Is your receptionist hurting your online local presence? What about your call forwarding service? And are call centers effective and safe for your law firm? Your law firm’s phone service does not just affect client relations and other off-line interactions. It can actually directly impact your local rankings!
Google currently has several thousand representatives whose only task is to verify business information. They use various methods to carry out this verification. Some of those include looking at your business through Google Street View to see the front of your office and to check the address and signage, while others do what most of your customers do: call your phone number.
Google accounts for approximately sixty-six percent of online searches and eighty percent of mobile searches. More than half of all searches have local intent. Therefore, it is important that your law firm conform to Google’s listing requirements. It is also important that you handle Google and client calls consistently and professionally.
Is Your Receptionist Hurting Your Identity on Google?
We recommend that you create a script for how your staff answers the telephones at your law firm, and this includes your partner attorneys. Here is an example of what happens when a Google representative verifies your business information.
Let’s say you have your law firm branded as Smith Law Firm, but your sign outside reads Smith Law Offices. If Google representatives check the street view and see this inconsistency, they will go into your Google Places Listing and change your listed name to match your sign. So, you want the sign to match whatever name you have chosen to use for your law firm.
More important is the phone call verification of your business. When Google calls, the representative may not self-identify as being from Google, instead behaving just as any other customer would and asking questions about your location or business hours. If your staff member answers the phone with “Smith Law Firm,” you are good to go, but if he or she answers with “Joe Smith Law,” then the verifier can change your business name to what your receptionist just told them, creating an identity problem for your firm on Google. It’s all about consistency.
Call Forwarding Makes Google Manual Verification Tricky
If your law firm has multiple locations and uses a call forwarding service to have one staff member at a main location handle all phone calls, you could have more problems when Google calls to verify a location. That call-forwarding staff member should know that the call is coming for a specific law firm office and answer accordingly, providing details such as the hours, location and directions for that office. If the staff member does not, however, know that a call is coming through a forwarded number for another office, he or she may answer inappropriately. Then, when asked for directions, directions to the staff member’s actual location may be given rather than to the office location the client expects. If this happens, your other office locations could get suspended, disabled or have the addresses changed because of the information your receptionist just provided.
Another potential problem with call forwarding occurs if a Google verifier asks for directions and, in response, the staff member asks for which office. This sends up a red flag and may lead to the verifier’s obvious next question: “What office did I call?” This will, in turn, lead the verifier to suspend, edit or disable the account associated with that phone number.
Are Call Centers Bad for Business?
Most law firms handle their own intake. However, many law firms across the continent use call centers. Without proper examination ahead of time you could hire a call center that would do more harm than good for your law firm. Questions to ask include: How well does the call center know the details about your law firm? How do they know which office is being called? Do they know how to give directions to your firm’s locations? Do they answer the phone with your official law firm name or just say, “Law Offices” or “Hello”?
These are just a few questions you should ask before using a call center. There are many stories of calls being handled by call centers where the representative was asked for directions and the caller being told, “I don’t know that information.” This is obviously bad for business.
Your call center is of exceptionally high quality when it is able identify who the call is coming in for and what location the call originated from and can provide directions, hours of operation and other relevant business information. Your Google verification should be fine if you use one of these exceptional call centers. However, it is still highly recommended that you not use call centers. Fielding after-hours calls is another story, but you should do your best to avoid using them during business hours.
Like other law firm marketing efforts, consistency is key when it comes to intake. Because they are less controllable, call centers and call forwarding are risky tactics for handling the bulk of your firm’s calls. Hiring friendly receptionists and staff who have memorized the information that callers generally request will help your firm obtain a competitive advantage in this area.
If you have questions about your law firm’s handling of intake calls, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 800-872-6590. Follow our Law Web Marketing community on Google+ for even more information.