Receptionist vs Outsourced Call Answering Service: Which is best for a law firm?
Law firms live and die on client relationships.
The kind of enquiries solicitors deal with on a daily basis means not being available for clients when they need you can lead to fractured relationships and lost trust - at the least.
A simple way of maintaining this communication and trust is being available on the phone when a client calls (which most prefer to do given the often sensitive or urgent nature of their enquiries)
But should you have an in-house receptionist on hand to answer the phone, or should you outsource your firm’s call management to a telephone answering service for law firms?
What to consider when choosing in-house vs outsourced call answering
- How much will it cost?
You might like the idea of having a full-time (or part-time) employee in the office to answer the phone.
You’ll likely feel more in control because it’s an employee.
The thing is, an employee (even a part-time one) can be very expensive.
You’ve not only got a salary to pay (which can be close to £30,000 a year) but then you’ve also got sick pay, holiday pay, tax, insurance, training and new equipment to pay on top of that.
And if you’re a small law firm, these costs can be significant against your incomings.
An outsourced telephone answering service is different.
That’s because you pay a monthly subscription fee, based on the number of calls they take, or time they spend on the phone.
This is significantly cheaper than a full-time employee.
- How reliable will your call answering really be?
An in-house receptionist can do a great job answering one call at a time.
But that’s all they can do.
As soon as they’re on one call, you’ve lost your telephone answering until they’ve finished.
So what happens if you’ve got a particularly heavy caseload, or you have a sudden influx of client calls?
You’re still paying the wages, but you’re not getting the service, and customers are left to deal with long wait times or missed calls.
An outsourced telephone answering service, on the other hand, provides you with a team of (usually three) PAs who cover each other to make sure all your calls are answered.
If you’re in a busy period, you can just scale the service up.
- Get reliable out-of-hours call answering
Law firm clients can’t always call during 9-5 (because they’re at work too)
You’re limited in solving this problem when you hire a receptionist because they won’t be around out of hours to answer the phone.
It’s not the same for a telephone answering service.
With outsourced call management, you can get out-of-hours services (usually 8am - 8pm and weekend cover)
It means more enquiries can be handled immediately by your team of PAs, rather than hoping clients call back the next day.
- Legal experience and an understanding of discretion
You might think this is an area where an in-house receptionist would have the edge.
Because they work full-time in the office they’ll have a better understanding of the need for discretion when handling some client enquiries and have a greater knowledge of the types of calls they’ll be dealing with.
There’s definitely an argument for that.
But if you find the right outsourced telephone answering service, you’ll find that they hire PAs with specific legal experience to help with law firms.
This means you get all the benefits of no fixed salary or tax payments that come with a full-time staff member, and you get the law firm experience from your team of PAs.
- Freeing your team up to focus on their main jobs
Some legal offices may prefer to use neither a receptionist nor a telephone answering service.
Instead, they might just expect whoever is closest to the phone to answer it when it rings.
There are lots of risks with this.
The main one is that whenever an employee answers the phone, they’re being taken away from their main job.
Also, because they likely won’t have been trained in call management (because it’s not their primary job), it runs the risk of callers being met with unprofessional greetings or problems with call transfers and message taking.
Using a telephone answering service allows your team to just focus on what they’re doing for clients, without worrying that calls are being missed or dealt with in a way they wouldn’t want.
Outsourcing your law firm’s call management could be the best result
Choosing between an in-house receptionist and an outsourced call answering service for your law firm isn’t an easy choice.
But if you want the same personal touch to your call management but with more reliable call answering at a cheaper cost, then an outsourced telephone answering service might be the best way forward.
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