In-House Client Intake vs. Call Centers Posted on February 18, 2015 by Larry Bodine By Adam Warren A law firm can spend all the money in the world on advertising and marketing, but if its intake sytem is not working properly, all of that money can and will be wasted. How your calls are handled is as important as what your commercial looks like. In my previous blogs, I discussed the differences between running an advertisement branded to your law firm vs. utilizing generic branded campaigns. I also covered the differences between a traditional media cash buy vs. performance driven (cost per call) advertising. Now that you are up to speed on how you want to get the message out there, let’s talk about the other half…..how inbound calls are handled. Without question, one of the biggest challenges we see when working with law firms is how they handle their intake. It makes or breaks the campaign because at the end of the day, conversion is king. If the call center lacks the ability to convert inbound calls to cases, there is a major problem. Each time the phone rings, there is an opportunity on the other end of that call. The intake is their first interaction with your firm. How are you going to come across? Better results in-house Based on years of experience in mass tort marketing, I can say that case acquisition is much better when a firm takes the calls in-house. Depending on your marketing strategy, you may need several intake specialists. Some law firms have dozens of paralegals doing intake 24/7 to ensure no lead will be missed. Not every firm has the capacity or infrastructure to handle their own inbound call strategies. As an alternative, well-trained and specialized call centers often provide law firms with a valuable, cost effective way of handling intake. One thing to look for when engaging a call center is that they have quantifiable expertise in legal intake. You should be apprehensive about working with a center that answers calls for widgets on one call and then immediately answers calls for your mass tort or medical malpractice inquiries. They simply do not have the needed training or experience to manage cases of such high sensitivity beyond what they see in the script. If basic lead intake info is your objective (that is, collecting name/phone/case inquiry), that scenario may work. We recommend US-based call centers for a number of reasons. First, domestic callers tend to feel less guarded and more comfortable where they know they are speaking without language barriers. Second, the ability to communicate with your call center contacts as needed by virtue of reducing time zone obstacles is a huge benefit. Calls keep coming, there is typically no time to waist when there’s an issue. Additionally, there are some unscrupulous groups or individuals with overseas call centers that will illegally contact prospective clients to solicit their business based on promises of settlement distributions. Often, they will coerce the client into lying that they’ve been harmed just to pad the numbers for a suit (as in the case of MDL 2327, where Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon filed a motion for discovery related to plaintiff solicitation, filed 1/14/15). Top 10 rules for success Following are 10 things to remember in preparing for intake: Anyone answering the phone on behalf of a law firm should make sure to clearly reference the law firm’s name the moment the call is answered. Make sure your operators or paralegals are familiar with the intake scripts. Test several versions to find the most responsive and highest converting script. Speak clearly. Be polite. Do not engage arguments. Be efficient but do not be short. When it becomes clear that a call is going nowhere, be courteous and end the call. There could be good calls in the queue. Do not allow callers to experience more than two rings before answering. Avoid computerized interactive voice response (IVR) messages. IVR messages direct the caller into a menu, and callers will just hang up. Make sure your intake runs 24/7. Not everyone can call during business hours. When driving gender specific calls, it is always a good option to have corresponding gender answering the phones. Whichever method you use for your intake, it’s important to remember that your firm’s perception is on the line when that call is answered. It could be the difference between winning and losing the client. Adam Warren is President and Co-Founder of OpenJar Concepts®, Inc. and its mass torts division The Sentinel Group™, a full service, direct response marketing and technology company in Temecula, CA, that offers lead generation campaigns on national TV, radio, print and mobile.