Telephone answering – the `lost millions’ and the regulatory pitfalls

By Joanna Swash Commercial Director at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny

THE quality and delivery of legal services has never been more highly scrutinised. Clients have increasingly high expectations and the pressure’s on to convert new business opportunities, improve overall satisfaction and achieve regulatory compliance – all at the same time.

Over recent years much has been written about the way law firms answer their telephone calls, particularly in the wake of Professor Ian Cooper’s eye-opening `mystery shop’ findings, which have repeatedly highlighted, as he phrases it ` a massive epidemic of poor enquiry handling’ across the sector.

There are many reasons for needing to manage calls well – Professor Cooper talks about `lost millions’, in terms of the potential income firms are missing out on due to their failure to convert sufficient numbers of their telephone enquiries into profitable business.

But, answering the telephone isn’t just about winning new contracts. It’s about caring for clients and demonstrating a commitment to delivering the very best experience to them every time – crucial for measuring up when it comes to the requirements of Lexcel 6, the Code of Conduct and the Conveyancing Quality Scheme – all of which place the professionalism and quality of the service a client can expect at the heart of a healthy firm.

Whatever the nature of their call, clients expect a speedy and efficient response. Leaving a call to go unanswered isn’t an option and we know that callers are turned off by answering machines, more often than not, failing to leave a message.

We live in an `always on’ international world and increasingly callers expect their enquiry to be answered at a time to suit them, not just within traditional opening hours. Indeed of the 900+ law firms we work alongside; either on an overspill or fully outsourced basis, 24% require support from our Moneypenny Receptionists based in New Zealand who answer overnight calls for UK firms during their daytime. Of all the `out of hours’ calls we handle for the legal sector, 72% are taken between 6pm and 9pm, 14% between 9pm and midnight, 4% from midnight to 4am and 10% between 4am and 8am – all calls that would otherwise most likely be missed.

With regulations demanding firms have clear policies on how they deal with enquiries from potential clients, as well as seeking assurances of a `timely’ response to telephone calls, any short-comings in this regard can not only lead to a real headache for compliance officers, but a significant customer service failing.

On a commercial and client service level, no business can afford to miss calls. Add to that the reality that persistently failing to answer or return telephone calls can result in a reportable breach and it’s obvious that there is absolutely no room for complacency.

So smart firms of all sizes recognise the importance of capturing every call as well as the need for business continuity provision should there be a telecommunication breakdown. They are taking a close look at the way they handle inbound calls and as a result we are working with an ever increasing number of firms seeking the reassurance of engaging with us as their telephone answering partner.

The way a firm manages its telephone calls speaks volumes about its commitment to delivering excellence in legal practice management and client care. In changing times, consistently getting this element of the business jigsaw right, will deliver strong results on every level.


Telephone answering specialist Moneypenny is endorsed by the Law Society.

0333 202 1005

[email protected]

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