Business of Law

On-hold callers may not become lawyers' clients, study suggests

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Ringing phone

Law firms may be ruining their chances with new clients because of their telephone manners, an audio-branding firm suggests.

According to a new study released by audio-branding business PHMG, participating U.S.-based legal firms put their callers on hold for an average of 36.07 seconds—longer than the national average of 29.83 seconds. The study also found that callers are often forced to listen to silence, generic music or beeps—all things PHMG found could lead to a customer hanging up and calling a competitor. The study also found a small minority of participating firms, nine percent, bother to use an auto-attendant or answering service to greet callers outside of normal business hours.

The study was conducted by phoning U.S. companies, including law firms, and logging a number of variables, including how long it took to answer the call, how long callers were put on hold and what they heard while on hold. According to Cameron Wells Communications, which is handling public relations for the PHMG study, the overall sample for this study was 2,695 businesses.

“The research results do not reflect particularly well on the legal sector, as few firms appear to be employing a best practice approach to call handling,” said Mark Williamson, CEO of PHMG in a press release. “It’s worrying that customers are being left on hold for over 36 seconds as this can be a major irritation for customers, but what makes matters worse is that they are left in silence or listening to poor-quality music, which increases the risk of hang-ups.”

According to the study, 46 percent of legal firms leave a caller in silence while on hold, 41 percent use generic music and 13 percent use beeps. PHMG cited a prior study focusing on U.S. businesses that found that 65 percent of customers feel more valued when they get to listen to customized voice and music messages while on hold.

How much of a difference does that make? According to a separate PHMG study, a majority of callers (59 percent) refuse to do business with a company ever again if the initial call isn’t handled to their satisfaction.

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