Preparing for Working Remotely
Things are scary right now, from both a health perspective and an economic perspective. We don’t know how long this is going to last, and we might be buckling in for months worth of changes. The CDC is recommending working from home and washing your hands regularly, but there’s less guidance on how to survive financially right now. If your business is your life, we’d understand if you’re panicking.
Many folks are talking about the Coronavirus in the “macro” sense. It’s seizing financial markets. It’s wiping out 200+ conferences. It’s the “most pressing uncertainty” according to the IMF’s managing director.
These “macro” effects are not under our control; our hands aren’t on these dials, and they’re not even within reach. But we can make a difference in our own companies. Leaders at larger businesses have been telling staff to stay home. Small and medium businesses are now following suit. If your company has the ability to convert to working entirely remotely, you should get used to it. I just got an email that a gathering of legal tech executives was canceled because the host company is closing their San Francisco office for the week.
What happens when you don’t have the virtual-office infrastructure and work-from-home policies in place that make working remotely no different than business as usual? Massive productivity losses. Canceled appointments. Missed deadlines. And a lot of missed calls. This means you need to get your systems in place. Now.
If you’ve told your law firm staff to work from home this week, the absolute first step you must take is checking your phone system to ensure it’s routing calls to phones and extensions connected to real, live humans. Your staff won’t be at their desks so their calls shouldn’t be going there. If they aren’t checking their voicemail regularly when they’re in the office, they can’t be expected to check it when they’re at home. Your system can’t rely on voicemail.
Call forwarding is a good option for direct extensions. Those calls can ring through to staff members’ cell phones. You can even set boundaries so forwarding occurs only during normal business hours. If your staff is uncomfortable with having their direct cell or home lines available to your clients, they can set up a forwarding number that will help separate their professional from their personal lives.
Transfers are a bit trickier, but chat apps like Slack allowing interoffice, real-time communication can help law firm staff connect with their coworkers to facilitate hand-offs. This will also allow your staff to stay in direct communication with each other. It’s no replacement for in-person conversations, but maintaining strong lines of communication between you and your staff can be the difference between a smooth transition into working from home and a complete breakdown of organization.
Handling Your Main Line
Just as during a regular day at the office, how you answer your main line is vital to converting clients. If you let your main line go to voicemail or place the task of answering it all on one person, you are setting yourself up for failure. You would be sacrificing both that staff member’s productivity and the perceived availability of your firm. No one wants to hire the firm that doesn’t even have the time to answer their phone.
You need an answering service. I wrote it like that because it really is that simple. It doesn’t decrease your legitimacy or reduce your personal connection with your clients. You will need all the help you can get, and a good answering service is able to provide more than basic “call answering.”
While you and your staff are working from home, a remote receptionist service worth its salt will handle your lead screening, consult scheduling, and payment chasing. Getting all that work outsourced means freeing you up to help your new and existing clients. Being honest about what you can and cannot do on your own is vital in times like these.
As is important in any incoming client call, the option to transfer to a person on your staff needs to remain open. When there’s a true need for a transfer to someone in your office, a good answering service can call or text the intended recipient to see if they’re available to accept the call. Some agencies can even ping that Slack channel to see who, among your staff, is ready to claim the call.
Bottom line, don’t let the mature decision to keep staff at home and protect them from illness trigger a poor decision to burden those staff (who are likely trying to also care for kids kept out of school). Your clients should not suffer from your responsibility, and neither should your staff.
If you’ve already enlisted a receptionist service, make sure they are providing the tools you need. Not all answering services are created equally, and now is the time that they will be tested. Find the one that works for you, even if it means getting rid of the one you have.
Keeping Up to Date
If you feel as though you need more information on how to best prepare, Mockingbird is hosting a webinar with the goal of sharing ideas and recommendations for how to proceed. Our webinar, titled “Converting Leads During Corona – How to Maintain Marketing Campaigns During a Crisis with Outsourced Intake” will be held through GoToWebinar from 12:30-1:30 PM PST on Friday, March 20th.
To register, follow this link. All firms are welcome, as we want to get as many minds on this as possible. We are making it our priority to help our clients strategize their next steps and provide support in any way we can.
If you haven’t yet taken action or are finding your current service lacking, we’re ready to serve you at Smith.ai. We can take one of two paths:
- We can get your phones answered within a couple hours with our expedited setup. That’s the second option after you sign-up online.
- Or, if you give us 1-2 days more, we can get more acquainted for handling those spiffy screening & scheduling tasks I talked about above.
You can even use my name and the code MADDY100 for $100 off. That’s worth like 15-20 free calls depending on your plan. And, that’s in addition to our 20-call free trial.
During the trial and after, we’ll:
🙋🏻♀️ Answer your phones
📲 Transfer calls to staff at home (pre-screening leads, as needed)
📆 Book (or reschedule) your meetings
And you can use us just for this short-term stint, or ongoing. We won’t be offended; we’re built for exactly these scenarios, as well as the day-to-day.
Now, go get your phones in order, so those leads Conrad and his team are generating for you receive the friendly, helpful, fast, and accurate response they deserve. We’ve got you!
NOTE: Maddy Martin is the Head of Growth & Education at Smith.ai. The services they offer are one possible solution during this current crisis that’s upending “business as usual” for firms across the country. Mockingbird is not paid by Smith.ai and does not profit off any signups resulting from this post. We’re publishing this post because we think Maddy is exceptionally awesome and you should be exploring all sorts of tech options right now.