I recently called a solo practitioner’s office to make an appointment, based on a referral given to me by a professional whom I know and respect. After the recommendation, I knew I was ready to make an appointment but what happened took me by surprise.
Before I called, I was simply relieved to have a referral to an expert who would be able to help me. I was indeed looking forward to meeting them.
When I called their office, I didn’t speak to a live person, instead I was directed to their voicemail. My first reaction within the first 3 seconds of listening to the recording was an immediate “no.” I went from feeling confident and excited about meeting them, to doubting their professionalism and expertise. I hung up feeling frustrated and disappointed.
So, what on earth could have changed my mind in those few short seconds? It wasn’t as much what they said, as much as it was how they said it. The person on the recording was curt and they had an indifferent tone in their voice. They almost sounded exhausted at having to make the recording in the first place.
Before writing about this experience, I went back and called the office to see if my first impression was what I had remembered. Guess what? It was pretty darn close. The only difference was they were not as curt as I had remembered. Regardless, that initial impression resulted in me walking away without making an appointment.
We talk a lot about how critical it is to make a great first impression. This example highlights just how true that is. We simply cannot underestimate how much business can be lost or gained in those few short seconds.
Leads from any source can quickly and easily be turned off by little things you may be completely unaware of. We cannot assume warm referrals are a slam dunk either. They are just as tenuous as the non-referred leads who call your firm.
Here are a few tips to create a great first impression.
- Have someone in your office answer the phone during business hours. Sending people to voicemail during business hours is a huge turnoff. With our busy schedules, think about how you feel when you get directed to voicemail. I know my first reaction is “Great, I don’t have the answer I was looking for and now I get to play phone tag to track it down.” Not a great first impression.
- Train your team how to answer the phone with compassion and interest. Not just with the words they say, but also with the tone and energy they have in their voice. Did you know that you can actually hear a smile from the other end of the line? Be curious and interested in every caller. Always think about how you made them FEEL. Did they feel heard and understood? Did they feel taken care of? Will they tell people what a wonderful experience it was or will they roll their eyes and tell them what a bad experience it was? Treat them like they are your first call of the day, not your last call of the day.
- Listen between the lines. Consider the caller’s circumstances: Why they are reaching out, and how they are feeling? Are they confused or scared? Are they grieving or dealing with health issues and not feeling well? Are they frustrated because they have been hitting roadblocks while seeking answers to their questions? It could be a myriad of feelings. It is up to the listener to tune into those emotions and empathize with wherever they are at.
- Set expectations and exceed them. Once you have an understanding of the help they need, reconfirm what the next steps will be and when they can expect those to happen. Always look for opportunities to exceed their expectations. Ask yourself what else could be helpful to them if you were in their shoes and provide it if possible.
- Go undercover and mystery shop your firm. Call into your firm to see how friendly, engaging and helpful your team is. You could even ask a few people close to you to do it as well. At the Academy, we do this on occasion with our Member firms. After the call, we’ll give them a report card on how the call went and areas for improvements. A few areas we rate on includes:
o Number of rings it took to answer the call
o Greeting was warm and friendly
o They asked us questions to get to know us and our situation
o They were helpful in answering our questions
o They asked how we heard about them (you always want to thank your referral sources!)
Overall, these are simple things to do on calls, but it is easy to let them slip, especially when the office is busy. An easy way to keep these procedures and wow experience alive and well, is to ask this question on each call… How will this person feel when they hang up? Looked after and happy, or disappointed and frustrated? If it’s the latter, what can I do to make them feel better?
These impressionable few seconds can mean the difference between saying hello to a new client or saying good-bye to someone who hangs up, rolls their eyes, and calls the next firm on their search. Which category do you think your firm falls into?
Practice Building Coach
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128