Reception Services: Preparing A New Receptionist For Their First Week In Your Law Office
Joe Galotti May 16, 2018
Just like certain jobs require more skill and expertise than others, so do certain receptionist jobs. Few receptionist jobs come with more challenges than that of a law office receptionist. While other offices will have their receptionists primarily answering phones and taking messages, you’ll be asking your new front desk hire to do a lot more.
There is no point in shying away from the fact that the stakes are high in a law office. Your customers are dealing with highly sensitive and important legal matters, and you need a receptionist you can count on to get details right, communicate effectively, handle legal intake duties, and be ready for anything that comes their way.
Once you find that right person to run your reception services, there’s a lot you’ll need to prepare them for. Before your new employee clocks in for their first shift behind the front desk, here is what you need to go over.
Stress Attention To Detail
How well you’re able to do your job will often depend on how well your receptionist does theirs. You need a person you can trust to gather the right information from clients, take down and send out accurate messages, and stay highly organized, so that when you need to know a piece of information about a case or client, you get it right away. Right off the bat, make sure your new receptionist knows that every detail matters.
Even the seemingly small details, including things such as spelling of names, dates, and facts about a case, need to be recorded correctly. This is all information that you’ll be using to follow up with clients at a later date, and if you have the wrong information, it will make you look unprofessional.
Your receptionist will often be the one to make that all-important first impression on your clients. Make sure they don’t rub new clients the wrong way by committing simple, and easily avoidable mistakes. Even a small error can result in a lasting impression.
Go Over Communication Protocols
While there will likely be some kind of training period for your new receptionist, you won’t be able to guide them through every phone call they take, so establishing communication protocols right away is a must. There should never be any confusion over what your receptionist needs to do when a certain situation arises. Before their first shift, layout a written plan of action for them to follow in every possible customer interaction scenario you think could arise.
This can include:
- What to do when interacting with a first time caller
- What to do with a call from an existing client
- What to do when dealing with an aggravated customer (see tips here)
- What to do when you’re away from the office
- What to do when a potentially significant client calls in
Does your receptionist contact you first in a certain situation or immediately take a message? Can your receptionist schedule all appointments for you, or should they check with you first before reserving a time? These are things your receptionist needs to have a clear understanding of before speaking with any customers.
If your receptionist comes across as unsure or confused about what to do next during an over the phone conversation, your firm will not inspire much confidence in potential clients. Avoid this, by providing your receptionists with a written script for what they should inform or ask of a caller in every situation. They don’t need to follow the script word-for-word, but having a script in front of them will assure that your clients always avoid being mishandled.
Emphasize The Legal Intake Process
The importance of getting the legal intake process done correctly can not be overstated. You likely dedicate a great deal of your time and money into generating buzz around your firm and getting people to reach out to your office. So when potential clients do call in, you don’t wanna miss out on an opportunity to capture them due to poor reception services. Legal intake can be a make or break step with new potential clients, as the way it is performed can either inspire confidence in a caller or leave them feeling underwhelmed.
You’ll want to have an extensive legal intake form already in place, so your new receptionist can study it carefully, and know exactly what information they need to extract from first time callers. Take the time to go through legal intake trial runs with your receptionist, with you playing the role of a potential customer. Make sure your receptionist is able to gather the right information and do so in a timely and efficient fashion. Your receptionist can never get enough practice at doing this. Legal intake is that important.
After all legal intake information has been gathered, make sure your receptionist knows the proper next step. This can mean taking a message and passing it along to you, trying to transfer you in on the call, or scheduling the caller an appointment. These are all things you need to establish a plan of action with your receptionist with beforehand.
Don’t Sugarcoat The Job
One last thing you need to go over with your new receptionist hire before their first shift is performance expectations. Let your receptionist know that working behind that desk will not always be easy. Let them know that a lot will be asked of them, and that they will be the most important line of communication between you and your clients.
Tell your receptionist that they will need to come across confident and knowledgeable over the phone, or it will reflect poorly on the practice. Tell them that that customers will often be upset when calling in, and even though it won’t be their fault, they’ll need to be ready to deal with their complaints. Tell them that even though you just prepared them for a lot, a lot of unpredictable things will still happen in a law office, and they’ll need to be able to make adjustments on the fly.
If these warnings do end up scaring your new hire off, don’t be too upset, as they probably wouldn’t have lasted very long in that hot seat anyway. But, if after going over everything shared above, your new hire is still eager to get started, you may just have yourself a law office receptionist.
Get Additional Phone Answering Help
We hope the above advice will eventually help you mold the perfect in-house receptionist for your office. Whether you are or aren’t successful in doing so, we recommend looking into additional phone answering coverage.
Your firm can’t afford to miss out on a single call, because each call has the potential to end up bringing you a new client. Even if your firm is able to answer all of it’s calls during normal office hours, there will still be about a 16-hour period each day where your calls will be left unattended. Sure you can try and rely on an automated machine for coverage during those hours, but expecting today’s legal consumer to have the patience to leave a message and wait for an attorney to call them back is a foolish gamble. Chances are, the second a caller hears that beep, they will be moving onto another firm.
A top caliber legal answering service can provide you with 24-hour live receptionist coverage. With a team of trained and knowledgeable receptionists ready to handle your firm's callers at the drop of a hat, a company like Answering Legal can be a great supplement to your current reception services.