How long do you have to respond to a potential client’s inquiry if you want to win their business?
Days? Hours? Try seconds.
The 2017 Legal Trends Report found that being responsive is the most important factor for securing potential clients. In fact, 67% of consumers say that whether or not a lawyer responds to their first call or email right away is one of the most important factors they look for.
Right away? Indeed, and this is not a new trend. Lead response time, or how the time it takes to respond to a potential client’s inquiry affects your likelihood of closing the deal, has been an entire field of study since a groundbreaking study first released in 2007. The study showed some pretty remarkable statistics that boiled down to this: You have about five minutes to respond to a potential client if you want the greatest chance of connecting with that person, whether they’ve reached out to you via a website, phone, or email inquiry. The cost of procrastination is high.
And consider this: That study was done in 2007, before smartphones were ubiquitous and consumers (especially millennials) began to expect everything, including responses from lawyers, instantaneously.
You can’t be available 24/7 and still be a lawyer with a personal life. So how do you deal with these instantaneous expectations? Here are a few tips:
1. Contact clients via text or live chat
Fun stat about us young-ish folks who are quickly becoming adults with big legal issues: According to the Legal Trends Report, “19% of millennials who have ever had a legal issue say that they’d rather text or email their lawyer than talk on the phone or face-to-face, compared to 14% of Americans” overall. That’s about one in five that don’t want to call your firm.
On the other hand, I’ve worked with many firms on their marketing and intake and it’s a near certain rule that a call is worth way more than an email lead. (Why? It might be because so many firms wait too long to respond to emails—more on that below.)
How do you bridge the gap for our younger, phone-shy clientele? Text and chat.
Zipwhip is a nifty-looking product that allows you to send texts and picture messages (MMS) from your business phone number to your clients. For Clio users, it also syncs those messages directly to Clio, so you can track all important client communications in one place.
An alternative for firms who don’t want to text from their existing firms phone number is Google Voice, a long-time favorite of mine which provides a free forwarding number and texting through an app or browser.
For website chat, there are a lot of providers out there, but my personal favorite is Tawk.to. Why? It’s not only feature-packed, but it’s free. And unlike a lot of free platforms, it doesn’t limit features included in the free version to the point of making it useless. Here’s just a few of the reasons it’s at the top of my list:
- It takes about five minutes to set up and add to a WordPress site via a plugin.
- Firms can answer chats through a website portal or mobile apps.
- You can set up shortcuts like “/costs” or “/disclaimer” to send a canned response about the cost of services or an attorney-client relationship disclaimer.
- If you don’t have the time to respond to chats yourself, a premium feature they are testing is the ability to hire their U.S.-based operators to cover your chats (with your scripted responses and background information) for $1 per hour.
2. Connect with potential clients via email drip campaigns
I mentioned that many lawyers that I’ve worked with find potential clients that send inquiries via email to be inferior to phone calls. Typically, they report that the email leads are less serious or have emailed a handful of lawyers and have already signed with someone else by the time the firm reaches them.
This is probably in part due to how firms respond to emails. A 2016 study by the American Bar Association found that 42% of the time, firms take more than three days to respond to emails. Remember that you have minutes to respond in today’s smartphone-centric world, and it’s no surprise at all that these potential clients have signed with someone else.
One way to combat this is through automated response emails and drip campaigns. Canned responses are exactly what they sound like: They’re form emails that you send in response to frequently asked questions, e.g., questions on pricing or information about an attorney or firm. Drip campaigns are marketing communications (usually emails) that are triggered by a user action (for law firms, this is usually when a user submits a contact form on your website). Subsequent messages are sent out automatically at pre-timed intervals.
Law firms might structure a drip campaign by sending the following emails at the following times:
- Immediate following a submission of a ‘contact us’ form: Thank you for contacting us. Here is more information on our firm and how to set up a consultation.
- A few days later: Are you still in need of help? Here are a few good reasons to call us.
- A few more days later: Here is some information that you might find helpful. If you find that you are in need of legal assistance in the future, contact us for a free consultation.
How do you set up a drip campaign? There are a ton of tools that can help you do it, some of which only do drip campaigns and others which do much more.
One tip: Prior to kicking off a drip campaign, make sure you’re adhering to the requirements of any anti-spam legislation in your jurisdiction.
3. Add friendly voices without staffing up
In the age of instant gratification, what effect do you think a voicemail prompt has on a potential client’s desire to hire you? A missed call is a missed lead, which could mean thousands of dollars in billables lost.
Ruby Receptionists is the most popular virtual receptionist service out there. If you’re not able to hire a receptionist or legal assistant to answer calls, consider hiring a virtual service that covers your phones (Bonus: Ruby Receptionists integrates with Clio) . No missed calls means no missed opportunities for lucrative cases.
Put security and ethics first
Often lost in the march forward with technology, tools, and toys is the need to keep privacy and data security at the forefront. As the ‘young guy’ taking part in many conversations with lawyers about modernizing firms’ practices, the fretting about security and privacy sometimes sounds paranoid, but even those of us who are gung-ho about legal tech have to remember our mandate as attorneys to protect client data and communications, and to abide by professional conduct rules.
Responsiveness is key for securing new business (and for a positive client experience), but you’ll also need to make sure you’re communicating via secure channels and taking proper measures to keep all client communications confidential.
Clio Connect is the secure client portal feature included for all of Clio’s clients’ clients. Attorneys can set up logins for their clients and exchange secure messages, share documents and resources (like Nicholas Hite does), and show clients upcoming dates, tasks for their cases, bills and more.
One final statistical takeaway from the Legal Trends Report: “30% of millennials say they’d prefer to use technology to share legal documents with their lawyer, compared to 23% of Americans.”
If you are a Clio user, you already have all you need to meet these clients’ expectations for convenience and responsiveness. If not, they offer a free trial to get you started.