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If you’re like most law firms, you’re already spending thousands of dollars to generate leads. Ultimately, the goal is to turn as many of those phone calls into real, paying cases – right?
If that’s the goal, then you can’t afford to let any leads fall through the cracks of a broken intake system.
We won’t insinuate that every legal practice has a poor intake process. Some work just fine. However, whether you think your lead conversion processes beats the competition, or is in serious need of an overhaul, it’s always a good idea to consider conducting an intake audit.
So today, we challenge you to start auditing your own intake process by being a secret shopper at your law firm. Call your leads line as if you were a customer.
Don’t think it’s a big deal? Think again. Below is an example of what your intake calls could sound like if you don’t take the time to care about your processes. Just imagine if you were in this person’s shoes, how would you feel?
Listen: A Bad Intake Call Example
Pretty bad right? How many cases you could be losing due to poor intake performance like the call above.
The goal of conducting an intake audit is to first identify areas of weaknesses, then create a plan to fix the problem. We know first hand that law firms that take the time to regularly audit their intake processes have teams that perform better and consistently close more cases. After all, your firm only gets one chance to make a first impression.
Contrast the above call with the one below, which would you rather experience as a customer?
Listen: A Good Intake Call Example
If all of your intake calls went like that, you could rest easy knowing your team is always putting its best foot forward.
Playing ‘Secret Shopper’ at your Law Firm
One of the most helpful ways to understand just how your intake system works—what messages you’re relaying, how you’re qualifying cases and how fast you’re responding to inquires—is to play “secret shopper.” That is, posing as a potential client in order to evaluate the quality of customer service. And that starts with calling your own leads line. We recommend this type of audit so you can hear for yourself how well (or how poorly) your intake team performs.
To really gather the information you need to make an informed decision about what procedures seem right and what might be surprisingly off, make sure to walk through the whole process, from the first phone call to follow-up communication. Better yet, call a few times over the course of a couple of weeks to gauge the consistency of your intake protocol. You could charge several lawyers with playing secret shopper as well and then compare notes. Broader perspectives can lead to some insightful conclusions.
Here are some tips for your first secret-shopper mission:
- Don’t take your ego with you. If something sounds wrong, don’t try to explain it away to protect your own law firm or the brand you’ve worked hard to build. Look at intake objectively—and move on to fixing it.
- Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. On this call, you’re not an attorney. For this purpose, you’re an everyday guy or gal with a real problem that you need an answer to.
- Engage thoroughly and open-mindedly in the consumer experience. Then, make a pros (remember, those are important too) and cons list of what stood out during the intake calls. Regroup with other in-house secret shoppers and compare notes.
Making an Intake Action Plan
After an internal audit of your lead-conversion process, start to group big ideas together to create an action plan to update or overhaul your intake process. Be mindful of making sure you cover all the pieces that are critical to turning borderline calls into cases, referring out when appropriate and staying in touch with clients who could easily bring your firm a future case.
Here are a few questions for focusing your action plan:
- Did an attorney, paralegal or legal secretary pick up and greet me in a friendly manner when I called? If not, how long did it take to get a return call?
- What was intake specialist’s tone of voice and what was my initial gut reaction to it?
- Did he or she seem knowledgeable and appropriately authoritative?
- Did the intake specialist acknowledge my problem and make me feel heard?
- Was my case carefully and concisely screened in a way that felt complete, yet not overly detailed or taxing?
- Did I get a sense of what the firm specialized in or what made them stand out from other area lawyers?
- Did the intake specialists inquire about how I heard about the firm or why I decided to call?
- Where next steps in the process to vet my case clearly explained? Did I get off the call knowing what to do?
Use these secret shopper insights to craft a better checklist for your intake staff members. Put into place, or re-emphasize in writing, an easily accessible document that’s regularly updated. This document should include: the appropriate step-by-step intake protocol, the tone of voice to be used, the speed of follow-up communication, the client data to be recorded, and entry for future marketing purposes.
Finally, empower your intake team not only follow new rules, but to take the initiative to speak up if they have an intake-related suggestion going forward. You’d be surprised what they might reveal, knowing a secret shopper could be checking in at any time.
In fact, we suggest that you let your intake team to take ownership of the process and take stock of what’s working and what’s not on a quarterly basis. That way one of your biggest potential revenue generators never runs out of earning power.