According to Professor Ian Cooper (“author of 15 books in 55 countries and 13 languages,… Read more
According to Professor Ian Cooper (“author of 15 books in 55 countries and 13 languages, including the successful and influential Financial Times Guide To Business Development”), law firms are getting “even worse” at handling telephone enquiries from prospective clients.
Sales conversion failure
Speaking to the Legal Futures website, Cooper observed a “complete failure to recognise a two-way process. Firms are totally focused on risk assessment, case assessment and whether they want the client, [while] ignoring whether the client wants them.” Frequently, this resulted in failure to convert enquiries into sales.
The problem is more acute in some legal niches, argues Cooper. Personal injury, for example, where people ringing up often get through to a “first responder/screener” who lacks call-handling and sales skills, when they really wants to speak to a solicitor. As Cooper explains to Legal Futures: “People are most likely to buy at the peak of their anxiety or desire.”
Structured call system
Cooper recommends that call-screeners explain that they will briefly take some basic details and have a lawyer call back within the hour. But he advises against free consultations. He spoke of one family law firm that provided 560 free divorce appointments in a year, with only 13 per cent leading to a sale. Helping the firm move to “a structured call system” resulted in an 83 per cent conversion rate, he said.
Cooper’s initial 2013 mystery shopping research suggested a “nationwide epidemic of missed opportunities” because legal firms were so bad at handling telephone enquiries. He made 254 mystery calls to various law firms and in 97% of instances the handler “failed to ask if the caller wanted to go ahead or make an appointment.”
In 61 per cent of cases Cooper was able to speak to someone straight away, but a sizeable minority of firms made the cardinal sales enquiry error of asking Cooper to call back later. And 80 per cent didn’t offer a written follow-up, with more than a third of those who did failing to deliver. Most firms had no one on duty to deal with lunchtime telephone enquiries, while 90 per cent of call handlers owned up to “either not being very good at or not liking the task”.
Lack of training
Most (85 per cent) senior managers at 92 law firms Cooper surveyed admitted to not providing “proper call-handling training”, with almost three quarters failing to track telephone enquiry conversion rates. “What’s the point in expensive marketing activities to produce leads and enquiries, if the people who handle the enquiries [are] poor at turning them into [sales]. Most law firms aresimply not switched onto the fact that this is a high priority, which is costing them business,” Cooper warns.