Referrals are every law firm’s friend. Whether they’re the result of a happy client recommending your firm to a family member, or from another firm, referrals are one of the most effective methods of lead generation.
Since referrals and recommendations are essentially the byproduct of a job well done, they don’t require direct spend or investment, as long as a team is performing well. Consequently, many firms are keen to build asking for referrals into their standard operating practices.
Here, Bernadette Bennett from leading outsourced communications provider Moneypenny and Peter Finkill-Coombes from Lawshare, a free referral and support network for lawyers from JMW Solicitors, discuss the importance of recommendations and referrals and why partnered working is so effective.
Lawshare’s Finkill-Coombs said: “For Lawshare the power of referrals is so great that it’s our primary focus. We work with more than 650 member law firms, and the premise is simple. When firms can’t take on a particular piece of work or don’t have the appropriate expertise, they can refer it to Lawshare, safe in the knowledge that JMW will only act on the referred matter and then signpost the client back to the referring firm for future work.
“Referrals are important to the legal sector as we essentially enter the profession to assist clients. Whether they be professional or lay, we’re always looking to find solutions for them, and if we can’t personally and neither can a colleague, we much prefer to direct them to a trusted contact or source where they are likely to find a solution to their legal inquiry. That piece of goodwill is not only the right thing to do, but hopefully it will also be recalled by a would-be client, and you are then in their mind’s eye the next time they have a legal inquiry.”
Moneypenny is another business that understands the power of recommendations and referrals, particularly when it comes to its telephone answering and live chat services.
Bennett, who heads up Moneypenny’s work with legal firms, said: “Recommendations and referrals are important because they leverage connections, build professional contacts and strengthen client relationships. From a personal perspective, we’ve also found recommendations to be effective in building our own stable of clients in the sector.
“Referrals and recommendations are essentially validation from someone else that add credibility and can provide a shortcut to speed the procurement process. They basically remove that initial bit of ‘research’ as it’s covered by the recommendation itself.”
Client care is crucial to capitalizing says Bennett: “You could refer work to a business you know is expert in its field, but if their customer care isn’t up to par, it could prove costly in reputational terms for you. We help firms ensure their customer care is of the highest standard – something that typically starts with accessibility. Things like a warm welcome on the phone, showing empathy, directing calls, taking messages well and answering live chats in real time, not to mention how competently and efficiently the legal matter is handled, all help to project the right impression. Collectively, these ensure that when someone reaches out following a recommendation, their inquiry is turned into business quickly and professionally. Anything less is a lost opportunity and one that could reflect badly on the referrer.”
Lawshare’s Finkill-Coombs added: “All inquiries should be dealt with promptly, professionally and politely. It’s why we use Moneypenny. They understand our service standards, our referrers and in turn what their clients can expect when they trust Lawshare to look after them. Being available and having that initial first contact immediately starts building that personal rapport. It creates buy-in, establishes trust and gives you the best opportunity of converting a referral inquiry into a live matter.”
Bennett has two pieces of advice: “Step one is to think about how referrals will become known to you – if they’re picking up the phone or visiting your website make sure they’ll receive a positive first impression. That initial experience must be worthy of the recommendation.
“Step two is to consider how effective your ongoing client communications are. Potential new clients will expect a timely response, not to mention ongoing updates if you get the work. This means your firm and people must be accessible – whether that’s proactive email communication, client portals or the telephone. ”
Bennett concluded: “It’s important to remember a firm’s people, competency and approach to client care are being judged constantly. First impressions matter when it comes to turning referrals and recommendations into business.”