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Live chat is not a one-size-fits-all marketing and technological solution. However, it can enhance a law firm’s website and provide a strategic benefit for some firms. Discover a few pros and cons to help you decide whether a live chat solution may be right for your practice.
As an internet user, you are almost certainly familiar with the idea of live chat solutions, some of which are powered by chatbots and some of which are staffed by a human.
Maybe you were seeking a solution to an IT issue. You may have been looking for answers to questions on your utility provider’s site. Perhaps you were browsing for a car and a friendly face popped up in the corner offering to help you find the right vehicle.
Sometimes these interactions are very helpful. Other times you have mediocre interactions, often with a chatbot posing as a human. Thus, it is no surprise that many lawyers are wary of chatbots and similar solutions that may or may not enhance user experiences on their site. That said, chatbots are not the only online solution offering text-based communication.
With the right live chat technology and a strong service provider, you can avoid concerns about the usefulness of chatbots by offering human-to-human interaction, while still taking advantage of the often-instant digital communication benefits offered by a chatbot.
However, live chat is not necessarily the best fit for every law firm. In this post, we will discuss some of the pros and cons of live chat that may help you decide whether it is a strong marketing and technological solution for your practice.
First and foremost, you should understand that live chat is not a substitute for talking to an attorney. When you consider live chat for your firm, you are not looking at replacing or changing the way you render initial legal services to your new clients, nor are you looking at eliminating initial intake conversations.
The primary goal of live chat is to get potential clients’ contact information (particularly a phone number), answer their initial questions about your firm, and schedule a consultation or meeting. Think of it as a substitute for submitting a contact form, initiating an email, or calling your receptionist, but nothing more.
Additionally, you should carefully consider your core practice areas and whether your typical client would be well-served by live chat. For instance, if you handle sex crime cases, the sensitive nature of your practice area may warrant only offering traditional phone screenings. As another example, if you typically work with older and elderly clients, they may prefer a phone call, such that adding a chat solution is wasteful for your firm. Of course, even if you add a chat solution, you should always make sure that potential clients can at least choose to reach out to your firm by phone or a normal contact form.
Understanding the demographics of your client base and the unique sensitivities of your practice area are an important part of determining whether you should further consider a live chat solution. If you determine that live chat still presents value to your firm after this analysis, then it is time to consider additional pros and cons to determine whether live chat is a good fit for your practice.
Pros of Live Chat Solutions
Ease of Contact
In the digital age, people are often looking for easy ways to find real-time answers to their questions. This desire for instant communications paved the way for the rise of digital chat solutions in customer service experiences and expanded into the marketing world.
If you are forcing potential clients to call your firm to contact you, then you are likely missing out on new leads. If someone just wants a quick question about your firm answered, they are much more likely to ask in a chat than initiate a phone call.
Additionally, the popularity of text-based communication continues to rise. More than half of millennials (those aged 26-41) generally prefer to text, rather than call. In that same group, 76% of respondents in a nationwide survey found text communication to be more convenient. With generations behind millennials being even more digital-forward, preferences for text-based communication will likely continue to rise.
Virtually Instant Communication
Unlike traditional contact forms, emails, or even phone calls, many live chat solutions offer virtually instant communication. You can choose whether the live chatter reaches out to potential clients proactively or waits for the client to initiate. Either way, live chat allows your potential clients to contact someone now, rather than waiting for a few minutes on hold or days for a reply
This is especially useful in the legal industry where your potential clients are often dealing with difficult or stressful unfamiliar situations and can often find reassurance in simply knowing that your firm is there and ready to help – even if they have to wait to speak with an actual attorney. This type of availability can work wonders for your ultimate conversion rates and also contributes to the type of positive brand experiences that boost brand loyalty.
Conversations With a Real Person
Chatbots get a bad reputation because the AI technology powering them often does not definitively mimic a human interaction or cannot answer more complex questions, often resulting in unsatisfactory user experiences. With live chat, you take this concern out of the equation.
Instead, potential clients will be able to interact via text with real humans that understand their needs and can adapt to various complex situations. Even if the live chat agent cannot offer the potential client a direct answer to their question, for example, if the user asks for legal advice, they can still plainly reassure the potential client that someone from your firm will be in touch soon.
Be the First to Respond
Being the first to respond to a potential client is always a good thing. This often puts you ahead of your competitors, simply because you now have top-of-mind awareness and are shown to be responsive to client needs. It also allows you to take advantage of the phenomenon known as the anchoring bias, a cognitive process by which people tend to heavily rely on the first piece of information they receive about a topic. Thus, people continue to interpret future information in relation to that first info.
Cons of Live Chat Solutions
Slow Your Site Down
Site load times impact website rankings in Google Search results. Adding widgets and new scripts can extend the time it takes your law firm website to load. The slower your site loads, the more your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts suffer.
Additionally, research shows that users are much more likely to abandon a webpage that takes more than three seconds to load. Thus, if you choose a live chat solution that significantly impacts load time (or your website was already weighed down and slow to load), you are losing potential clients as bounces from your site.
Other Site Usage Concerns
Some live chat windows may cover up your website’s navigation elements or hide other contact methods. Notably, most chat services charge per contact. Thus, you should be aware of the potential economic incentives to limit access to other methods of contacting your firm and need to take care that any added live chat functionality on your site does not hide crucial contact elements, such as tap to call on mobile devices.
Human Limitations: Working Capacity
People are only able to handle so many queries at a time. Depending on the staffing availability at your live chat provider, potential clients may have to wait a significant time for a live chat response, diminishing the benefit that live chat provides to your firm.
Additionally, one person is physically incapable of working around the clock. Thus, you need to carefully choose your live chat provider. Most offer 24-hour staffing so live chat representatives are always available to respond to user queries. Others may offer only extended hours, while others may stick to a traditional business hours schedule. Thus, you need to be aware of the time limitations that may be presented by your live chat solution.
No Live Chat Provider? The Chatbot and Timeliness Problems
You can find “live chat” solutions and widgets that do not necessarily offer a staffed human-to-human experience. Instead, they may offer a chatbot in a live chat suit or suggest that your firm staff the chat.
If you use a solution that is a chatbot disguised as live chat, you run the risk of the type of frustrating or unsatisfactory experiences that turn would-be potential clients into someone else’s clients. After all, you never get a second chance at a first impression so a negative first interaction with your firm is one of the quickest ways to send a lead over to your competitors.
If your firm can staff the chat, this can be a benefit in that you do not have to rely on a third party to accurately gather contact details and provide potential clients with information. However, that also means someone on your team needs to dedicate time to staffing the chat and be responsive to queries. If someone initiates a chat and the response sits unanswered for an extended period of time, it will not do your firm any favors in converting that potential client.
With all legal marketing and technology solutions, there are always ethical concerns presented. You will need to be aware of your professional responsibilities and ethical rules governing lawyers in the jurisdictions in which you are admitted to confirm utilizing live chat on your website is an acceptable marketing tool. Additionally, you should take extra caution in vetting any live chat provider you are considering to ensure that they have policies and procedures in place to avoid any violations of applicable ethical rules.
Live Chat Solutions
Decided you want to give live chat a try? Here are a few live chat providers that have worked with law firms: ApexChat, Intaker, Ngage Live Chat, Ruby, and Smith.ai.
While you will need to seek specific pricing information directly from the provider you choose, in our experience most of these providers charge per chat transcript or contact taken.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
In an increasingly digital world, live chat can help you better connect with your client base. However, it may not be the best fit for every law firm. Consider these pros and cons and thoroughly research any live chat provider before signing on the dotted line to ensure that you are making the best strategic choice for your law firm’s goals.