Most law practices focus on delivering great service to their clients. The challenge with this approach is that it focuses on just one aspect of a broader concept: the client experience. Great service is a must, but the client experience extends broadly to each and every interaction that not only clients but also prospects have with your business. And it all starts with intake.
Active, engaged intake facilitates the conversion of opportunities into clients. How you manage your intake process will either make or break the relationship with your leads. No matter how the prospective client has reached your business – whether through live chat, an inbound call, a referral, or another form of outreach – it’s important to establish your business as a helpful resource to prospective clients.
The Role of the Intake Team
“If everything goes right, we get a good experience. If everything goes wrong, we get a good story.”
– Simon Sinek, author “Start with Why”
Mom and Dad (and maybe a television commercial) were right – you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. It’s the initial experience that sets the tone for the future attorney/client relationship. Whether you are handling all of the intake personally or you have an intake person or team, this touchpoint will be the first direct contact most prospects have with your firm. Cultivating a friendly, helpful relationship with your potential clients shows them you are working with their benefit in mind.
When selecting employees to handle client intake, make sure you choose team members who can represent your firm in the best possible light. Develop an intake plan that achieves objectives and identifies the desired prospect profile. Build and follow a standardized list of questions to gather data, making allowances for prospects with special or complicated circumstances (life is rarely a “one size fits all” situation). Training them to engage in active listening during the intake process will save your team time, effort and frustration further down the sales process.
Even if intake is not part of an employee’s day-to-day activities, ensuring everyone on your team is familiar with the intake process helps them deliver a positive experience to potential clients and sets the stage for an ongoing, beneficial relationship.
Use Intake to Set Expectations
Understanding and taking note of your potential clients’ situations will help you understand if you can move forward with them professionally. Through the intake process, your team should also be on the lookout for how serious the prospect is about retaining your services.
In addition to determining how viable a lead is, your intake team can set some basic expectations and give a clear idea of what your business may be able to accomplish, as well as set clear boundaries for limitations. Intake is a great way to introduce information like consultation fees, payment plans, and other practicalities that the client should know at the outset.
Adjust Your Intake Method to Fit the Opportunity
Because opportunities can come from a variety of places, it’s worth considering how your business will perform intake for each scenario, including:
- Inbound Calls
- Inbound emails/form submissions
- Inbound Chats
Each of these lead types may reach you with different levels of vetting. If a prospect calls your office directly or walks in the door, your intake process may be vastly different from the process established for referred leads or inbound chat. Understanding how to adjust your intake style based on the type of lead and the type of customer will save your business time and turn your meaningful opportunities into clients more efficiently.
By scaling your intake strategy to accommodate a variety of prospect traffic, new business areas and products, you’re doing important work in addressing what your prospects need and how to help them. The use of a client resource management team is a useful tool for companies to keep their prospects and clients information organized and updated. Your business may choose to use a CRM system to manage client records, or you may keep records across multiple platforms.
Make the Most of Missed Opportunities
Establishing yourself as a helpful resource for prospects means knowing when you can’t help him or her. If a prospective client needs services that your business doesn’t perform, you can still keep a good rapport with them and open the possibility of working together in the future. Refer these leads to partners that are better suited to help them this time around. By giving them suitable options, you are still providing an essential service to them and gaining trust in the process.
How you execute on the prospect intake process can make or break the experience. A seamless system of preparedness can speak volumes to a prospect – they are likely to deepen his or her view that the practice is highly professional, helpful and competent as team members follow through on commitments established by an effective intake process.