Even in the age of internet marketing, the phone remains one of the most important tools for communicating with clients. Whether a new client is calling for the first time to schedule an initial appointment or an existing client is calling to check on the status of a case, how your firm responds to callers speaks volumes about the professionalism of your office and can significantly impact your business.
The most important advice is to answer your phones. If no one answers when potential clients call, they may call another attorney instead of leaving a message. Likewise, for existing clients, difficulties in reaching their attorney may strain the attorney-client relationship and cause them undue anxiety about their legal issues.
The following are some common sense tips for people, such as receptionists, paralegals or attorneys, who answer the phones in your law firm:
- Answer phone calls by the third ring.
- Greet callers warmly and identify the company and yourself: “Good morning. Thank you for calling Justia. This is Elizabeth. How may I help you?”
- Speak clearly and use a positive tone of voice. One tip is to smile while you’re talking on the phone, as this comes across in your tone of voice.
- Don’t chew gum or eat food when answering the phone.
- Write down the caller’s name the first time they tell it to you so you can refer back to it later in the call.
- Avoid using slang or filler words like “um” or “like” during phone calls.
- If you need to put a caller on hold, ask if it’s okay first, and don’t leave a caller on hold for more than a minute without checking back to give a status update.
- When taking a message, be sure to get names and phone numbers correct. Ask your callers to spell their name if needed, and repeat phone numbers back to them.
- If you need to transfer a call, always let the caller know that you are going to transfer the call to another person. Let the caller know in advance the name and phone number of the person who will be joining the conversation in case the call is disconnected.
- End the call by thanking the caller for calling or saying “Have a nice day” and let them hang up first.
It’s also important to respond to messages left by potential clients, current clients, and other people who contact you. Ideally, messages should be responded to within one business day.
Asking your staff to follow these simple guidelines for communicating on the phone presents your law firm as a courteous and professional organization, and can help you bring in new clients and retain current clients.