How Missed Calls and Bad Intake Could Tank Your Law Firm’s Reputation
Legal Consumers are Talking About Your Intake
Legal consumer intake is a pivotal, yet often overlooked aspect of a law firm’s client experience. When a person in need contacts an attorney, they want to speak to someone quickly and be treated with respect and dignity. Yet often they aren’t, and now that online reviews have given every consumer a voice, those missed calls and emails might be more dangerous to a law firm than ever before.
As a lawyer, your protection against this is a client intake system that ensures that you communicate with every prospect that contacts your law firm. That system is part organization and part empathy. It’s a combination of making a consumer feel welcomed and balancing the practical needs of your business.
Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed quite the opposite on many occasions. Because attorneys have a full schedule before their work day even begins, calls to the office (say when you’re in court or meeting with a client) are sometimes missed or forgotten. The problem is that our consumer-driven internet culture encourages people to air out their frustrations with any business. The offense could be as innocent as a return phone call that was promised but never delivered, or as egregious as a severely impolite attorney.
FindLaw found multiple instances of legal consumers taking to review sites to express their frustration with law firms who didn’t call them back or felt they weren’t treated respectfully. As you’ll see below, many were left with a negative impression of the attorney or firm in question.
I’ve pulled a few examples of reviews that involve poor intake. Even if your own firm is providing a great client onboarding experience most of the time, you can still learn from the mistakes of other attorneys. Put yourself in the attorney’s and the client’s shoes as you read them. These are the prospects you might not even remember, the ones who call after hours or during a networking lunch.
The “I’ll call you right back”
I think this law firm deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to imagine them lacking professionalism in the way the reviewer states. In fact, the attorney who took the original call was more than likely busy with a case, a billing issue or any other busy part of their day. What was probably missing here is a system that organizes communication with potential clients.
Notice the juxtaposition with the second firm that Jay C. called. I assume they were just as busy as the first attorney since both promised to call back. However, the second firm scheduled a day and time then followed up as promised.
The “What do you want?”
It goes without saying that no one should be rude to a prospect, even if the law firm can’t help the caller. Yet I see so many bad reviews that come down to how a legal consumer was treated or spoken to by an attorney or assistant.
Again, let’s give this attorney the benefit of the doubt. The attorney may have answered the questions someone is calling about a million times. In the case above it sounds like the person wasn’t calling the right attorney. What was clearly missing is the empathy that could have made this person feel much better after the conversation was over. Remember, even if you can’t help the person on the line, that doesn’t mean that one of that person’s friends can’t benefit from your services.
Think of it this way: Renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer was asked in a Forbes interview why he focused on making his customers feel so special. He said his company “will not succeed unless the person on the receiving end knows all the way to the bottom of their [guts] that you’re on their side.” Sometimes winning a potential legal client’s business comes down to the same thing. Do the people reaching out to your law firm feel like you’re on their side?
The “sometimes mistakes happen”
There are times when circumstances out of your control can affect your ability to provide proper customer service. The reviewer above was waiting for a callback from a firm that seemed to be on the right path. After never receiving the call, he took his frustration out on the firm publically. Here’s the best part, though: Instead of ignoring the bad review, the attorney decided to tactfully respond by apologizing for the missed connection, asking about the situation and offering their services.
If you see a complaint like the one above, you have the chance to respond to the reviewer and possibly turn a two-star review into a four-star feeling. Even if the reviewer doesn’t change their mind, it’s possible that another legal consumer sees that you took the time to address a person’s issue. That prospect could be impressed.
Proper intake procedures—most notably call/email tracking and basic empathy—can reduce the number of reviews like the ones discussed above. Managing your intake can be as simple as a spreadsheet, but if you’re as busy as most attorneys, there is a more sophisticated and helpful option.