Have you ever had a bad experience with an apathetic waiter or a horrible administrative assistant? When I have encountered people in these circumstances, it negatively affects my first impression of the establishment I chose to patronize. Similarly, it’s scary how much power to build or break your business is held by employees who answer phones and respond to inquiries.
I recently contracted with a company to provide my law firm intake and call answering services. My Austin office is a shared office space that provides a receptionist to answer calls and take messages — for a fee. Our receptionist answered the phones for several other businesses in the building. Initially, I just set up my voicemail because I didn’t want to pay extra for the answering service. I missed many calls because people didn’t want to leave messages. Finally, I decided to hire the office receptionist to answer phone calls for my law practice. Adding the human touch increased my volume of clients.
As I mature as a firm owner, I see that client experiences can be contingent on whether a human is available to speak to callers. I know I have lost a lot of business when the receptionist at the office is away from her desk, talking to someone else on another line, and so on. I also got basic information from the receptionist — name, email, phone number, and summary of their matter. I then would have my part-time admin follow up to book the consultation and collect payment; this was time-consuming, expensive, and clunky.
I am finally switching to a 24-hour call-answering service to gather potential clients’ information more efficiently. The call-answering service collects contact information, determines whether I can help with a potential client’s matter, and gives general information about the firm. Answering services can also provide intake, schedule, and even collect payment over the phone. They will also transfer calls, take detailed messages, collect data on why a potential client didn’t book a consultation, and even counter objections from tire kickers. You can even get bilingual assistance from some answering services, expanding your reach for business. These options are game-changers in my office!
If you are in the same position as me, try an answering service and see whether it makes a difference. I was hesitant to do so because I had already established my phone line — they could transfer it! I was hesitant because I felt like I wasn’t getting that many phone calls — now I know that I am getting all my relevant calls!
The onboarding process was detailed, and I was able to share specific questions for qualifying potential clients and then informational questions. I also shared a sales script with the answering service for when people balk at having to pay for consultations or want to know what the cost of services is going to be before they even move forward. I used to hold pricing close to the vest, but now, knowing how consumers approach their services, I’m happy to share a price range of what it might cost them to work with our law firm.
Have you gone through this process of hiring an answering service? Many lawyers can’t afford a full-time admin who can sit by the phones and wait for calls. I’d love to hear where you stand on this issue. If you are interested in using a phone service, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can tell you the one I use, and you can list me as a referral (we both get a discount)!
Iffy Ibekwe is the principal attorney and founder of Ibekwe Law, PLLC. She is an estate planning attorney evangelist for intergenerational wealth transfer with effective wills and trusts. Iffy is writing her first book on culturally competent estate planning, available in 2022 (prayers up!). She graduated from The University of Texas School of Law and has practiced law for over 14 years. Iffy can be reached by email at email@example.com, on her website, and on Instagram @thejustincaselawyer.