Offering new prospects live chat support via your website sounds like a pretty great idea in theory, especially during these times. Getting people to your website is of course a top goal in today’s marketing world, and according to data from Inc., 42% of consumers say they prefer live chat over other support functions because they don’t have to wait on hold.
With all of this in mind, it was fairly surprising to learn that a lot of law firm websites aren’t offering live chat at this time. In a survey conducted this past winter by Answering Legal for the company’s new eBook, “How Attorneys Are Marketing Their Firms in 2020”, about 87% of law firms said they were not employing any kind of live chat on their site. Over 58% of survey respondents said they preferred for new prospects to reach out through phone call, email, or form submission.
If this small-sample size of information does represent a larger trend, it would be far from the first time that the legal industry is behind on adopting new technology. But is this a case of lawyers being slow to adapt, or do legal practices actually have good reason not to be adding live chat to their sites. Jay Ruane, Partner at Ruane Attorneys, shared his firm’s experience with live chat in Answering Legal’s eBook.
“We found that live chat took up a lot of our time and provided lower return on investment,” Ruane said. “If you have a long sales cycle and want to push people to certain pages, or get contact information for a DRIP campaign, live chat can be a great tool. Then again, you might be able to get the same information from a chatbot.”
The issues Ruane Attorneys experienced with live chat are likely to be shared by a lot of growing firms out there. Many solo and small firm attorneys are too busy to address live chat requests in a timely fashion, and may not have enough staff to take the responsibility off their shoulders.
“Live chat is definitely gaining popularity, but should only be employed when the firm has the proper workflow and personnel to manage it,” says Amy Juers, CEO at Edge Legal Marketing. “Instant communication channels are only good when someone responds!”
Legal consumers typically enter live chat conversations with a much different mindset than the average consumer. While every person uses a live chat looking for immediate help, people in need of legal help tend to carry a much higher sense of urgency. If you can’t provide a legal consumer with immediate answers to their pressing needs, they’re likely to quickly move onto contacting another firm that can. This of course creates a major problem for attorneys, as you never know when a new prospect will reach out through your website for the first time. Essentially, if firms don’t have someone manning their live chat 24/7/365, they risk letting new leads slip away.
Law offices using live chat must also find a way to answer legal questions in a precise and to-the-point manner, which is a lot easier said than done. Offering guidance on a complex legal issue is much more challenging, then telling a consumer what colors you offer a certain sweater in. A legal assistant or receptionist might not be knowledgeable enough to deal with many of the live chat questions they recieve.
Many would of course argue that even if you aren’t able to provide consumers with the immediate answers they seek through live chat, the tool can still be valuable. Live chat can be utilized to answer common FAQs about a firm, and can serve as a nice segway into a phone conversation with a prospective client. However, some on the expert panel in Answering Legal’s eBook were still hesitant about the success lawyers would actually have using the communication channel.
“I want to say yes (law firms should use live chat), absolutely, because people have come to expect to use ‘live’ chat features as a way to search for answers to frequently asked questions,” says legal tech content & copy writer Leah Presser. “That may be the best way law firms can use chatbots. What stops me from an enthusiastic YES is my dread that most firms will refuse to allow their chat feature to say anything other than, ‘That depends. Call 888-999-1212 for more information.’ If that’s all you’re going to offer, don’t bother. That’ll only frustrate your prospects.”
So what can law firms do to provide consumers more value over live chat?
“You have to give them some takeaway,” Presser said, “Not necessarily legal advice, but maybe some background on how many cases the firm has handled regarding that issue they’re asking about. Add which attorneys in your firm handle cases like theirs. Let them opt to have one of those attorneys call them. Now you’ve got a chat feature working for you!”
For more information on building a website that will actually win you new clients, download “How Attorneys Are Marketing Their Firms in 2020”!