For solo and small-firm attorneys, there’s a constant tug-of-war between responding to potential new clients and working on existing cases. If this chronic issue sounds familiar, you know the pain: You’re eager to grow your business, but you also need to fulfill commitments to your current clients. And virtual receptionists can help.
How? Well, you may already know that you’re not supposed to let leads slip through the cracks.
You may have read about how calls should always get answered before they reach your firm’s voicemail … but you may also have learned that letting everyone through will lead to wasted time spent on ill-fitting clients who are unlikely to hire you in the first place.
To make sure you’re swiftly and effectively responding to potential clients while freeing up time to devote to billable legal work, you need a flexible “gatekeeper” solution — like virtual receptionists.
With virtual receptionists, you can be responsive without letting calls, texts, web chats and emails derail your day. You can set boundaries and experience positive, consistent growth.
Read on to learn 7 reasons why virtual receptionist services can help you capture, screen and convert more potential clients.
Before we get into the 7 ways, it’s important to note a few things.
First, some facts, straight from the 2017 and 2018 Legal Trends Reports:
- 2 of 3 potential clients say the #1 influence on their “decision to hire” is whether a law firm responds to their first phone call or email right away.
- The average attorney is interrupted 6 times a day, with an average recovery time of 23 minutes for every interruption. (This equates to a 2-hour loss per day.)
- 59% of people who have a consult with an attorney don’t end up hiring them.
So, the need for an efficient system for responding to callers is clear. If lawyers don’t respond quickly to potential clients, they’re much less likely to retain those clients. And if lawyers spend a lot of time responding to potential clients, it interrupts their legal casework and affects their ability to bill more hours.
Secondly, the virtual receptionists services are a lot different from similar services that came into existence earlier in the decade. Gone are the days of the basic answering service or impersonal call center.
Today, the best receptionist services employ smart, fast, and remarkably adaptable artificial intelligence (AI) — and they pair it with skilled professionals who work remotely but sound like they’re sitting in your office.
And they come at a fraction of the cost of in-house staff.
Now, why do modern virtual receptionist services make such a big difference for your firm?
1. Virtual Receptionists Help You Capture Leads at the Ideal Time
No matter how a potential client arrived at your website or called your firm — whether from a paid marketing campaign, a referral or an organic search — it’s critical for you or a representative of your firm to communicate with that client before he or she leaves your website or hangs up the phone.
That first contact between a potential client and your firm is crucial, and you need to respond effectively. Don’t let calls go to voicemail, or presume that website visitors will complete your “contact us” form.
Rather, make live agents available to answer web chats and calls, so you can deliver a personalized experience that immediately distinguishes your firm from the competition.
If a new lead does complete your website form, the same virtual receptionists can also be tasked with instantly calling them back.
This high level of customer service makes your firm look good to potential clients. It says to them, “We take you seriously, and we genuinely want to help with your legal matter.”
They’ll be more likely to hire you as a result.
(Wondering why we’re using terms like “leads” to refer to potential legal clients? Read why you need to implement a law firm sales process.)
2. Virtual Receptionists Evaluate Whether Potential Clients are a Good Fit
Whether you’re running pay-per-click ads or hosting webinars, potential clients visit your website or call your firm hoping that your legal services can address their needs.
(Should you be paying for clicks and buying leads online? Read our post about it.)
As intuitive as your website may be, there will always be folks who can’t find the answers to their questions — or if the answers they’ve found apply to their specific situations.
When people aren’t sure that your services fit their needs, they may move on to one of your competitors.
If you have live agents armed with essential FAQs about your legal practice, these agents can interact with potential clients in real time and evaluate whether your services make sense for these clients.
And when the potential clients are good fits, you’ve efficiently qualified them as viable leads. The virtual receptionist agents can then help the leads book consultations, schedule call-backs on your calendar or complete basic intake forms.
3. Virtual Receptionists Make Potential Clients More Eager to Retain Your Firm
Sometimes, even after everything is asked and answered by chat or phone, a potential client still won’t be ready to commit. That’s normal.
If you have virtual receptionists, they can take notes during the conversation and pass the notes into your CRM or marketing automation software (such as Lexicata).
This data can be used to determine which messaging you send the client in the coming days, weeks and months in your efforts to convince him or her to retain your firm. This is particularly important for attorneys working in less-urgent practice areas such as family, business and IP law.
(Tip: Instead of sending new potential clients a blank “here’s why you need our services” email drip campaign, you can create different campaigns for different groups of potential clients. For more info, read our Guide to Email Marketing for law firms.)
For example, you may have multiple practice areas. Virtual receptionists can gather information on each client’s particular needs and identify the practice area he or she falls into. Then you can send customized emails that target that potential client’s specific concerns and speak to your expertise within that exact domain.
4. Virtual Receptionists Seamlessly Pass Potential Clients to Your In-House Specialists
Remote receptionists can also transfer calls, and turn web chats into calls, call-back appointments and more.
Your law firm may require potential clients to have a conversation with a specialized or highly-trained staff member (such as a paralegal) so that person can complete a conflict check before hiring you.
However, since your in-house specialists’ time is more valuable (read: expensive!) than the receptionists’ time, it’s wise to let the less costly agents pre-qualify the leads. Then, when (and only when) those potential clients are determined to be a good fit will the virtual receptionists transfer them to your in-house team.
Receptionists can transfer calls to a line that “blasts” your in-house staff all at once (so the first available person picks up), or they can follow a number of other protocols.
Also, virtual receptionists can even create new messages in your Lexicata inbox, so your team can properly route them to the next step in your new-client workflow.
5. Virtual Receptionists Enable You to Book Consultations (With and Without Payment)
If a potential client is eager to get started with your services and matches your new-client criteria, no further qualification may be needed.
In that case, booking a consultation or completing an intake may be the next step. To assist with that, live agents can:
- Complete a basic, brief client intake form by chat or phone
- Schedule a consultation on your calendar
- Direct the client to a complete intake form that you’ve posted on your website
- Transfer the call to you or your staff, or schedule a call-back (based on your preferences)
- Accept a consultation payment by phone (if you accept credit cards or e-checks)
- And more
6. Virtual Receptionists Improve Your Firm’s Reputation
Sometimes, potential clients just want to gauge the level of responsiveness they’ll be able to expect if they become one of your paying clients.
By having living, breathing people available to answer potential clients’ questions via web chat or phone, you will convert many possible clients into paying ones.
And even if they don’t convert immediately, virtual receptionists will help you establish positive sentiment between potential clients and your firm. In the future, they may hire your firm or refer you to others based on how you responded to them when they first contacted you.
7. Virtual Receptionists Weed Out “Bad” Potential Clients
Lastly, there are inevitable callers and website visitors who virtual receptionists will determine are unfit to become your clients. (The virtual receptionists can utilize criteria that you set to make these decisions.)
By enabling agents to filter out these ill-fitting individuals or businesses, your time won’t be wasted. For example, if your firm only works with businesses and not individual clients, any individual clients who call would not qualify for a call back or consultation.
A good chat and phone service will also block spammers, unsolicited salespeople, and “wrong numbers” for free.
And, if you have a list of recommended, non-competitive companies to whom you refer these non-fitting potential clients, virtual receptionists can make referrals on your behalf. If you earn referral fees from these referrals, your agents can help you monetize these “bad” clients through this secondary revenue stream.
Choosing the Right Virtual Receptionist Service
Not every virtual receptionist service qualifies new potential clients or helps with client intake, appointment booking and referral services (as Smith.ai does). Make sure you ask about these features when shopping around.
About the Author and Smith.ai
Maddy Martin is the head of growth and education for Smith.ai, which provides integrated phone and web chat services for solo and small-firm attorneys. She has spent the last decade growing tech startups from New York to California, and has expertise in digital marketing, small business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, SEO, and event marketing. Maddy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can also connect with her on LinkedIn.
If you’d like to sign up for Smith.ai, you may do so online at https://smith.ai, by phone at (650) 727-6484, or by email at email@example.com. Lexicata customers get $50 off their first month with code LEXICATA. This code can be used in combination with Smith.ai’s 30-day/10-call free trial.
Want more resources?
Lexicata’s software and in-house experts can help you easily manage all your contacts and automate email campaigns. To see a full list of Lexicata’s current integrations (like Smith.ai), click here. And of course, feel free to contact us for a consultation or product demo.