Update [8-5-14]: One day after my post, Carolyn Elefant <- who I have known for years and with whom I collaborated with on The 21st Century Retainer Agreement, published her thoughts on live phone answering and included 3 services for attorneys to check out.* You can see Carolyn’s article on Above the Law here.
Now back to our original post …. (hee):
I hear and read a lot about how live phone answering helps gain potential clients. Seems that some believe if they pay for live phone answering, they will get less hang ups.
If you have not recently investigated the cost of live phone answering, it’s quite a hefty expense. Is it worth it?
That can only be determined on a business by business basis, however, I’d like to point out that the problem with potential clients hanging up when not connecting to a live human being could be less about it being a tech/process, than it may be about the actual greeting they hear.
In this day and age, most people are accustomed to voicemail in business. If they are genuinely interested in seeing if you are the lawyer for them vs. window shopping or just twitchy with a long google list of local lawyers who may help – you probably don’t want them as a client anyway!
That said, you still want to convey the most professional of images, and if the message new callers hear is you, yourself doing the speaking – changing the voice to someone other may help.
People just imagine attorneys in an office with secretaries – like MadMen. Help them with this idea of bustling activity by using a female voice if you are a male; or Murphy Brown ‘em and make it a male voice if you’re a female attorney. The whole point is, make it another person’s voice in the greeting to help your callers imagine a firm and not just a harried attorney.
Bringing me to – I’ve heard some pretty distracted/bored/hurried recorded greetings by attorneys in my time - so if you just HAVE to be the one doing the recording, try scripting something nice and recording it properly (as in, not from your cell phone while you’re running into a building for a meeting).
If you’d like to listen to a scripted and professionally produced greeting that has served me well for years (I get compliments all the time) AND it only cost me an additional one-time fee of $25 – dial 1-866-848-2195 and have a listen. You can also dial x101 if ya’d like to say ‘hello’
As for accessibility – I don’t know when attorneys started to feel they needed to be accessible 24/7. I know criminal attorneys have always felt that way and used to wear/carry beepers for that reason; however, most clients do not need to have 24/7 access to their attorney; and a beeper still provided 1 layer of tech against instant access.
I honestly believe that no one should be THAT accessible. I advise attorneys to give their direct cell phone number to family and friends ONLY. Everyone else should get the office number – either a VoIP or a unified messaging service number – and that number should forward callers to your actual cell phone.**
By only giving clients and potential clients the VoIP/UM number – you never have to worry about getting a call or text at 3am from a distraught person who may or may not have retained you – but who definitely should have stopped drinking hours ago!
The lines of home and office get so blurry that you really need to have to set times when you are not available for work/clients, or you will go insane because you’ll be working ALL the time. You can’t be on ALL the time and not burn out. You also can’t be the only one doing it all… but that’s a topic for another post.
By putting in place the tech to process calls vs. letting them connect directly to your cell, you will get one step closer to being more balanced as you will always have the option to take the call or not. It’s all in the set up and how many options you have to get at your information, not how accessible you are.
For more information on the topic of balance, here’s the latest BYOB Podcast with LA attorney David Ogwyn – who shares 5 tips to find balance in your practice and so much more:
Balancing Your Practice with David Ogwyn
*Sign up for the newsletter as in the next issue I’ll be giving my thoughts on why 2 of the companies mentioned in the Above the Law article are not even worth the time to test
**The tech I use for incoming call (and fax) management is Onebox