When someone calls your office, they have already made an emotional investment in their relationship with you. People don't just call to say hi to their potential attorney; they call because they are interested enough in your services to make the leap and pick up the phone.
And while this makes the callers highly motivated, it doesn't guarantee their business. There are a myriad of ways you and your staff can mishandle the call and lose a potentially huge case. To avoid this, and to get the most out of every call that comes into your office, follow these six elements of effective intake:
1. Determine How the Caller Found You
It's important that you ask, right away, "Why are you calling?" Doing so doesn't just help you understand their needs; it can give you clues as to where they came from. People will often say something like, "I was on your website reading about divorce laws and wanted to call and make an appointment." Have series of questions about where they came from ready. Was it the website? A newsletter? A free offer you sent them?
To help them understand why you want to know, you'll need to say something like, "I’m asking you this so that I can make sure I get you to the right attorney who will best answer your question. It helps if I know what you read about us." What you're looking for here is either a direct answer ("I was reading your article titled 'Meet an Attorney Before You Meet Your Maker.'") or one that gives you some clues ("The attorney in the video was wearing a yellow tie.").
Why it matters: Being able to pinpoint exactly where the caller found your number and what motivated them to call you gives you a clearer picture of what parts of your marketing materials are converting.
2. Build Value Proposition
To do this you need to know two things: what concern is weighing on the mind of the caller and why you are the best attorney to help them. This information should have been gathered from #1, above. You need to empathically acknowledge their concerns and then let them know exactly why your law firm can help them better than any other.
Why it matters: You are building up the value of your legal services so that when it comes to discussing pricing, the client feels that it's a fair price, given your level of awesome. Fail to convince the caller that you are the best attorney for their family, and you've lost them.
3. Deal With Pricing
The caller is often going to ask about pricing. You need to be prepared to handle this very tactfully.
Your intake script must include very specific responses to questions about pricing. It's crucial that you don't let pricing into the conversation until you've built value—and the person on the phone understands that, no matter the price, you are the best attorney for them. Be sure that you know exactly what to do when a potential client interrupts to ask about pricing too early in the conversation.
Why it matters: If you seem at all cagey in your response, you are going to make potential clients uncomfortable. They are going to wonder what you're hiding and become nervous, assuming that the price is very high. This could cost you a client, so be prepared to handle these questions.
4. Begin Compliance Training
That sounds pretty hardcore, training potential clients to be compliant, but it's important that you begin your relationship with an understanding that you will need to work together, as a team, to get things done.
During intake, be sure you say, "We're going to send you a questionnaire. It's extremely important that you fill it out before our meeting. Without a complete questionnaire we will need to reschedule." If the caller balks, you need to be prepared with a list of exactly why it's critical that they fill it out. If they refuse to fill it out, suggest they find a different attorney.
Why it matters: What you're doing by insisting they fill in the questionnaire is teaching them that they need to learn how to work your way. You're teaching them, right off the bat, how to work most efficiently with you. If they are so difficult that they aren't willing to fill out a simple questionnaire, chances are that they are going to be more trouble than they're worth.
5. Add Them to Your Herd
Be sure to ask if they get your client newsletter. If they don't, get them on your newsletter list. The term "client newsletter" implies that they are already part of your club. This mentally sets up an expectation that they will become a client.
Why it matters: Even if they don't end up making an appointment, the newsletter will help keep you on the potential client's mind. We often find that clients who didn't sign up right away will do so after they've been getting our newsletters for months, even years.
6. Make the Appointment
Though it should go without saying, it is imperative that you convince potential clients to make an appointment as soon as possible. For local clients, this means within 48 hours, 24 hours being the ideal. Tell them that you are going to email them some reading materials so that they will be prepared for the appointment, and encourage them to write down all of the questions they think of to bring along with them.
Why it matters: Your clients want to know that you have the time to dedicate to their case. If you can't see them for a week, they will assume that you won't be there to answer questions or get things done in a timely manner. Also, the sooner they meet with you, the less likely they are to continue to look for an attorney. If you give them too long, they are sure to hit the internet to make sure they got the right guy.
Without a solid intake plan, you are most likely losing client after client. Think of your own phone calls. Have you ever been so turned off by an unhelpful or rude receptionist that you turned around and found a new doctor/repair shop/pet groomer? I know I have!
A professional like you needs a professional intake script. You and your staff need to exude compassion and confidence from the first "Hello!" To learn more about the intake process, and all things marketing, be sure to like us on Facebook. This way you'll get the timeliest marketing information sent straight to your news feed.