Online chat is a proven means of boosting web lead generation. But some people are giving chat a bad name and this week a client of mine showed me a transcript which served as a particularly striking example.
In this case, an individual she knew had gone to a lawyer’s web site and, after spending some time on the site, was greeted with an invitation to join a live chat. She accepted and was connected to someone named Jack who asked how he could help. She made reference to a specific legal question that she wanted a lawyer’s assistance with.
Jack then asked a number of very specific, probing questions that made the visitor think for a second that he might actually be a lawyer.
But then came the bait and switch.
After several minutes in this discussion Jack said that he was going to put the visitor “on hold” and attempt to get some information from “the lawyer.” In the entire transcript, Jack never referred to his employer by name, he always said “the lawyer” or “they.” This type of language would make anyone suspicious and it wasn’t surprising to see that when Jack returned he had been unable to track down “the lawyer” but that he could take a message and “they” would be happy to call back at “their” earliest convenience.
This approach is misleading, disingenuous and insults the intelligence of the visitor. It turned out that the attorney had hired a third party firm to manage their online chat, and that firm was employing tactics that would likely only damage their attorney client’s online reputation.
Note that my company, Zero-G Creative also offers a managed chat solution but our approach is very different.
It’s my belief that chat on a lawyer’s website should really be for one purpose only: to schedule appointments. At the point that someone asks a complex legal question, our operators would have said something along the lines of “Sorry, I’m not an attorney so I can’t give you that kind of advice but I can schedule a phone conference or in-person consultation with our lead attorney Bob Smith.”
A chat operator can also answer “basic” questions like does your firm handle these types of claims, do you serve my area, what is your billing rate, etc.
But at no point should a layperson engaged in chat on a lawyer’s site pretend to give legal advice.
The other key ingredient to success is constant feedback/coaching from the client. The lawyer in this case should have been reading his chat transcripts and realizing that the operator was going out of bounds.
We work with our clients and tweak our approach and our responses all the time based on their feedback to what’s going on. It’s a big part of why we were so extremely successful with our chat initiative for NFCC which raised conversion rates almost 70% and may win us a marketing award. Our client would read all the transcripts and say, “OK, next time when someone asks ABC, say this.” And we would send the client messages saying, “Someone asked us XYZ and we said this but it might not have been right… How would you like us to respond next time?”
One of my colleagues and I spent a full hour on the phone with a client earlier this week just to break down two chat transcripts that happened to be loaded with a variety of interesting questions and we wanted feedback on how we should learn from those, how we should adjust our documentation and how we should handle them going forward.
If you want a successful chat program, don’t allow you operators to pretend they’re attorneys, doctors, bankers, contractors or network administrators. Their only job is to help better shepherd website visitors into good client relationships.