Thought Leadership

Blog: "Great customer service is nothing if you're not able to close the deal" - Part 1

Reading time: 7 mins 9 secs

Andy Cullwick, head of marketing, October 05, 2018

On 18th September we headed to the annual PI Futures conference in Liverpool where we launched our fourth annual white paper Converting Clients – Calls, Clicks and Cash. At the conference, and for my third year, I also had the pleasure of running an afternoon panel session on Understanding Customers.

In this blog I talk about my own personal experience of receiving great customer service and look at the lessons that law firms can learn from looking to another sector for tips. I also draw upon our recent research (pdf) that shows where law firms have made improvements and where they now need to focus their efforts if they are to succeed in converting even more enquiries into clients.

Why is great customer service so important?

Customer service dovetails into driving leads into your business and converting those leads into new clients. But let me ask you, did you ever set out to offer bad customer service?

I’m pretty sure you don’t have it in your vision and values to treat your customers badly. And I’m confident you don’t have it in your strategy to try and annoy them as much as possible.

So, you may well be asking yourself what you need to know about customer service that you don’t already know. And most likely, you believe that you’re doing it really well. The reality is that although some firms do offer great customer service, there are just as many, if not more, that are not doing as well.

We have recently completed research which shows some really interesting statistics, which I will come back to a bit later. But first I’m going to talk to you about estate agents.

Why estate agents?

Well there are two reasons. Firstly, whenever you are looking to improve the way you do things, it’s always good practise to look outside of your industry to draw on what others are doing. Secondly, it’s something that is quite personal to me at the moment, as I’m in the process of buying a new house. I’ve had some interesting experiences on my home buying journey – some good, some bad and some indifferent.

I’m going to focus on the positive by talking about one of the experiences that I had that I consider to be brilliant. Ryder and Dutton, the estate agents, I found had a great way of dealing with clients.

The whole package

My experience started with an initial online enquiry for a property that I wanted to view. Within 15 minutes a representative from Ryder and Dutton contacted me, had taken some basic details and started the process.

They took an interest in me and what I was looking for. They weren’t trying to sell me financial services or asking me if I had a property to sell. They really tried to understand what it was I was looking for – number of bedrooms, price bracket etc. and within a 10 to 15 minute conversation they had highlighted to me not only the property that I had initially enquired about, but also four or five other properties that I would potentially be interested in.

Within a matter of minutes I had received an email with the details of these properties, and then within a couple of hours I had actually been successful in arranging a number of viewings for the following Saturday.

The good customer service continued from there, the negotiator who showed me around the properties had extensive knowledge of each of them, almost as if he himself had lived in the properties for the past 20 years. He pointed out not only the strengths, but the weaknesses and the opportunities too.

He was providing answers to my questions before I even had the chance to ask them and the detail of knowledge he displayed was impressive and went way beyond my expectations.

Whilst viewing the last property he also advised that someone was potentially going to put in an offer on that property the same day. Later, out of hours on a Saturday afternoon I did not expect to hear anything from them by way of follow-up, yet I received a phone call from their centralised team in Manchester asking how I’d got on viewing the properties. At this point they advised me that someone had indeed put an offer in on the last property I had viewed and that if I was interested I had until Monday morning to also submit an offer.

They went one step further, advising that they were open on a Sunday if I wanted to speak to someone about it the following day. Every time I called them back they didn’t need to ask me who I was, they automatically knew my mobile phone number as it was stored in the system and it didn’t matter which member of the team I was speaking to, they knew everything about every interaction they had had with me.

It was a really customer-centric experience.

What can law firms learn from this?

How many law firms are treating their customers in the same way?

This is where I want to try and talk a bit more about our mystery shopping that we have recently done. We conducted mystery shopping across 50 firms across the personal injury sector – submitting an online enquiry and a telephone enquiry to see how well firms handled those enquiries.

We were trying to really understand how the firms were dealing with customer experience, the knowledge of the staff they were involved with, how well engaged they were and how they went about closing the deal.

The really encouraging thing that came out of the research was that 4 out of 5 of our mystery shoppers felt that their overall treatment was both warm and engaging. In addition, there were virtually no complaints about having to wade through legal jargon and technical language.

The initial enquiry - set the tone

How well did firms deal with the initial enquiry?

Whilst I’ve just been talking about estate agents, who were ‘open for business’ all the time, I got really frustrated about the number of law firms that weren’t effective at being able to deal with enquiries out of office hours and weren’t utilising technology. And I’m talking about simple things here such as email and SMS to increase the speed at which firms were responding to enquiries.

What we found in terms of how law firms were handling enquiries was a bit of a mixed bag.

We found that 8% of enquiries submitted weren’t followed up at all. So that’s almost 10% of all the business that is presented to law firms that is just being ignored.

We found that was an even higher percentage across website enquiries. In fact, 16% of website enquiries were ignored. Law firms spend thousands of pounds creating websites to drive and generate business, but if they’re ignoring enquiries at the first point of contact it is just money down the drain. What a terrible waste!

Encouragingly though we found two thirds of people, when ringing, had their call answered within three rings, which is a very high standard.

When I was ringing some estate agents to try and book viewings I would sometimes get into a ‘ping pong’ battle – leaving a message, having a message left for me. I rang one estate agent (who I will not name) a dozen times and not once got put through to an answering machine.

In this day and age, why does it take so long to be able to get in touch with someone?

So positively, people were picking up the phone in law firms, but we found a quarter of them didn’t engage by offering the name of the person who was answering the phone. 16% didn’t ask the potential client what their name was and a quarter didn’t tell the potential client who they were about to be passed on to, when their call was transferred. This is a vital part of the start of your relationship with the potential client. It really sets the tone of what you are like as a law firm.

The other area that stood out was the slowness of response. 20% of people who phoned to speak to someone about a personal injury didn’t have their call returned within 24 hours - and that rose to 30% for online enquiries.

You can guarantee that person has gone cold and walked away elsewhere, resulting in even more lost business.

Read part 2 of Andy's blog, where he looks at knowledge, engagement and closing the deal

Download the research whitepaper (pdf): 'Converting clients - clicks, calls and cash'

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