Converting telephone enquiries into clients – a best practice guide

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Converting telephone enquiries into clients may sometimes appear a little difficult. If significant numbers of enquiries are coming in but you are not seeing client numbers increase, there are a few simple things you can do.

In a recent report: published by Inside Conveyancing, Professor Ian Cooper showed the way in which you can make a big difference. His report surprised many. Mainly because it makes clear that the solutions are straightforward and easily implemented immediately.

Here are some of Professor Cooper’s tips together with a few of my own.

First impressions count.

Even if the phone is ringing off the hook, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Indeed, most callers will make up their mind about you within the first minute. This means that the people fielding your calls are crucial to the conversion process. If they lack basic enquiry handling skills, the business will evaporate.

Make sure you have your very best people taking incoming enquiries. Obviously, they should be trained in how to deal with what are effectively “sales” moments, but they should also have the time to do so. Rushed or flustered responses are a sure-fire way of losing business. Just think how you feel when you make a call and, after waiting an overly long time, receive an abrupt answer. It’s easy for us to forget the value of initial enquiries. For the enquirer first impressions are critical and affect the decision they make about becoming a client or not.

Call quality.

Make sure the person handling your calls has a protocol to follow. You can draft this easily for them and it should include the basics:

  • Take full, accurate contact details.
  • Obtain detailed information on the assistance the caller needs.
  • Listen to the prospect, rather than doing all the talking.
  • End the call by giving a clear, time-scaled promise of action.
  • Ensure the promise of action is fulfilled on time.

When some clients call, they might be worried or stressed about their problem. This is where a caring approach and a sympathetic ear is vital. Although, essentially, your call handler is gathering information, it should not sound like a form-filling exercise. Building empathy in the first few moments will often clinch the work for you. As the Professor suggests, ask yourself the question: “Would I chose me?”

Be proactive.

Speak to the prospective client using language that is both straightforward and positive. Legal jargon will make eyes glaze over. At the end of the day, you don’t want the caller to go away and think about whether they should instruct you. You can work around this by using proactive language. Instead of using phrases like “if we work with you…”, try “when we work with you…” This approach tells the caller you want their business and are genuinely interested in them.

The key is to convince the caller that they are talking to the right people. Positive, proactive language can convince callers at first contact without any thinking time or shopping around.

Quality control.

who is calling question marks

There is little point in putting in protocols and procedures if you do not follow them. You need to monitor them for quality. You can do this easily by using a mystery shopper approach.

Ask someone to make several calls to your practice, each covering a range of legal services. This done, take stock of:

  • how long it took to answer the call;
  • how professional and approachable the greeting was;
  • whether the recipient was empathetic to the caller;
  • whether a course of action and a time-frame was set out for the caller.

And just ask yourself if you would be satisfied with the treatment you received from your first point of contact with your firm. Armed with this information, you can then make changes to your procedures, provide training for your staff if necessary and improve the service – and the conversion rates.

Keep records.

Not every caller will be converted into a client at the first point of contact. Consequently, it makes sense to log your incoming calls and keep basic details of the nature of the enquiry. How do you feel when you call an organisation for the second time and have to go through a rigmarole of questions you’ve already answered? Second impressions are just as important as the first.

If you have a decent practice management system, doing this should be easy. A good PMS will include a client relationship management module in which you can store caller details and information for future reference. The CRM is often the under-utilised, almost forgotten part of your PMS. In actual fact, it is a very powerful tool. You can use it not only to log incoming enquiries, but also to chase them up after a short time has passed. Putting enquirers on your email update list will also keep your firm’s name in the picture for future business.

If you’d like to find out more about CRM and practice management systems, click this link or give LawWare a call.

All the above pointers are really just common sense. However, it’s surprising how many firms are failing to install simple procedures. It’s all about ensuring your front-of-house reception to clients is as appealing as your website. But that’s another issue.

Mike O’Donnell, April 2017.

Mike O’Donnell is an experienced marketing professional who has spent much of his career working in and advising the legal profession.

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