Why write a blog post on a topic as straightforward as phone answering you ask? Well the answer is quite simple. Many law offices aren’t very good at it.
Whether it be because lawyers and their staff are inconsistent with actually answering calls, are too lackadaisical in their approach in engaging with clients on the phone, or lack proper communication protocols, firms often struggle to handle their phone lines. In this post, we’ll provide an in-depth breakdown on where your firm might be failing with its call handling. Pay close attention, because your poor phone habits are likely costing you business.
Picking Up The Phone
When it comes to answering the phone at work, there’s one thing that stands above all else in terms of importance. You need to answer the phone right away!
You need to make sure all of your phone calls are answered by a representative of your firm before the third ring. It is important that you always make the caller seem like a top priority right from the start. Here’s why.
Studies have found that 53% of consumers get irritated in cases in which they are unable to speak with a live person right away.
And if you fail to pick up the phone, you won’t just agitate potential clients, you’ll often lose their business forever.
Statistics say 80 percent of callers sent to voicemail won’t leave messages, because they don’t believe they’ll ever be heard.
Whether you’re diligent at responding to voicemails doesn’t really matter. In most cases customers will be moving on to calling your competitors the second they hear the beep of your phone’s voicemail system.
If your law office is unable to handle picking up the phone right away every time, you need to find call handling assistance immediately. Failing to answer calls in a timely manner is costing you significant business. We’ll clue you in on a top call handling solution at the end of the piece, but for now stay with us for more phone answering tips.
Once the phone is picked up, the firm employee answering calls in your office should immediately transition into a warm greeting. This greeting should include mention of the firm’s name and their own name.
Ex: “Good morning. You’ve reached the Law Firm of Johnson and Wells. This is Jacob speaking, how may I help you?”
Make sure you and your entire phone answering staff are consistently delivering warm and informative greetings to your callers. We know it can be tempting to get lazy with greetings over the course of a long and exhausting work day, but you never know when a client that might make your firm’s year could be dialing in for help. You want to make a quality first impression on the caller every time.
Proper Tone and Word Choice
When we say the phrase “warm greeting”, the word “warm” should not be overlooked. The people answering your phones need to carry an appropriate tone of voice in order to make clients feel like they are being properly attended and cared to. Nice words will sound insincere or sarcastic coming from a person who sounds like they can’t be bothered or are half asleep.
An appropriate tone of voice needs to be present throughout the entire dialogue with a caller, as does proper word selection. “Please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome” should be among the greatest hits used from your phone answering vocabulary. “Uh” and “um” should never be heard from you or your staff on the phone.
A few more word selection tips:
- Instead of “okay”, use “I’m happy to do that for you” or “I understand”.
- Instead of “no”, use “I’m afraid that isn’t possible” or “Sorry, I’m unable to do that”.
- Instead of “what”, use “I’m sorry, can you please repeat that again” or “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Communicating With Your Receptionist
How well you are able to serve customers over the phone will often come down to the work your in-office receptionist does. In most cases, your receptionist will be the first one to answer the phone and speak with a current or prospective client. If they fail to collect and feed you relevant client information before directing the caller over to your phone line, your ensuing conversation is likely to go quite poorly.
Handling First Time Callers
Speaking on the phone with new customers is where most lawyers with less than thorough receptionists run into issues. First time callers to your firm are expected to have their personal and case information extracted through a series of questions known as the legal intake process. If a receptionist fails to execute that legal intake process correctly, lawyers can end up less than prepared in their follow-up conversations with callers.
Few things frustrate consumers more on the phone than having to repeat themselves. It makes them feel like you’re not really listening. Not knowing a piece of basic information about a client or their case, that they’ve already shared with your receptionist, can reflect quite poorly on you. And if your receptionist gives you inaccurate client information, you could end up sounding really unprofessional. You need to dedicate proper time to training your receptionist to perform legal intakes.
Even if you are able to perfect your firm’s legal intake process, expecting just one receptionist or a few staff members to handle all legal intake responsibilities for a growing firm can be a lot to ask, which is why you may want to reach out for outside call handling assistance. That call handling solution we promised earlier is not too far away, we promise.
Along with establishing a proper legal intake process with your receptionist, you’ll also want to go over with them information about your practice and field of law. Make sure they can at least answer basic questions about your firm, and are using appropriate phrasing and terminology. Give your receptionist a little cheat sheet of answers to frequently asked questions and important terms if necessary.
Controlling The Conversation
If during a phone call with a client, it seems like you’ve been talking the whole time or they’ve been talking the whole time, chances are not much is getting accomplished. The best legal phone calls are always back and forth dialogues.
Rather than going on and on about your credentials, or letting a client go on and on about their woes, try and keep things focused on collecting necessary information and solving their problem. Never be rude, but don’t be afraid to politely interject with a question or idea when a client is going on a tangent.
Ending Your Phone Calls
Before concluding a call you must make always sure you have their correct contact information. Go over it again if you’re unsure. Also make sure both parties are completely clear on what comes next, whether it be the time of in-person meeting, or the date of a court hearing. You’ll likely want to have a written staff protocol in place for ending phone calls with clients, detailing how exactly your staff should go about concluding call in several different scenarios.
You don’t have all day to waste on the phone, so be aware of how much time you’re spending on each call. There’s an art to making it seem like you have all the time in the world for your clients, while subtly moving a conversation forward to it’s conclusion, and it only comes with practice. Speaking of moving towards an end, let’s finally get to that call handling solution we’ve been teasing.
Investing In A Legal Answering Service
If your phones are ringing too much for your staff to handle, you shouldn’t panic. In fact this is good news! It means your marketing is working, and that word of your law practice is spreading throughout the community. What you’ll need to do now is team up with a company that can help you effectively manage your increasing number of calls. A legal answering service like Answering Legal can ensure that a higher number of the prospective leads you work so hard to generate, are properly handled on the phone and have a chance to become actual clients.
The Answering Legal receptionist team works around the clock, 24/7/365, and will be able to answer any call your office is unable to get to. That includes during after hours and weekends, time periods in which a lot of consumers may already be trying to reach you without you even being aware. Imagine being able to capture clients 168 hours a week, rather than just 40. All of our receptionists have gone through extensive phone training and legal intake training, and are fully equipped to help you win new business and shore up any phone answering problems your firm might have.
To find out more about our services, and try Answering Legal out for free for 10 days, click here!