When your existing customers and leads contact your law firm, they expect a response immediately. Delays in replying, unavailability, or mechanized responses are off-putting to customers who are likely to take their business elsewhere.
But answering calls and handling client cases can stretch any law firm thin, especially if you do not have a dedicated team to handle your client communications.
Answering services bridge the gap for busy criminal defense attorneys who have to handle their clients' obligations while maintaining their customer service.
An answering service is different from an answering machine. An answering machine will provide a prerecorded message and lacks the potential to interact with the customer personally.
On the other hand, an answering service consists of a team of virtual receptionists who take calls, messages, and schedule appointments on behalf of customers or businesses. These virtual receptionists are trained in providing customer service and handling different types of customers for legal firms.
Answering services provide their furniture, office space, equipment, and technology needed to run their business saving your law firm the money you could have spent on an in-house customer service team. What you hand them is the permission to handle clients on your behalf, at a fee.
Benefits of a Legal Answering Service
You have 7 seconds to make a first impression on your clients. Whether your clients call you or visit your office, you have a brief time to show them you care about them and their legal problems.
Your customers get their first impression based on factors such as:
- Whether you answer the phone
- The mood in which you receive your phone
- Your communication
- Your ability to connect and empathize with the client
As a criminal defense attorney, most of your time is spent dealing with client cases, rushing off to meetings, and responding to incoming communication. These can leave you in a hurried state, which rubs off on your clients and potential clients when you receive their calls.
While this might not be intentional, your customers will feel like a bother, even if they know how busy you must be. They are also more likely to give negative reviews to their friends or leave them online for everyone to see.
Hiring a receptionist can help you field some of these calls, especially during business hours. Alternatively, you can use an answering service to handle your communication 24/7. Some of the tasks an answering service can handle for your law firm include:
- Managing inbound calls
- Capturing caller information
- Answering common client questions
- Setting appointments
- After-hours call handling
- Overflow call management
- Recording calls
Some of the benefits a legal answering service can offer your business include:
1. Improved Legal Customer Service
Lawyers have one opportunity to make a great first impression on their customers and potential customers. The type of customer service they receive at their first point of contact can determine how they perceive you, your law firm, and even your expertise.
Customers appreciate it when your customer service:
- Puts the customers’ needs first.
- Prioritizes quality
- Engages customers with enthusiasm and genuine interest
- Is accessible
- Prioritizes long-term solutions, ensuring that customers get their needs solved with the first call (your customers will be frustrated about calling your business for the same problem)
Answering service companies understand the importance of customer service for your law firm. Therefore, they seek to offer customized services that meet your business goals and customer needs.
The staff working at professional legal answering services is trained to adhere to a strict code of ethics when interacting with customers and businesses alike. With an answering service, your law firm will be delegating its customer service to people who understand and have the skills to provide excellent customer service for your law firm.
Answering services for criminal defense law firms integrate customer needs, common customer problems, common solutions, and direction to customers who need further guidance on their problems.
2. Reduced Interruptions
It can be overwhelming when your phone constantly rings or your email is always overflowing with inquiries from your customers. Yet, you still have to handle other business-related tasks like writing briefs or meeting the prosecution for that case you are working on.
Answering these calls or responding to your customers' emails robs critical time that you could dedicate to preparing your cases.
These calls are also distracting, taking your focus away from the task you are working on to the conversation you had with your lead or client. Even after the call, it takes some time to refocus on the work you were doing.
With an answering service, you can focus better on your work, knowing that your customers still get the responses they need without interrupting your schedule.
An answering service will help you become more organized since you are not trying to fit your work around the telephone or email whims. You can have the answering service direct only important calls to your office, thus reducing the interruptions in your day and saving you time to serve your clients better.
Your staff is also free to focus on their legal duties such as research, court attendance, and meeting with clients, which boosts your law firm's productivity.
3. Better Customer Acquisition and Retention
Legal problems arise at any time, night or day, weekday, weekends, and holidays. Your firm has to be present to capture the customers who need the services your law firm offers, or you will run out of business.
However, it would be impractical and unhealthy to remain awake or keep your staff awake to respond to calls that come in after-hours or during the holidays. It would also be expensive to keep a 24-hour in-house team to receive calls and handle customer service tasks.
Clients hate it when they cannot reach your business when they expect you to be there, usually when they are in trouble.
With the responsibilities you have as an attorney, it can become easy to ignore the phone when it rings, leading to the loss of potential clients.
When you fail to respond to your clients, they will go to other law firms where they feel appreciated, even if their performance is not as good as yours is.
Customers do not also enjoy hearing a tense why-are-you-bothering-me tone they might get when a call interrupts you from your work.
In addition to having an answering service handling leads, you need to maintain communication with leads that become customers. They need to keep receiving the same or better quality customer service so that, in the end, they will be satisfied with the services your law firm provides.
When you are handling the client acquisition and defense services, you will naturally be overwhelmed and drop one or both balls.
Instead of being the jack of everything, you should outsource your customer service to an answering service with the experience and time to handle your customers.
Since answering services provide 24/7 services, your clients and leads can reach you during and after business hours to communicate their needs to your business.
An answering service will answer customer questions and help them book appointments without disappointing them.
This reduces stress and unnecessary workload on your part, allowing you to focus on the parts of your law firm that require your attention.
A good answering service will bolster your law firm's reputation, establishing yours as a firm that is available when clients need you.
4. Better Customization of Your Customer Service
Criminal defense law firms offer more than defense services to their clients. Your law firm represents hope and possibly freedom for your clients. In addition, you have a goal for your law firm to reflect a particular brand image.
The brand image you choose for your law firm will be the differentiating factor from similar law firms with the same expertise as your own. Implementing a brand image into your customer service can be complicated for attorneys whose expertise is in the legal profession.
Legal answering services are skilled in customer service. They ask you in-depth questions before you outsource your customer service to them.
These questions explore your business's goals, the type of services you need, and the processes your business follows when handling clients.
The answering service will integrate that information with their expertise and provide services that match your business and customer needs.
You can also pick the services you want the answering service to provide for your law firm, as well as the criteria for filtering calls that should be redirected to your officer.
5. Reduced Costs
Hiring an in-house team to handle your customer service is ideal for large legal firms with monetary resources to dedicate to training, recruiting, and hiring staff. But, when it does not make economic sense to have a dedicated in-house team, an answering service is the best alternative.
Answering services have their dedicated space, furniture, and tools required to run their business. Therefore, your law firm will not have to purchase these conveniences to improve their customer service.
Having an answering service for your criminal defense law firm also frees your business from obligations such as paid employee benefits and vacations. Your customer service will be running throughout the day, week, and year, without draining your business finances.
Due to the changing nature of the internet and business environment, your business needs to keep up by establishing interconnected communication channels to interact with different users. For example, some clients might call, while others will use your website's live chat function.
Integrating these channels in-house can become costly and burdensome to manage, therefore, affecting your productivity and bottom-line. However, answering services have virtual receptionists with expertise in handling communication through different channels and guiding customers to the next channel without restarting the conversation.
Such ease and connectivity is an added advantage to your business, and it comes with a lower price tag compared to having your in-house team.
Hiring the Right Answering Service
Criminal defense law firms rely on clients for their business. As an attorney, you must establish a good rapport with your current and potential clients to build the goodwill you need to grow your practice.
Today, clients are drawn more to businesses that value them as people, businesses that make them feel appreciated. But when you are a busy attorney trying to balance your law firm's needs with those of your clients, it is possible to lose sight of what is important or be overwhelmed by all the responsibilities on your shoulder.
Before you cave in under pressure, you should consider outsourcing your customer service to an experienced and dedicated answering service. These answering services are the first contact with your customers and leads that provide them with answers and guidance as they need.
For example, if a client calls in the middle of the night, the answering service will take the call, answer the client’s questions, and book an appointment for the client to have a consultation with you when your business opens.
The quality of the answering service you hire will directly affect the quality of your customer service. Therefore, you must vet the answering service before hiring them. Some of the questions you should ask include:
- The experience the answering service has in handling calls for criminal defense law firms (experience and specialization are more beneficial to your law firm than hiring a general answering service)
- Their availability (are their services available 24/7, during the holidays and weekends?)
- Can they handle client intake on your behalf (most clients calling criminal defense law firms want their cases handled soon)
- Their pricing
- The range of services the answering service offers (some of the services you can expect include live chat, overflow call management, appointment setting, and call recording)
Effective customer service should be a priority for every criminal defense law firm that hopes to compete in an ever-competitive world. Answering services help criminal defense attorneys provide better customer care to their clients and leads, thus allowing them to focus on handling their cases. Working with an answering service helps clients save time, money, and improve client satisfaction in the long term.