-powered virtual receptionists and automated attendants

The Difference between Virtual Receptionists and Automated Attendants 

An automated answering service (also sometimes called an interactive voice response system, or IVR system for short) is a phone system that interacts with callers without a real human on the line. The entire phone call, or phone tree portion of the phone call, is done through interactions with a preset machine. 

These systems vary, depending on what you’re looking for, but they have some general processes in common: 

  • They answer an incoming call. 
  • A pre-recorded message plays. 
  • The system asks callers for their intent. 
  • The system transfers the caller or provides pre-recorded information. 

Virtual receptionists are different. The main distinction: a virtual receptionist is a real person who connects with callers on behalf of a business but who is not employed by that business. 

Virtual receptionists serve the same function as IVR systems—answering incoming calls, directing calls to the appropriate person or department, and more—while providing a human touch that these automated systems lack.  

The Impact of Client Communication on Your Bottom Line 

According to Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report, 79% of clients expect a response within 24 hours. However, only 56% of law firms answer their phones when calls come in. 

Using an IVR system is a simple way to ensure that callers aren’t left indefinitely on hold. But while these solutions are often highly customizable, the lack of human interaction negatively impacts customer service. In fact, 67% of callers will hang up when they can’t reach a live person. 

Furthermore, inefficiencies in automated systems can frustrate or confuse callers. This puts law firms at risk of alienating both new and existing clients—meaning that these inexpensive solutions can actually end up costing you in the long run  

Virtual receptionist services, on the other hand, ensure that callers connect with a real person whenever they reach out. In taking the time to gather high-level details from a person about their unique situation, virtual receptionists aid busy attorneys in capturing new opportunities through personalized service. 

This can have a massive impact on a practice’s bottom line. Consider the value of an average case at $4,000. If a firm can capture even two more cases per week with the help of virtual receptionists, it stands to gain over $400,000 annually.

Using The Right Solution to Achieve A Better Work-Life Balance 

Legal professionals work hard for their clients. Maybe too hard—Clio’s report found that 86% of work outside of their typical workday. 

Unfortunately, automated attendants do little to alleviate your practice’s workload. They lack the ability to answer questions or provide information in real-time—putting that responsibility back on attorneys and their teams instead. 

Virtual receptionists help take the pressure off by handling these tasks and others for you. For instance, they can help callers with commonly asked questions, such as if the firm offers free consultations, before transferring the caller to an attorney or front desk reception. On days when attorneys are moving from meetings to casework to court dates, virtual receptionists can engage potential new clients. Collecting intake not only arms attorneys with the information they need to prioritize return calls but jumpstarts the relationships between potential clients and a firm.  

What to Look for When Choosing A Solution for Your Practice 

Not all virtual receptionist services are created equal. Services should be evaluated and taken for a test drive before attorneys hand over their most important asset: their clients. Before getting started, make sure that they offer: 

  • 24/7 live call answering 
  • US-based virtual receptionists  
  • Live call transferring, personalized greetings, and customized call handling 
  • Client intake and appointment scheduling  
  • Robust desktop and mobile applications  
  • And personalized onboarding assistance 

Still, having trouble tracking down the right solution for your practice? Ruby can help! 

Trusted by thousands of law practices to deliver exceptional client experiences, Ruby works to turn first-time callers into long-term clients. From our US-based offices, award-winning receptionists answer and transfer calls, take messages, collect new client intake, make outbound calls, and more—just like an in-house hire, but more flexible and cost-effective. We use technology to fuel real human connections rather than replace them.  

Plus, with the Ruby app, your practice can make on-the-fly changes to call handling, text from their Ruby-hosted business number, receive real-time updates from receptionists, and more. With the power of the front desk in the palm of your hand, all you need to run your business is Ruby and a mobile device. With Ruby’s virtual receptionists on your team, you get the freedom to focus while we help you grow your business, one call at a time!

Gabe Freis

Gabe Freis ([email protected]) is a writer and marketer who has spent years creating engaging content for numerous businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations, including Slack and the Goethe-Institut. As Ruby’s lead content writer, he applies his passion for storytelling to identify and break down the challenges today’s small businesses face—providing Ruby’s readers with the insights and tools they need to compete in an ever-changing landscape.

Comments 1

  1. IT Infrastructure Setup says:

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