Ever call your wireless carrier with a seemingly simple question? Or stand in line at your local Division of Motor Vehicles? It’s likely the experience left you less than thrilled. Unfortunately, dealing with an attorney or law firm can feel the same way—from your clients’ perspective. And that can hurt your practice—not only your reputation, especially now that clients can leave reviews of your firm online, but also in terms of future referrals.
Lawyers are trained to practice law, not to provide stellar customer service. As a result, quality customer service often takes a back seat despite its importance to the success of a lawyer’s practice. Clients are unlikely to appreciate the quality of your advocacy or document-drafting abilities, but they’ll notice if you immediately respond to their inquiries. And…they’ll notice if you don’t. Taking a detail-oriented approach to your customer service interface is a necessary step to success.
It’s estimated that fewer than 10 percent of clients who call a law firm will actually get to speak to a lawyer. Nearly half of the people who fill out a web form or leave a voicemail will wait several days before hearing back from someone at the firm. And about 11 percent of callers hang up within 10 seconds because they are unable to speak with the lawyer they ask for by name (Lawyerist). These disturbing statistics present law firms with an opportunity to step up their customer service game and stand out from the pack.
In assessing your customer service interface, analyze every client touchpoint. A touchpoint is any way a client comes into contact with your firm, from the first online web chat to the exit interview. Every time you, or someone at your firm, comes in contact with a client or potential client, it’s an opportunity to make a positive impact—one that can lead to positive reviews and future referrals as well.
Find an Amazing Receptionist
Often, the first way a client will come into contact with your firm is through the receptionist who answers the phone at your office. Invest as much time as it takes to find someone you want to represent your firm. Once you have found them, ensure that they are well trained and resourced. They should sound friendly over the phone, and possess superhuman patience. The right receptionist will outweigh any fancy customer service technology that you invest in.
Call centers are offices where customer service representatives receive calls, screen them, and then route them to your firm. By contracting with a call center to handle phone and/or e-mail inquiries, you may lose the personal touch of an in-house receptionist, but you’ll gain the advantage of offering 24-hour service, 365 days a year. Call centers offer your customers a feeling of instant gratification, even when their legal issues are probably anything but instantly gratified.
You’d be hard-pressed to go to a large law firm’s website and not be immediately greeted by a pop-up paralegal or lawyer asking whether they can help you. Live chat applications like these take many forms, but in general, they allow a visitor to your website to click on something on your webpage (an image, pop-up or link) and request live assistance. When adding live chat to your law firm website, consider possible ethical quandaries including: exposing client confidences and creating misunderstandings about attorney-client relationships. For instance, who will answer the chat requests? If you use a virtual receptionist or a paralegal, make sure it is clear to the customer who he or she is talking to. If you outsource chat functionality, give clear guidelines as to what can be discussed via chat. Also, make sure there is some kind of process in place to identify conflicts.
Licensing fee arrangements for live chat software vary widely. The fee often depends on whether you provide the chat agent or whether the service includes that as part of the package. These services usually charge by the number of chats that occur. Make sure that you are getting a good ROI.
Facebook Messenger Platform
Over 900 million people communicate via Facebook Messenger worldwide. Recently, Facebook has enabled businesses to communicate with its customers via its Messenger app. As of now, most Messenger dialog, much like live chat, requires a chat agent to respond to inquiries. However, Messenger “bots”—while still in their infancy—may soon provide firms a way to send clients automated subscription content or live automated messages to those who opt in. Facebook Messenger also enables clients to send and receive online messages similar to text messaging. Many of the same ethical implications that arise in the Live Chat context are also present with Facebook Messenger. Facebook Messenger is free, but you will need someone to respond to all of the messages.
Quality Customer Service Generates Leads
The more personal and responsive your approach, the better your customer service experience will be. Play your cards right and customers will rave about your firm to their friends and family and on social media. If you serve an area where there are many bilingual customers, be sure to offer bilingual receptionists or chat representatives. Putting the effort into providing quality customer service will always pay off.