Guest post by Maddy Martin of Smith.ai.
When you’re running a law firm on your own or with just a couple partners, you’re shouldering more than just lawyering work. Responsibilities for administrative, marketing, and operational tasks fall on your shoulders, and there’s only so much time in a day. Finding ways to take work off your plate that don’t require your unique skill set as a lawyer means more time for profitable (read: billable) work.
Virtual receptionists have been a popular choice for small-firm and solo lawyers for over a decade, to help them minimize distractions and gain efficiency. But many attorneys are still reluctant to take the leap and hand-off tasks that take up precious time. The most common reasons related to a lack of comfort, trust, attention to detail, comprehensiveness of services, and personal touch.
To be sure, not every virtual receptionist service delivers enough value to warrant their payment, setup, and coordination. An answering service that only answers calls and takes messages will provide limited value. But, having a remote receptionist service that does that, plus schedule appointments, qualify leads, intake new clients, return calls, and other significant and valuable tasks is wholly worthwhile.
If you’re not yet using a virtual receptionist service, here are 5 major ways it can help you streamline your law firm’s operations to maximize efficiency and profit.
1. Lead Capture & Qualification (Plus, Monetize “Bad” Leads)
New leads come from referrals, Facebook, Google, Avvo, and many other sources. You might even be paying for ads or premium placements on these sites. When a potential client sees your law practice and calls with a need for services, if you don’t pick up, they’re off to call the next firm. Chances are, it doesn’t matter whether or not they left a voicemail; they’re not waiting for a call back. If they completed a form on your website, then it’s just a matter of how quickly you respond. A receptionist service that offers lead qualification can ensure you’re capturing and assessing new leads as soon as they come in, whether they’re reaching you by phone or email.
How do these services qualify your leads? They do it based on your custom criteria. Do their needs align with your practice area? Are they in the right county? Are they willing to pay your fees? These are just a few of the questions your receptionists can use to filter out the great leads from those that won’t convert to real clients. Provide the essential questions you need your receptionists to ask leads, and they’ll capture the “good” ones.
As for the “bad” leads, a receptionist service can also help you monetize those, so the call isn’t a wash. Many attorneys earn referral fees by passing clients to attorneys in other practice areas, in other counties, and with lower fees. Just provide the list of your referrals and any instructions for the correct types of clients to pass to each one, and your receptionists can refer “bad” leads to them. If they end up working with that recommended attorney, you’ll earn your referral fee.
2. New Client Intake
For the good leads, the process doesn’t stop at qualification. Remote receptionists can also complete new client intake. Just provide your public intake form link that you created in your CRM to your receptionists, and they’ll complete it on the new lead’s behalf during their first call. Contact information, as well as basic details of their need for an attorney, will be captured and passed directly into your CRM, taking away the need for a follow-up call or the work of taking notes from the call and copying and pasting it into your CRM.
3. Appointment Scheduling & Reminders
Once the new client intake is complete, the next step in the process is often to schedule a call-back or in-person new client appointment with you or another attorney at your firm. Your receptionist service can handle this for you, too. All you need to do it is provide access to your calendar so the receptionist can see when you’re available. They won’t be able to change or edit existing events -- they’ll only create new ones -- so there’s no risk of them changing anything on your agenda. (Note: If you use Google Calendar, Outlook, Office 365, or iCloud Calendar, a free service like Calendly makes securely sharing your calendar with a receptionist service easy.)
Before a new lead’s or existing client’s appointment, you can also request that your receptionists call leads and clients to remind them, which prevents no-shows and cancellations that waste precious time.
4. Follow-Up: Case Updates & Payments
Hunting down clients to provide case updates and capture payment is a royal pain and can be time-consuming. Maybe a court date was changed, another document needs to be signed, or a payment installment is past due. Whatever follow-up is needed, your receptionists can take care of it for you.
You can even go the extra mile and have your receptionists reach out proactively to clients who haven’t heard an update on their case in a while or who have recently completed work with you. For example, a receptionist can call recent clients and capture information on their satisfaction with the work you completed for them. If they express positive sentiments, the receptionist can use the call as an opportunity to request a positive review on one of those sites that generate leads for your business, which builds your online reputation.
5. Automated Workflows
Tasking your receptionist with the duties mentioned above needn’t require ongoing, hands-on maintenance and oversight. When you first get started with a receptionist service, they can capture all the required FAQs, lead-qualification criteria, new client intake questions, appointment scheduling directions, and payment processes, so calls are handled seamlessly without the need for your receptionists to bother you with “How do I…” questions. Your receptionists follow your unique workflow, so administrative and operational tasks that they’re handling on your behalf become automatic.
You can even set up certain processes to gain even greater efficiency. For example, if you have a lead form on your website that captures information from potential clients looking to hire you, every time someone completes that form, you probably receive an email with the same “New Lead” subject line. In your email settings, you can auto-forward these emails to your receptionist service and they’ll call them back quickly, increasing the chance you reach them before they’ve contacted another attorney.
Whether you’re busy or just looking to reduce interruptions in your day, these automatic call-backs by your receptionists can increase efficiency and result in more leads converting to clients, both of which improve your bottom line.
Choosing the Right Virtual Receptionist Service
It’s important to note that not every live, remote receptionist service offers lead qualification, new client intake, and outbound calls. Make sure you ask about these features when shopping around.
Maddy Martin is the head of marketing for Smith.ai Virtual Receptionists, which offers all of the above services and more. If you’d like to sign up for Smith.ai or simply test it out with a 30-day/10-call free trial, you may do so online at https://smith.ai, by phone at (650) 727-6484, or by email at [email protected].
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If you have questions about virtual receptionists and how they can help your firm be more efficient and profitable, Smith.ai support is available Monday through Friday between 6 AM and 6 PM PST at (650) 727-6484 or [email protected].