As our new research reveals in The Inbound Phone Call Report, call volumes to U.S. law firms have increased by 26% over the last five years and that 35% of all calls are a new business inquiry – equivalent to $266M for small business law firms – the sector is reminded of the commercial necessity of accessibility and communication in driving revenue growth.
Even with so many different communication channels now available, the phone is still king. It is the most popular way for clients to contact legal service providers, followed by email (46%) social media (33%) letter (27%) and live chat (24%).
We also know that 48% of the legal firms cite clients’ desire for reassurance and to talk to a person as the main reason for this marked increase in calls, followed by business growth (43%) and those calling to verify their online research (40%).
The ubiquity of smartphones has played a key role here and is contributing to this phone call renaissance, particularly due to the increasing use of Google’s click to call feature – which allows cell phone users to call directly from their search results. When it’s so easy to call, you should expect people to do so.
The telephone provides instant gratification for time-poor clients and the reassurance that an inquiry is being handled. The legal sector may be focused on new tech-enabled and digital solutions, but answering the phone well remains a law firm’s fundamental secret weapon.
However, client preferences are not static – they continue to evolve and so understanding clients’ needs must be an ongoing process rather than a one-off activity. One example of how client needs are shifting can be seen in the knock-on effect of consumer businesses embracing 24/7 communication via social media channels and live chat. This has started to create an ‘always on’ and ‘always available’ expectation from professional services providers too. This means being accessible out of traditional office hours – so whether an inquiry is made over the phone, social media or on live chat at 7am, 1pm or 10pm, it should always be handled quickly and with the same level of professionalism and importance. Every client contact is an opportunity.
2. Exceed expectations
The pandemic has reiterated just how important communication is. We saw call volumes and durations increase significantly during lockdown as people sought greater reassurance and human contact. The firms that met or exceeded this requirement for easy-accessibility will probably be the real winners of lockdown – likely to gain improved reputation and market share as clients remember the suppliers that were there for them.
However, irrespective of a pandemic, legal clients expect calls to be answered quickly, messages to be returned, people to be friendly and service to be excellent. Put the steps in place to make this possible, including:
- Agreeing call-back protocols – is it by the next working day or can you make it quicker?
- Ensuring that everyone answering the phones understands the importance of a strong first impression and how to take a message.
- Reviewing call volumes to be sure that demand can be met, always – this also avoids switchboard calls being diverted to employees in other departments, which can compromise professionalism and client care.
It’s also important to recognize that most legal firms underestimate the amount of calls they miss by almost a third, according to our data, and wrongly believe that voicemail will provide the back-up they need during busy times. In fact, we know that 69% of callers will hang up rather than leave a voicemail message because they demand a human response. With more than a third of all calls resulting in a new inquiry, missed calls cost business.
3. Recognize the conversion potential of your website
Most web visitors leave within just 10-20 seconds, so legal websites must give visitors what they want quickly to stand the best chance of becoming a lead. This is particularly important when you consider that social media – the third most popular way for legal clients to get in touch –often steers potential clients to corporate websites for more information.
Live chat is an increasingly valuable conversion tool here and 42% of all legal live chats are new business inquiries. It offers some unexpected benefits too. Enquirers via live chat tend to share more personal information than through any other marketing channel. It seems that the act of typing rather than talking helps prospects to be themselves, which presents a significant opportunity to improve client knowledge and nurture prospects through the sales cycle.
As part of improving website lead conversion, it is also useful to consider whether web copy has a strong call to action, if lead-capture forms are collecting the right information and if live chat could help to answer FAQ and stimulate leads for key products and services.
4. Prioritize client handling
One of the biggest legacies of Covid-19 will be a rise in home-working, which presents a communication challenge and an opportunity for legal firms.
With more staff working remotely and potentially different hours, it is important for everyone on the front line of client care to be trained and well versed in client handling practices, expectations and standards.
Give the client journey the attention it deserves and ensure that their every point of interaction is one of consistency and excellence. Start by making sure everyone knows the value of new inquiries, the significance of timely and efficient follow up and the protocols in place regarding call backs, message taking and service levels. This is particularly important when responsiveness and the human touch have the potential to be real differentiators in the sector.
Many legal firms still deliver the legal service they think clients need rather than the service they want. Firms must take the time to understand clients’ changing needs and preferences, including how, when, where and why they want to communicate.
It is only when firms see the client as king, prioritize client care at all levels and incorporate the client journey into operational decision-making, that they can expect to capitalize on every lead. In a fast paced, competitive and increasingly global market place, communication is everything. Being accessible and able to converse with clients on their terms is the key to driving revenue growth, boosting brand reputation and building market share.