I admit to being obsessed with our intake process.
Every dollar we earn passes through the intake system. Why wouldn’t I be obsessed? It’s important.
In fact, I’d advocate for you to obsess right along with me. It’s a good thing. This process matters.
Here are my 10 best intake tips for tweaking your system:
1. Keep the records simple.
Intake is about getting clients through the door. It’s simple. You get it, but your team might not. Your team will get distracted by information required for conflicts checks, appointment confirmation, etc. While that data is important, it’s secondary to building a connection and helping the client feel the safety offered by your practice. The simpler the process, the more your team can focus on the caller instead of the computer.
2. Long calls equal retainers.
The longer the intake calls, the more trust you’re building. That trust spills over into the consultation, and it results in retainers. The trust pumps up the willingness to write the big check. Short calls have the opposite effect. You want your people to be on the phone for a long time with each caller.
3. Open-ended questions are your friend.
“How do the children feel about that?” is the kind of thing you should hear your intake team asking. “Have you talked to your friends about it?” is another good one. “How did this happen?” opens the door and information floods in. If long calls equal retainers, then open-ended questions are like money in the bank.
4. Talking is the devil.
You want your intake person listening, not talking. The intake person’s mouth should open only wide enough to say “ah” and “oh, my.” You want to hear lots of audible nodding, not lots of words. If the intake person is talking, you’re losing. Trust is built when listening.
5. Role plays never get old.
Role plays are the best teaching technique. Use extreme scenarios because they’re good teaching tools. Practice, practice, practice, and do it throughout the tenure of your intake team member. Different issues arise over the period of employment of your intake team member. In the beginning, it’s inexperience and naiveté. Later, the jaded boredom kicks in. Role plays are good practice, and they give you the opportunity to reinforce your values and systems.
6. Measure everything.
Of course you’re measuring call volume, consults scheduled, and resulting retainers. Go further. Measure time per call. Measure daily time on calls. Measure the number of calls (inbound and outbound) per day. Measure the number of calls answered live vs. voicemail. Measure everything you can measure and compare it to historical averages and other team members.
7. Use phone system technology.
Today’s phone systems are pretty amazing. They provide features on top of features. Use them. Take advantage of call recording and monitoring to train your team. Use call whispering to coach your new intake people through calls. Use the data provided to monitor time per call, call volume, and number of calls. The phone system is now way more powerful than simply serving as a provider of voice. Figure it out and put it to work.
8. Always give them somewhere to go next.
Make sure that your intake people have resources for callers that extend beyond the law firm. Be prepared for referrals nationally and globally. Have a database of services, resources, and lawyers available to your team. Help callers figure out the next step, regardless of whether they’re a fit for your firm.
9. Impose term limits.
Intake team members burn out—fast. Don’t expect someone taking this job to last forever. Peak efficiency in this role lasts between nine months and two years, depending on the person and call volume. Use your network to place your employee in a new position, and be prepared with a systematic training approach to onboard the replacement. Cycle them in and cycle them out so they stay fresh.
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10. Connection is currency.
The intake process is all about building trust. Trust comes from connection. It starts with the referral or the website. Use that to start building trust, and then continue the process on the phone. Help the prospective caller feel safe inside the cocoon that is your law firm. Use your intake process to build that connection, and you’ll grow your top line.