Seven Worst Traits to Have in an Client Intake Specialist
As a lawyer, you depend on your office staff to be your first point of contact with potential clients. Your support staff, particularly your intake personnel, can often make the difference between signing the next client or not. As such, it is important to hire the right people. But how do you know who is right and who is wrong?
While I will be the first to admit that it can be hard to discern what a person is actually like during the hiring process, there are several signs to look for that should indicate that you may have hired the wrong person as an intake specialist. Check out what I believe to be the seven worst traits to have in your intake staff.
Refusing or failing to greet client.
When a client comes into the office, your front desk personnel should greet them with a smile and pleasant greeting. If they have seen the client multiple times and know their name, they should greet them by name. Not only does this let the client know that they are important, but it also lets them know that someone is paying attention to them and has acknowledged their presence.
If your intake person ignores the client, it isn’t going to make a positive first impression for someone who has never been in your office before. Even if they are on the phone, they can still look at the individual and smile. A hand gesture showing them that they will be with them in a minute also works. The thing is that you need to make sure the intake person is doing something to acknowledge the individual entering your office. Clients like to feel important, whether it be their first time in your office or their tenth.
Hanging up the phone on an angry client.
Depending on what type of practice you have, you are bound to deal with an angry client at some point in time along the way. This is especially true when you are a divorce lawyer or criminal attorney. A client is bound to get upset if they aren’t happy with the way negotiations are going or they are worried about being thrown in prison for a few years. Even though the client might not be exactly thrilled with what is going on in their case, your intake person cannot just hang up the phone on them in an attempt to make them go away.
Every client is crucial to your firm and needs to be treated with the respect they deserve, even if they aren’t being courteous on the phone. If the intake person is having trouble dealing with the client, they need to hand it off to someone else or maybe put the client on hold for a moment to regain their composure before attempting to deal with them again. The last thing they should ever do is hang up on the individual. You need someone who can remain calm under pressure, regardless of what the situation might be.
Eating in the main office area with customers present.
Your intake person should refrain from eating out in the front area where clients are coming into the office. It doesn’t look professional and comes across as quite rude to the potential client. Eating should take place only in designated break rooms or lunchrooms out of sight of anyone entering the office. No one wants to enter your office to find your front desk personnel eating donuts or a large hamburger.
A mouth full of food also makes it quite difficult to answer the phone. Any intake personnel need to leave their mouth clear for being able to communicate with clients. If it is absolutely essential for them to eat something, they need to step away from the area to do so.
Failing to listen to the concerns of the client.
When a potential client comes into your law firm, they want someone who is going to listen to what they have going on in their lives. They need someone who is going to take their concerns into account and do what it takes to meet their needs. If a client comes into the office looking for a bankruptcy attorney who is willing to set up a payment plan or bases their fees on their income, they don’t want to speak to someone who ignores their concerns and quotes them a generic price without taking into consideration their individual needs and concerns.
A good intake person should spend ample time listening to the client to gain an understanding of what it is that they need and what they can do to help. Sometimes, all it takes is the willingness of someone to listen to make a client feel like everything is going to be okay, even though their situation might be complicated and involved.
Not being empathetic toward the client’s situation.
Clients come to your law firm looking for advice during a stressful time in their lives. Because of this, they need someone who is going to treat them with the compassion and empathy they need in this time of crisis. You need an intake person who is willing to treat each potential client with compassion and understanding.
Any intake person needs to be able to put themselves in the clients’ shoes. How would they want to be treated if they were going through a difficult divorce or they were facing the fact that their significant other could be spending years behind bars? Knowing how to identify with the client is crucial, especially when dealing with such sensitive matters.
Being impatient or trying to rush the client along.
Even though your intake person might be dealing with various clients simultaneously, that doesn’t mean they should be rushing any single client out the door or off the phone just to get to the next individual. Patience is crucial when it comes to dealing with clients. Your intake person needs to be willing to spend the proper amount of time with each client in an effort to gather information for you. Not only does this save you time later on when working with the client, but it also helps you determine if you are going to be able to help them or not. After all, you might not be able to help every client who walks through your door or calls on the phone, but you can at least point them in the direction of someone who can. Ultimately, a client should never feel like they are just another number or you don’t have time for them, but rather as a unique individual with unique needs.
Using technical jargon in client interactions.
While your intake person might have an understanding of the technical jargon used in relation to different parts of the court case, that doesn’t mean your client will. Anyone dealing with the client needs to be able to communicate using simple language that the client will understand without talking down to them and making them feel inferior.
Using complex legal terms will only leave the client feeling confused and overwhelmed. Most clients aren’t going to be familiar with terms such as adjournment, acquittal, arraignment, affidavit, consecutive sentence, concurrent sentence, deposition, discovery or equitable. These might be terms that you use every day, but that isn’t the case for a client. As such, you need someone to put these complex terms into everyday language that anyone can understand.
After reviewing these seven simple traits that you don’t want to see in your intake personnel, it becomes effortless to identify the traits you need and want intake staff to possess. Simply put, your intake person should be polite, compassionate, considerate and professional, greeting and treating each client as an individual with needs special to his or her case. When you have an intake person who possesses the right traits and mindset, it can help transform your law firm and take you to a whole new level. By making one client happy with the way they are treated, you can count on them to refer other clients to your office. It all starts by hiring the right people to represent your law firm.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h