Your success in landing new clients, or retaining existing clients for that matter, can relate directly to how they are treated when they contact your firm. I have commented in the past on this blog about the role of the receptionist and how important he or she is in terms of the impact it makes on visitors or those who call. For a couple of my posts on the topic, see links below.
In a recent post by Noble McIntyre on Attorney at Work, he addresses telephone etiquette. Why should you care you may ask? Because the telephone is probably your main source of contact with the outside world.
First, McIntyre talks about automated phone answering systems and other impersonal ways people are sometimes treated when calling law firms. I actually know of law firms (albeit small ones) that had no human answer the phone. Rather, they had automated systems requiring several prompts to get to an individual lawyer or a human. I totally agree with his comment that such systems “can raise time barriers, frustrate callers and make your practice seem impersonal.” Crazy, in a personal service business!
Here are a few of McIntyre’s common sense telephone tips:
- Answer promptly before the third ring. We live in an impatient world, and although three or more rings are not the end of it, punctuality when it comes to answering the phone is a VERY good idea;
- Whoever answers needs to do so in a most professional manner, and in a most “pleasant tone of voice”;
- Don’t have someone else (like the phone company’s computer) record your outgoing message;
- Don’t give the person the runaround or make them go through a bunch of hoops to just learn that your are not available and they can leave a voicemail; and,
- Train your receptionist as to who is who, especially when it comes to important clients. The second time I called my son’s law firm, the receptionist recognized my voice immediately. Granted some might say I have the voice of a rhinoceros, and maybe that wasn’t so tough for her. But, I was blown away. Think how your clients and contacts will feel.
I’ve often made the comment that the receptionist should be the highest-paid marketing person in a law firm, just as a cashier should be in a bank. Ridiculous I know, but think about how important they are. They are first and foremost the front line of contact with prospects and most clients. And you need to have one that has the proper etiquette and demeanor to handle those calls.