After a certain amount of time on the front lines answering intake phone calls, you and your staff can become jaded and insensitive to callers looking for a lawyer. This is common and natural. It can also cost you tens of thousands of dollars in unrealized revenue if an inability to consistently qualify callers means you are losing new clients you almost had.
When taking call after call discussing plight, strife and suffering, a form of “vicarious traumatization” (VT) can occur. These are the negative feelings a trauma worker or helper experiences that result from empathic engagement with traumatized people and their reports of disturbing experiences. Essentially, VT can cause a person to become jaded. And, whether you realize it or not, it can affect your ability to engage positively with potential clients.
Here are just some of the feelings you or your team may develop that can cause friction and stonewall your client engagement.
- “They’re not deserving”
- “They’re lying or faking”
- “They’re pitiful”
- “They’re drunk”
- “They’re mental cases”
These are harsh words, but we hear them all the time. As the business’s owner, it’s your job to support your staff (and yourself) and to acknowledge these feelings and the potential problems they cause.
Can You Avoid Become Jaded? Reframing Your Roles
One of the most effective ways to avoid becoming jaded — and help those who experience VT get back on track — is to change your mindset. “Reframe” the role of attorneys and intake specialists through this thinking: When speaking with prospects, you are not in the legal business, you are really in the relationship and healing business. Here are a few tips for successfully doing so.
1. Provide scripts. Create a linked sequential process to follow during phone calls with potential clients. Think of it as a map that guides you and your intake team down a path. Imagine driving down a road you’ve never been on without a map. Your confidence level is low, you’re distracted and your anxiety goes up. With a map to guide you, though, your confidence level goes up. Your brain is free to stay focused on the prospect. Mind you, the script and process need to be client-centric. And you and your team must have an understanding of the principles — the “why to” — behind what you’re saying. A script and process alone will not make you empathetic, but it will reduce fatigue, increase consistency and increase your ability to focus on needs and wants.
2. Share the success stories of your ideal clients with your intake team. Use internal “third-party” testimonial to reinvigorate and validate the work that’s being done on the front line. Find as many tangible results and success stories to “market internally.” Everyone needs to be reminded how much of a hero your firm can be to someone, their business and their family. You and your team have an obligation to give every prospect the opportunity to experience the same kind of results.
3. Inspect what you expect. Consistently monitor phone calls and provide feedback to your team. If you commit to doing this at least once a month for six months it will become a habit, and it will demonstrate that accountability is a part of how you operate. This isn’t a punitive initiative. It’s a self-evaluation process that shows your team you are committed to excellence on the phone, and it will keep everyone “on their toes.”
Give your intake team all the support and coaching you can — just as you would a client — so that they can do the same for your prospects and clients. Embrace this mindset and make it part of your culture. It will differentiate what you do from all of the other law firms in your niche.
Ryan Pitz is the founder of the Intake Academy, a legal intake training and accountability firm focused on helping law firms improve lead conversion. The Intake Academy delivers unique training and coaching programs to law firms to screen, select, train, develop and coach legal intake teams. Follow Ryan on Twitter @rpitz42.
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