As our society becomes more comfortable with technology, we expect answers to be at our fingertips, and consumers, as a whole, are becoming more impatient. It is also a fact that the faster you respond to a lead the more likely that lead is to convert to a client (seven times more likely according to the Harvard Business Review article, “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads”).
Even if your phone number is easily viewed, many prospects may not be able to call you immediately; they may prefer to contact you in a more private manner, via a web form or easily accessible email address. However, keeping in mind your prospect’s expectations, an email or web form may not provide the quick response that he or she expects. This is why we started recommending Live Chat features for some clients: it combines the instantaneous response of a phone call with the privacy of written communication. Live Chat has been around for a bit, but we hadn’t done a proper study across multiple clients to say if it should be a requirement or not for a law firm website.
Live Chat is just what it sounds like: an online (whether on desktop or mobile) chat experience where the prospective client can ask his or her question and start the conversation. This can be done in one of two ways: a chat function that is installed on the firm’s computers so they can answer the incoming chats; or an outsourced company that accepts the chats, qualifies the prospective client without giving any advice, and passes on the qualified lead to the law firm.
Over the past six months, we have been monitoring data closely for our clients that have a Live Chat feature. All of these clients opted for the outsourced model so they could get 24/7 support with little interruption to their internal staff and operations. (The outsourced model also serves the Spanish-speaking population.) The data is in, and we now strongly recommend adding Live Chat features to our clients’ websites. We suggest that you consider it for your website, too.
Here is some interesting data from our analytics:
- Client sites with chat generate almost seven additional leads per month on average.
- On average, 40 percent of chat leads are coming in outside of standard business hours.
- After only two months, websites with chat have a decrease in their bounce rate of over six points.
If you have a 24/7 process for talking to leads already, you might be able to utilize your own chat service. One we recommend is LiveChat (www.livechatinc.com), which also has a mobile app for managing and responding to chats on the go. If you—like most law firms—want to outsource the chat to a third party, we evaluated a number of vendors that our clients were using, and we now recommend nGage (http://www.ngagelive.com). Reviews from clients have been great, their support has been wonderful, they accommodate Spanish-speaking prospects, and their “Chat Now” widgets provide decent customization options and work very well on mobile responsive websites. We like the fact that they utilize a pay per chat model; this model allows your law firm to specify when a chat is not a qualified lead and that chat will be credited from your monthly invoice. In effect, you will only pay for the chat when you have a real prospective lead.
We also understand the growing need to appropriately support text messaging, while staying within ethics guidelines. We have been paying attention to text messaging tools as a way to live chat with prospects and will be testing them in the near future. These tools allow people to use text messaging on their mobile devices as a way to chat with someone in your law firm who is sitting at a computer. This would work for both prospective and current clients, since many of these tools can integrate with practice management systems. Vendors like HeyWire (http://heywirebusiness.com) can help you reach that new type of client who just won’t interact with you in a timely manner if you are not going to text with him or her.