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Should your law firm be open round-the-clock?
After hours call intake is an affordable insurance policy to ensure you’re converting leads you’ve already purchased.
Ask yourself: are you missing calls that could become cases?
It doesn’t matter if you are a firm that spends thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands dollars per year on marketing, you are paying to generate leads that need to be spoken to and evaluated.
If your after-hours calls are being sent to a voice mail system where prospective clients may not leave a message, think of how much money you could be leaving on the table. Stop wasting money and give yourself the opportunity to sign more cases off the leads you are already paying for.
Whether you’re a busy law firm that’s understaffed or a small practice with a light case load and hopes of converting more after-hours calls to cases, your call-intake strategy absolutely needs to be a marketing priority.
Seriously, do not spend another dime on marketing/advertising until you’ve shored up your intake coverage. You’ll be throwing money away.
There are many benefits to call services. Among them:
- It ensures your firm puts customer service first
- Phones are always covered, so you don’t have to stress about business you might be missing out
- Eliminate “dropped calls”. Dropped calls are legitimate leads that call your firm only to be greeted by a voice mail system… then hang-up. Your firm doesn’t even know a lead was generated in this particular case. Eliminating dropped calls can improve your bottom line by thousands of dollars immediately.
- After-hours assistance can help with effective appointment scheduling, weekly planning and follow-up
Since you can’t predict when accidents are going to happen, when a dispute will take place or when a lingering legal matter will become a pressing one, being there all the time sends a valuable message about the quality of your legal services, before, during and after a prospect becomes a client.
Just like the inevitable broken bone that snaps at the most inopportune times—after-hours when every medical office is closed or on the weekend when an emergency room visit is in order—legal demands are equally unpredictable. But we all expect to have our needs met, whether we’re sent home with a Band-Aid or a cast.
The same level of service is expected from law firms. If you don’t have some call-answering service in place for those vital after-hours or weekend needs, you could be losing out on cases. Prospective clients either may be turned off by lack of access or response and simply call the next law firm on the list. There is no doubt that losing cases to other attorneys that have 24-hour intake arrangements for their lawyers could be costing your firm.
There are a variety of intake service levels, depending on the size and budget of your firm. Obviously larger, high-volume firms may be able to employ a 24/7 live answering team that specializes in legal intake, complete with sophisticated call tracking. A medium-size caseload might call for a mix of a dedicated intake professional taking calls during the day and an automated after-hours system at night and on the weekends, with a systematic follow-up procedure.
A small law practice might be able to get by with a trained receptionist handling intake from 9 to 5, a recorded message for after-hours that details the expectations for follow-up from an attorney, plus some email check-ins over the weekend for online inquires. The setup is certainly flexible, but all-hours intake is an important consideration for any attorney.
The cons & pros of after-hours intake
If you are still trying to evaluate why and how to implement a call system or upgrade your existing intake process, there are a number of benefits and a few drawbacks that you should be aware of. Let’s start with a couple cons of 24/7 intake for lawyers.
The most obvious is outsourcing your calls when you’re not around means you can’t actually leveraging your own legal expertise by talking to prospective clients. That takes some of the control out of your hands, but there’s no reason that phone-bank pros or online-chat staff can’t be trained in your business. You can employ scripts as a guide or at least some structured reassurance to callers that if their questions can’t be answered specifically enough at this time, someone will be in touch within 24 hours, for example. Answering enough to keep clients interested is better than, well, “crickets.”
Another con is related to follow-up protocol, which can be a tricky area for many lawyers. If you do it one way during office hours and a different way or it takes longer during evening or weekend calls, that’s not positioning your practice as a reliable resource. For large operations, a high number of intake staffers could lead to greater inconsistencies. Will it be clear to whom the client spoke last night? Did you get all the details you need to suss out the client? Is everything recorded in some universally accessible way? How do you ensure no one slipped through the cracks?
Overall these are relatively minor issues when considering the implications of having no after-hours intake at all. It’s a matter of degree, but generally the benefits of employing some system, whether it’s a massive live-caller operation staffed with legal intake experts or an automated voice-mail message that delivers vital information, the pros far out weight the cons in intake for lawyers.
By far the most critical element of intake is conversion. Just like digital marketing strategy for lawyers is all about “being wherever they are,” whether prospective clients access your attorneys via email, social platforms or online chat, for example, your legal brand must be ubiquitous—everywhere on every platform—whenever and wherever people are ready to convert. The same goes for the phone, which remains a lifeline in the legal industry. You must be available—at least in some format—when a crisis occurs or people are ready to take action and reach out for advice.
Here are some other benefits of round-the-clock intake that can’t be overlooked:
We live in a society of instant communication and gratification. Consumers today want results/action immediately. By having 24/7 coverage, you basically insure that human interaction to engage prospective clients and get them into the sales funnel. Without this, you have a big hole in your bucket.
Money saver. Especially for smaller firms looking to save money, a 24/7 answering service can reduce the overhead of employing an inbound call expert. This approach almost always costs less than a full-time receptionist. While it’s certainly not the same as having a live person on the phone, an answering service could provide needed consistency while also covering those “lost” after-hours communications that keep you up at night.
Lifestyle enhancer. Even a lawyer, one professional who is still known for pulling off the occasional all-nighter, having regular time off and not always being on call can provide the kind of lifestyle balance that could make you a better parent, spouse, human, not to mention a better lawyer who understands priorities and boundaries. Nobody wants to lose business, but nobody wants to work every day, all day. An intake system is always on—even over holidays. Having it take over when you close the door could do wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Consistency catalyst. Receptionists go on break. Other front-desk staff members that handle intake, even if they are great at their job, are often tasked with other duties around the office. All of these little things can add up to inconsistent intake that may send the wrong message to a caller—and could cost you a case when a prospective client dials the firm across town. An answering service picks up every call exactly how you want it to in a professional manner each and every time. Likewise, with a trained live-intake staff for after-hours, you can set the protocol for uniform tone, tracking and troubleshooting.
There should be no doubt that having a 24/7 intake strategy is paramount. Previously we’ve covered some of the best next steps in regards to anticipating callers needs; picking the right answering service; recording calls; knowing your dropped-call rate; and “secret shopping” your intake service.
We’ve helped many law firms improve their bottom line significantly by consulting them on the merits of after-hours intake and improving their during hours intake procedures. Call us today and speak to a legal marketing expert about your practice (888) 461-1016!