Every law firm receives new client calls from some form of advertising. It could be word of mouth, yellow pages, referrals or television. The big question is: How are Intakes Handled in Your Firm?
The Initial Call – Could be the MOST important call your firm receives
From the moment the phone in your office is answered your prospective client is forming an opinion about your ability to represent him or her. This is the one chance that your firm has to make an impression on the perspective caller. Often, some of the least paid and least trained employees in a law firm are tasked with the job of answering the phones. It is important to remember that your receptionist and intake specialist may or may not have additional tasks that they are required to complete. So, to encourage training and promote the proper answering of your phones you should consider creating a training program for your staff that addresses the GRACES of answering a phone call in your law firm…
G - Greeting
R - Really Listening
A - Assurance
C - Compassion
E - Empathy
S - Smile
Let's discuss the five points on G-R-A-C-E-S
Greeting – The greeting is something that should be considered a non-negotiable in your office. You should script the greeting for the receptionist and intake staff to ensure that they are answering the phone the way that you want it to be answered.
Really Listen(ing) – This is the part that is most often overlooked by intake specialists (and even legal assistants/paralegals/case managers) who are just trying to get through his/her day. They often get caught up in filling out a form and forget that they are speaking with a person who really just wants/needs to tell their story. Teaching your staff to Really Listen for what is wrong with the caller and respond to the caller’s needs is crucial in developing a good working relationship with your clients and/or prospective clients.
Assurance – Being able to assure the client or prospective client that they have made the right decision and are hiring the right
law firm could be a crucial factor in the decision making process for the caller on the other end of the line. What marketing tools about your
law firm have you armed your intake specialists with to allow them to brag about you, your accomplishments and the firm? If you have not given
arsenal of information – you should.
Compassion – We all know what compassion is and it needs little explanation. However, I have had the opportunity to listen to intake specialists from a wide range of law firms, and far too often there is very little compassion shown toward the new caller. Just a few simple phrases while they are allowing the caller to tell there story such as, “Oh no,” or “That’s terrible,” will take your firm from seeming cold and unconcerned to interested and engaged in the caller’s problem. This compassion will deepen the relationship with the caller and assist in your ability to maintain a good relationship with the prospective client throughout their representation.
Empathy – Empathy as defined is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is another easy way to show the clients that you care about them and are concerned about their well being. Your staff can most likely relate to something that the client says and empathy is an easy thing that can be done while your staff is completing the intake form.
SMILE – This one is free, but is sometimes the hardest to achieve. In some firms that I have worked with, they have mounted small mirrors on the sides of the computer monitors for the firm. There are theories that say if an individual can see themselves while they are on the phone they are more likely to smile. And we all know, that a smile can turn a situation around!
Steps your firm can take to implement the GRACES:
- 1 - Hire a firm to make Ghost Calls to your office. Or, if your telephone system has the capability (and it is permitted in your state), record the incoming calls to your office. Then listen to them!! As the owner of the firm, you will be able to decide if what you hear on the other end is acceptable to represent you as a person, your law firm and your brand.
- 2 - Define your own acronym or use GRACES.
- 3 - Educate your staff on what you expect for each letter. Give them specific examples. Play recordings of calls that are incorrect or do not reflect the impression that you want to project.
- 4 - Promote. This is the part that is often omitted. Do something every month for a year to promote your acronym. Have a GRACES party and celebrate one month with treats that begin with each letter of the phrase. Buy small mirrors that mount to the side of the monitors that incorporate your acronym on them. (Don’t want to spend that money? Just print it out, laminate it and mount with Velcro pieces.)
- 5 - Last but not least, DON’T FORGET ABOUT IT. This is something that must constantly be reinforced by someone in your office. Pick someone to lead this initiative. Hire the Ghost Calling firm again to do check ups periodically and reward your staff for meeting your expectations!