Is a live chat service for lawyers better than just the software?

Cases are the lifeblood of any law firm, and acquiring cases require lead generation. To generate those leads in today’s fast-paced, decentralized marketplace, firms need to provide potential clients as many avenues of communication as possible. The days of hanging out a shingle are long gone; it’s no longer enough to put up billboards, run TV ads, and slap your name on buses. You need to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for clients to bring you their cases, and one of the best ways to do that is through live chat.

Live chat is convenient: 79% of customers say they like it because they get their questions answered immediately, and 51% like it because it allows them to multi-task. And it’s effective, as a Facebook and Neilsen study concluded that a majority of consumers say they’re more likely to give their business to a company they can message. But what’s the best way to implement a live chat function at your firm? Some firms opt to purchase live chat software and operate the service themselves, while others prefer outsourcing their live chat service to a dedicated provider. Which is better? Let’s investigate.

Chat is everywhere

Online chat has become so ubiquitous, so quickly, that it’s easy to overlook how fundamentally it has changed the way we communicate. Slack, the chat-based collaborative software company founded in 2013, has become so vital to the modern office that its recent IPO led to a valuation of $19.5 billion. Meanwhile, the Facebook-owned freeware messaging service WhatsApp reports more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. It’s estimated that Americans send more than 8.5 billion SMS texts every single day.

Online chat and text messaging have become such a large part of our daily life that consumers now expect to be able to communicate with businesses through these technologies. According to Twilio,9 out of 10 consumers want to be able to interact with a business through chat, quickly and in real time. Meanwhile, an ABA benchmark study found that 42% of the time, it took firms more than three days to get back to prospective clients following an inquiry— during which time those prospective clients had plenty of time to seek a more communicative counsel. Given these numbers, law firms that don’t adopt a live chat function risk losing potential clients to firms that do.

The challenges of running your own live chat software

There’s a paradox to the fast pace of modern technology: new tech is created, adopted, and integrated into our lives so quickly that we don’t have time to fully adapt to it — or appreciate how it changes the status quo. Online chat is a great example of that. You may think, “My firm has dedicated support staff to answer the phones, take information, and set up appointments. An online chat service is something they can handle.”  Here’s why that might be a bad idea:

  • Busy employees mean a slow response. According to a Google Legal Services study, 74% of consumers visit a law firm’s website to take action. But the average visitor decides whether to leave a page or stay on it within about 15 seconds. If your support staffer is too busy working the phones, making photocopies, or performing some other task to help those visitors take action, the chances are the potential client will leave your site.
  • Your support staff isn’t available 24/7. Studies show that consumers don’t always visit websites during business hours. In fact, visits often spike after 5 p.m., when users are home from work and have more time to concentrate on their searching. Will your staff be able to chat with them after business hours?
  • Your support staff costs money. To ensure that live chats don’t go unanswered and prospective clients don’t leave for competitors, you will need to adjust staff working hours or hire additional employees. That can cost money — far more than engaging a dedicated chat service.

At every turn, handling your live chat in-house comes with a choice: spend more money, or risk losing out on potential clients.

A live chat service for lawyers

 A simple cost-benefit analysis shows that it’s both more accessible and more affordable to engage a reputable chat service, one that specializes in handling law firms. Operators are trained not to offer legal advice but can get contact information and screen potential clients. They can gather helpful case details and provide your firm with a full chat transcript. Some services offer live phone transfer, which further increases conversion rate, and web analytics, to provide actionable information concerning your marketing campaigns. Best of all, they can do this for a fraction of the cost of staffing and managing live chat staff in-house.

So, is a live chat service for lawyers better than just software? The numbers speak for themselves.