Whether you are launching a new practice or are looking to maximize efficiency at an established firm, having the right number of well-trained staff on hand to properly handle intake should be near the top of your list of priorities. While most attorneys understand how vital the intake process is to screen potential clients and establishing the attorney-client relationship, many firms fail to train and staff correctly to do it right. Below are our top three tips you should consider when shaping your intake team.
Tip #1: Make sure your intake team is friendly, empathetic, and good with people. This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many other firms have you engaged with that have client-facing staff members who are disengaged, unfriendly, or impatient? The people who handle the phone calls, contact forms, emails, and face-to-face interactions with your clients and prospective clients are often the first representatives of your firm that people deal with, and they are solely responsible for creating a positive first impression. When hiring, make sure to look for staff members with the right disposition, customer-service experience, and ability to empathize with clients who are in need of legal help.
Tip #2: Make sure to have enough staff members to handle the workload, and utilize third-party services to help. If all goes well, your marketing efforts, word-of-mouth, and reputation in your practice area will bring in steady leads for you to consider and meet with. Many firms make the mistake of saddling marketing managers, assistants, and other people with intake duties, which, in a busy firm, can reduce the quality of intake/customer service and their regular duties. Consider hiring staff members who are solely tasked with intake duties (answering the phone, following up on intake forms, pre-screening, etc.) and make sure that you have enough people to handle the leads that are coming in. You may also consider utilizing popular services like live chat and phone-intake services to augment your efforts and provide 24/7 coverage on your website and phone lines. This way, you can ensure that your clients never have to wait until business hours resume to contact you and inquire about your services.
Tip #3: Establish a clear and thorough intake protocol and train accordingly. When staffing for the intake process, it is essential that your staff members understand the “big picture” and are clear on how the entire intake process should work. They should know the firm’s approach to its clients and the firm’s mission statement. Intake staff should have clear guidelines on how to answer the phone correctly, how to respond to client questions, and how to manage the expectations of clients and potential clients. They should also have a firm grasp of your fee structure and how the attorney-client relationship works. The intake process should be written down and distributed to all members of the intake staff, and regular refresher training should be conducted to make sure everyone is on the same page.
By selectively hiring, setting the right expectations, and giving your intake staff the right tools to do their jobs efficiently, you will likely see a marked improvement in the number of clients who sign up as well as increased client satisfaction. For many firms, it is easy to overlook intake or to cut corners on staffing in this area, but to do so is often a mistake. By focusing on this critical aspect of the business, you can ensure your firm is positioned to handle the leads you are generating and make sure your clients are satisfied with their experience from the very beginning.