Firms losing potential clients by failing to return their calls, research shows
Law firms are losing business by failing to get back to potential clients, with as many as one in five enquiries going unanswered, new research shows.
However, follow-up with would-be clients once the initial conversation has taken place is improving, a mystery shopping exercise by First4Lawyers, the UK’s largest independent legal marketing collective, has found.
Few firms are consistently achieving the gold standard of returning calls within 15 minutes of the enquiry and some are taking hours or days, if at all.
Enquires about personal injury (PI) also elicited a far faster response than those for wills at the same firms, suggesting many do not apply consistent service standards across their different practice areas.
But when customers were able to speak to a firm, they were generally happy with the interaction.
Mystery shoppers from customer experience experts insight6 contacted 50 PI and 50 wills practices by phone and through their websites for First4Lawyers’ ninth annual White Paper From First Impressions to Follow-up Calls: Creating a Customer Journey. They spoke to 65 firms in total including 35 which offered both services, and rated how they were dealt with.
For PI, 56% of callers were put through to a fee-earner or specialist on the first attempt, while 8% heard back within 15 minutes and a further 8% within two hours. But 8% more waited more than two working days for a response and 4% didn’t receive one at all. While 40% of wills callers were put through at once and 16% were called back within two hours. Again, 8% waited more than two working days, but a staggering 20% did not get a callback at all.
When it came to web enquiries, 28% of shoppers received a (non-automated) response by phone (mostly) or email within 15 minutes, and a further 36% within two hours. But for 8% it took longer than two days and 16% did not hear a thing. Web enquires for wills were worse, with 24% responded to in the first two hours but 20% receiving nothing.
More positively, customers were broadly happy when they did speak to firms but the rating of their overall experience was coloured by how quickly they received a callback. Some 60% of those who called a PI firm rated their overall experience at eight out of 10 or higher, compared to 40% of wills callers.
The exercise mirrors one First4Lawyers carried out five years ago with only PI firms. While it generated broadly the same results in terms of the customer experience when they made contact, where there has been a notable improvement is in follow-up. This in part reflects just how poor it was five years ago.
For example, while in 2018 just 11% of PI firms offered to send the client further information, 59% did this year, with firms now much more likely to send follow-up emails and text messages.
The research also uncovers a haphazard approach by firms in opening themselves up to other channels where potential clients can contact them, such as using live chat and various forms of social media. In many cases, even when firms use platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, they are not connected to their websites.
First4Lawyers’ managing director Qamar Anwar says: “While law firms spend a lot of time and money getting the phone to ring or the email to ping with prospective clients, our research shows that many are still not putting enough emphasis on what happens when they do.
“One curious anomaly is the difference in service standards at firms offering both PI and wills and that is one obvious area where there’s room for improvement. When it comes to referrals, for example, a PI client will expert the same level of service from the wills department.
“While there is much to praise in what we’ve found, the reality is there is still much to do to keep pace with the change in how consumers are engaging with law firms.
“The issues highlighted may seem small but, in today’s world where convenience is king, it could all add up to a very costly error for those law firms that fail to do something about it.”
He stresses the importance of follow-up, adding that while an email or text is better than nothing, “they are no substitute for a proper conversation”.
The White Paper highlights three areas where law firms should be focusing: engaging with review and comparison websites – “Naysaying and denying they will ever work for legal services only prolongs the inevitable,” it says – employing user experience technology, and imposing customer service frameworks that cover the whole practice.
Qamar Anwar adds: “The battle for clients is getting ever fiercer and no law firm can afford to ignore it. If you cannot compete on price, then you have to distinguish yourself in another way and customer experience is the obvious one.”