Bernadette Bennett, legal commercial manager at Moneypenny, provides some tips to improve your firm’s call handling.

Like many people, I read Professor Ian Cooper’s latest report about lost business opportunities with great interest. Despite it being three years since his previous study, which examined the way the legal firms deal with their incoming telephone enquiries, it seems many practices are still missing a trick. And while this most recent survey focuses on residential conveyancing, many of the key findings could be applied across the board.

We know from our own data, for instance, that we answer around two million calls a year for legal firms. That’s a staggering figure, and business that no practice can afford to pass up.

It’s isn’t only lost income that firms are potentially missing though. In any area of law, the quality and delivery of legal services has never been more scrutinised. Clients have increasingly high expectations, and the pressure’s on to convert new business opportunities. At Moneypenny we’re seeing a growing number of law firms seeking to adopt best practice when it comes to the way they approach telephone answering. Keen to gain a competitive edge, they have recognised that it’s not just about answering calls; it’s about making sure those calls are answered in the best possible way, by the best possible people who can make the most of those opportunities.

So what can firms do to ensure they’re not losing business as a result of poor call handling? Here are three simple steps to consider.

1. Have the correct resource in place

In a recent study of its data, Moneypenny found that its legal clients are missing the most calls in the first half of the week. In particular, it discovered its receptionists were busiest between 10:00-11:00 on a Tuesday - followed by Wednesday and Monday mornings.

We also see spikes in the number of ‘overflow’ calls answered on behalf of our legal clients during lunchtimes and out of hours, suggesting Britain’s law firms are most under-resourced at these times.

Of course, no one can be at their desk 24/7. It’s impossible, especially for smaller firms where fee earners are required to fulfil all kinds of roles. But not having the support and flexibility in place to address this means practices risk the loss of new business, as well as frustrating existing clients and potentially damaging their reputation. So analyse your call data and understand what’s happening for your reception. The most dynamic firms are those who question how they could be working leaner and smarter.

2. Roll out the red carpet

We often talk about rolling out the red carpet for our customers at Moneypenny. What we mean is, delivering the kind of service that makes every person feel like your biggest and most important client.

It’s this experience that creates loyalty, ‘wows’ customers and ultimately wins business. Telephone answering plays a vital role in this. Typically the first touch point a client, or perspective client, may have with an organisation, the way in which legal firms handle their calls instantly creates an impression.

So try ‘walking in your clients shoes’ and see how your service looks and feels. Call your office at different times of the day and compare the experience you receive. The insights you’ll gain are invaluable and will help you achieve the exceptional service you’re striving for.

3. Accept and embrace modern expectations

In a growing age of ‘immediacy’, clients expect a speedy and efficient response.

It’s these expectations that can easily undo even the best of firms. A call left unanswered, for example, will leave clients feeling frustrated and overlooked. Likewise, if they’re made to wait, they may be dissatisfied or go elsewhere. Our research shows almost half of callers (42 per cent) who hang up after nine rings won’t call again.

Similarly, this shift in societal expectations has also had a knock on effect in terms of business opening hours – or perceived opening hours. Companies only being available from 9:00-17:00 are becoming a dim and distant memory, and this has undoubtedly impacted professional services too, with clients increasingly anticipating firms will be available on their terms.

Forward thinking practices are responding proactively to these changes and seeking alternative methods of meeting demands, such as outsourcing. Embracing new forms of working in a client-driven market where the very best is demanded at all times.