01 October 2019

Research lifts veil on a personal injury mystery

Swathes of personal injury firms are ignoring clients who contact them after 5.30pm or via Facebook, First4Lawyers research reveals.

Personal injury (PI) law firms are failing to adapt to clients using less traditional methods of contacting them by not responding when clients call them out-of-hours or via Facebook, according to mystery shopping research by First4Lawyers, the UK independent legal marketing collective.

After-hours

Two-thirds of shoppers who called firms after office hours and left a message did not receive a call back, while a third of shoppers who tried to contact firms via their Facebook pages did not receive a reply. The research, Creating a customer-first culture, which was conducted by customer experience specialist Insight6, saw mystery shoppers contact 52 PI firms by telephone during the working day and also between 5.30pm and 7.45pm, as well as via their Facebook pages, and rank their experience of the contact and efforts to convert them into clients. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of out-of-hours callers managed to speak to someone when they called, while a further 56 percent were able to leave an answerphone message. However, there was no facility for 18 percent to do so. One firm’s answerphone was full and couldn't take any more messages. Only 8 percent of callers actually managed to speak to a fee-earner/expert when they called, while a similar number received a call back that same evening. But a “staggering” 67 percent didn’t hear from that firm within two working days, the latest response allowed for in the research.

Social media

However, the findings indicate that many firms are approaching Facebook better, with 64 percent saying they had either a ‘very positive’ or ‘positive’ impression of the firm based on the Facebook page alone. When they sent a message via Facebook, the best firms (12 percnet) responded online within 15 minutes, while 32 percent did so within a very respectable two hours. A further 14 percent replied the same or following day. At the other end of the scale, 32 percent did not reply at all. For the calls made during the working day, all the shoppers said the phone was answered with a “genuine welcome” and almost all said their enquiry dealt with in a “polite and enthusiastic manner”. Where the call handler could not put the call through to a fee-earner, 83% asked for contact details for a call-back, but only a third were given an idea of when the call-back would take place. Both figures, particularly the latter one, are notably lower than the similar research we carried out last year. And of this group, more than half did not receive a call-back at all. While the people dealing with the substance of the call - either fee-earners or well-trained call-centre staff - generally scored well, they were not so good in ‘selling’ the service. Two-thirds explained how the firm could help and just 56 percent outlined the cost structure of the claim, while only 44 percent actually outlined the benefits of using their firm.

“Old ways are over”

Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, says: “Next year’s Civil Liability Act reforms will change the PI market in a way not seen for a generation. The old ways of practicing are over. For firms to survive and thrive in the new world, they cannot afford to sit and wait for the business to come to them – they need to do everything they can to attract and convert clients. Me Anwar said, the results “do give cause for concern” for how PI firms cope with non-standard enquiries, “And calls after 5.30pm and contact via Facebook are not really ‘non-standard’ in 2019.” Mr Anwar concluded, “The good news about the bad news is that this is an opportunity,” and “None of the issues we have identified in this report are especially difficult to resolve – they just need commitment and some investment.” The white paper is available here.