IPay-per-click (PPC) marketing is proving to be effective across industries. In 2017, seven million advertisers invested $10.1 billion in PPC ads, and reported 50 percent more lead conversions than strategies using organic methods. Law firms can leverage the fact that 86 percent of Americans use the internet to search for local services. One recent survey that specifically focused on legal searches found that 57 percent of people looking for an attorney use their smartphone. What are the key lessons? To draw in new clients, lawyers need a strategic online presence that is optimized for mobile. PPC marketing accomplishes that goal with these added benefits.

  • It’s targeted. PPC ads only display for people looking for certain keywords.
  • It’s fast. Organic methods, such as SEO, are effective, but can take months to optimize. PPC has immediate results. 
  • It’s affordable. PPC campaigns can fit any budget. You can set maximum bids for your keywords and adjust as you go. 
  • It’s local. PPC can effectively target your city, state, multi-state region or even just a neighborhood. 

Maximizing Your PPC

“Wow. Sign me up!” Not so fast. Yes, PPC is effective. However, remember that many advertisers report 50 percent more leads. That means 50 percent more phone calls or web inquiries. Is your call intake process optimized to handle this workflow? If not, you might be wasting your money.

According to Google, “lawyer” and “attorney” are in the top 10 most expensive keywords. The average cost-per-click (CPC) for keywords related to personal injury is upwards of $55 per click. The cost-per-action (CPA) for the legal industry is around $135.17, compared to an average of $59.18 for all industries. While CPC measures the cost to get a customer to click your ad, CPA measures the cost of actually getting the client to take action (i.e. fill out of a form, call you, etc.)

What’s the bottom line? You’re spending your precious marketing budget to run your Google Ads PPC campaign. By failing to focus on the internal call intake process, you might be sabotaging that investment. Maximize your PPC campaign by optimizing your call intake process. Here’s how.

Avoid the Pitfalls of an Automated System

Many firms have turned to automated systems to manage the increased call intake from their PPC campaigns. Automated phone systems help staff manage their time and workflow. However, they are not received positively by consumers. Seventy-five percent of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live person. This is especially true in the legal arena, where you have callers that are reaching out during one of their most vulnerable moments.

Having to listen to multiple menus, only to get re-routed and led to a voicemail is frustrating. In fact, according to an American Bar Association benchmark study on the call intake process, 11 percent of calls lasted less than 10 seconds. The most likely explanation? Callers were frustrated because they could not reach a real person. That means your potential client just moved on, probably to one of your competitors.

Why Automated Systems Don’t Work

Consider these five reasons automated systems aren’t the best solution for law firms.

  1. Clients have nuanced requests. No two clients are alike. Automated systems increase frustration when none of the options seem to fit the client’s reason for calling. 
  2. They leave a bad first impression. Customers form an impression of a business within the first seven seconds. When is the last time you encountered an automated recording, and thought, “Wow. That was great customer service?” The moment the phone is answered, the customer’s experience begins. Is it positive or negative when a new client dials your number?
  3. They are not adaptable. What happens when a caller is three layers into the automated menu and they realize they needed to choose another option? Or, what if they have a reason for calling that fits into two menu options? Once again, frustration results. 
  4. It’s impersonal. Whether you are dealing with personal injury, family or criminal law, potential clients are looking for someone with whom they can share their personal problems. An automated system does not project a perception of a trusted, reliable advisor that personally cares for the caller’s needs. 
  5. Automation results in hang-ups. Frustrated callers will simply hang up, and try another option. 
Young brunette woman wearing headset at a call center performing legal call intake process

The Power of Talking to a “Real Person”

So, we’ve established that automated systems are not an effective way to handle your call intake process. What about simply answering calls yourself? Odds are you (or your staff) can’t realistically pick up the phone 24/7, and that means you risk losing clients. In fact, recent studies have found that 80 percent of callers would rather hang up than leave a message.

We live a world of instant gratification. Consumers expect immediate information, and most of the time it’s at their fingertips. If your potential client can’t reach you with their important matter, they’ll just keep going down the search engine results page until they reach an office that answers. How can you possibly handle answering calls 24/7? If you have the staff and budget, you could develop an after-hours schedule for employees to answer phones. If that’s not a realistic option, you could outsource your intake calls, at least for evenings and weekends. Depending on the level of service you need, third-parties offer simple call services and full intake services.

Call Services vs. Full Intake Services

So, what’s the difference?

  • Call services guarantee that your calls will be answered by a real person 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That means they can take your calls during evenings, weekends, holidays or even during the day if your staff just isn’t able to get to the phone. Using a call service that specializes in legal firms means they are trained to distinguish between calls that require a live transfer at that moment and ones that can wait until a later time, optimizing your firm’s time management. Some services will even set up new consultations, manage appointments and confirm court times. Additionally, they have the resources to offer foreign language support. All client interactions are documented in your CRM.
  • Intake response services are broader than simple call services. They often handle the entire intake process. In addition to all the call services, they screen calls to verify potential new clients, asking scripted questions and communicating your practice’s process and policies. They often fill out intake forms as well. You get verified, complete client data. Full intake services are an extension of your in-house staff. 

The most effective call intake strategy will depend on your firm’s needs. The key takeaway, however, is whether you use a service or your internal staff, make sure your potential clients can talk to a live person. Otherwise, you are losing clients and wasting your PPC campaign money. 

Call Intake: Best (and Worst) Practices

If your staff has picked up the phone, you’ve already gained an edge over your competitors, one-third of whom routinely neglect their phone calls. Effective call intake, though, goes deeper than just picking up the phone. Staff training will ensure that all clients receive courteous and consistent service. Consider our best and worst practices. 

Worst Practices

  • Putting callers on hold before even speaking with them. 
  • Practicing cold transfers. Cold transfers are when you just transfer to another staff member without letting them know why the client is calling, forcing the client to repeat their reason for calling. 
  • Transferring a call without verifying that the other staff is going answer.
  • Leaving calls on hold too long. 
  • Pushing the client for more information than they comfortably want to give. This practice makes it seem like you are “all about business,” not interested in the caller personally. 
  • Interrupting while the client is speaking. 
  • Answering calls with too much background noise.
  • Using legal jargon or language that is too complex. This is often perceived as condescending and unsympathetic. 

Best Practices

  • Smile. A smile will come across in your voice. Answering with a pleasant tone will put the caller at ease. 
  • Be sympathetic. Treat every caller as if you personally know them and sympathize with their situation. 
  • Listen. Let the caller explain their situation completely before asking for required information. 
  • Connect. Clients will be more likely to choose an attorney with whom they have a personal connection. That goes for the intake staff too. They reflect the personality of the firm. Get the caller’s first name upfront, and use it throughout the call to show personal interest. 
  • Document. Leave your CRM or other intake software up and ready to go all the time. Use headsets so your hands are free to type and take notes. 
  • Train. Prepare staff to handle the most common scenarios. Introduce role-playing to help your staff prepare for difficult or hysterical clients. Staff should know when to escalate a call. Whether it’s a high-value potential client or someone with a high-value issue, your intake staff must recognize when a call needs the attention of a senior member of the firm. 

Track and Monitor

The customer experience is the new battlefield, according to researchers at Gartner. That is true in every industry, but is especially true in the legal sector. Your PPC campaigns will fall flat if your client’s experience is negative. That experience starts with the call intake process. In determining if your customer experience is on target, data is king. Forbes explains, “By using advanced analytics, companies can make better use of their customer and user experiences, leading to higher satisfaction — and loyalty — in the long term.” Google provides all kinds of data about your PPC campaign to evaluate its effectiveness. However, tracking and monitoring your intake calls provides valuable insights as well. When matched with PPC analytics, you can track your ROI and find holes in your process. 

Track via Reporting Tools and Software

Utilize available technology to monitor your intake process and track leads. An effective CRM will help you manage intake workflow. Most give you the ability to feed leads directly from your website. Data from phone calls can be entered by staff or your third-party service. Parameters can be set to highlight leads that need immediate follow-up, and reporting tools help ensure no lead slips through the cracks. Additionally, using software to track your leads helps to streamline staff workflow. For example, if a potential client submits a web form and calls the office, your staff will immediately recognize the same person is responsible for both interactions, eliminating duplicate work. 

Assessing Your Process

Recording every point of contact, and following the client through the entire intake process will help you assess your lead nurturing process, identify trends, improve your conversion rate and optimize your PPC campaign. Train your intake team to capture every lead and input consistent data. Even when you lose a potential client, valuable data can be gleaned. Every lost lead contributes to helping you understand what marketing strategies are working and where your lead nurturing process needs improvement. Monitoring is such a critical component of PPC success that many agencies who specialize in PPC campaigns, such as Digital Rain, offer call monitoring for two key purposes:

  • To better understand which keywords are driving the most productive calls.
  • To providing intake advice on how you can prevent losing good leads. 

How Many Leads are You Losing?

According to one legal call service, law firms should have a lead loss benchmark of one percent. The industry as a whole has a lead loss rate of over eight percent. Achieving a 99 percent capture rate means you are gathering almost every lead from every source, including calls and web forms. What’s your benchmark? If leads are slipping through the cracks, you’re not just losing revenue from those potential clients. You’re decreasing the ROI from your marketing campaigns. Don’t sink your PPC campaign before getting started. Evaluate your intake call process, train your staff, and implement data tracking and monitoring strategies. The results will speak for themselves.