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Marketing Work Comp Legal Services - Part 2

Sunday, September 15, 2002 | 985 | 0 | min read

Our first article discussed various methods to get your name out in front of decision makers and those that are going to hire a lawyer - what everyone otherwise recognizes as marketing. These techniques are very important for name recognition, but are not the complete answer. The legal professional must also be highly cognizant of the "back office marketing" - this is the part the really makes the difference for a long term success ratio and thriving legal business.

Numerous studies and surveys have been performed through out the years concerning how professional services are chosen by the consumer, be it an individual or institution, and overwhelmingly the single factor most important to the legal consumer is REFERRALS. Legal services are necessarily personal in nature - what is being marketed is the service ability of a particular person - highly personal services that can have a significant impact on another's life or livelihood. As a consequence, one's personal feelings regarding the nature and quality of the legal services received is very important to one that is in the market for legal services. Think about it - are you going to trust an advertisement to truthfully clue you into any negative attributes that a professional might have? Of course not - that kind of information is transmitted by opinion, i.e. referral. Correspondingly, positive attributes and feelings are also transmitted most effectively in this fashion.

Opinions that form the basis of referrals are the product of back office marketing, which is just a fancy marketing term for making sure that your office runs smoothly, that promises made get fulfilled, that your client is always treated with respect and courtesy, that phone calls are returned promptly, and that above all else, your client is kept abreast of developments in his or her matter.

An effective back office marketing program means that the professional made the client feel comfortable that they were the sole focus of the professional's attention during the time of service receipt. This personal attention needs to come not only from the professional, but every person in the professional's office, from the receptionist, to the paralegal, to the bill processor, and yes to the lawyer him or herself. This is the "back office" marketing that is essential to a successful marketing campaign, and indeed, must continue beyond any campaign as a part of the regular practice of the professional to ensure the continued vitality of the professional's business.

Here are some common sense checks to see if your practice is sending the correct marketing message to your clients:

How long are people waiting? Not just in the lobby or reception area, but on the phone, in your office (don't accept calls during a client meeting for example), for a report, or a return telephone call. Keep someone waiting too long, and you've lost a referral. Just as a professional views time as a precious commodity, so too does everyone else in our time limited society!

Return telephone calls promptly. Surveys indicate that simply returning telephone calls the day they are received, even if the answer to the topic of the call is not known, is the number one service feature of import. You would be amazed at how often we hear that the complaint about a lawyer is "he never returns my phone call". In a busy applicant practice it is sometimes not possible for an attorney to return all of the calls he gets from clients - there's just too many clients! Your paralegal team is extremely important in this service feature. They should be handling almost all return calls, but they have to be able to make decisions also - just returning a call in a busy applicant practice won't be sufficient, because if calls are routinely being routed to the attorney, then why have a paralegal take calls? The paralegal must be experienced, knowledgeable, and courteous and above all else, be able to make some decisions such as referral of the client to a medical appointment or scheduling a deposition.

And don't forget about the defense - you'd be surprised at how many referrals come from defense counsel. They are out there in the community and get approached all the time about a referral for work comp legal services. Calls from the defense must be returned immediately by the attorney, not a paralegal. Only the attorney can make settlement decisions and other critical decisions necessary to the smooth progress of a case.

In a busy defense practice, your client communication needs to be short, specific and technically poignant. Lengthy deposition summary letters are a waste of time to the examiner, and are viewed as an egregious billing abuse. A deposition or hearing report should be no more than 2 pages in length and cover only the salient features of the appearance. Do not engage in the "he said, she said" type of reporting. The examiner does not have the time to read it, doesn't care about it, and takes up too much time. Stick to the salient facts and move on.

Everyone knows that defense attorneys drive around almost as much as they are at the Board. Use that drive time to return calls received that day. Again, you don't have to know the answer to the question, but assure the client that you have received their call, and that as soon as you have a chance to look into the matter you will (and don't bill for the call if you are not rendering advice - again, this is viewed as a billing abuse).

Is your staff friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable? Staff members should always be dressed professionally, and be courteous to clients and others. Your staff projects the quality of service you deliver - let it be a quality projection!

Remember it's one thing to get a new client in the door, it's a completely different task to keep clients returning and telling others to use you.

Author Lynn Hartzell is the owner of Lynn Hartzell & Associates, and specializes in marketing professionals to the workers' compensation community. She can be reached at 626-331-7027, or by e-mail at lynn_hartzell@workcompcentral.com.

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