In my last post, I wrote about maximizing lead conversion and briefly outlined five tips that can assist in increasing return-on-investment with an online lead service. The article included recommendations on how to create an efficient follow-up process, based on conversations and feedback from attorneys and advocates who use our service. However, upon reflecting on the content of that post as well as the conversations I have with clients on a near-daily basis, I came to the realization that it could be much more effective to sit down with a client and to report the client’s advice directly.
I thus decided to contact one of our clients, and shortly thereafter we scheduled a brief phone interview to discuss the importance of lead follow-up and how it can affect lead conversion. As we have mentioned countless times in our literature and other posts, the lack of prompt and persistent lead contact will most likely result in low performance on your internet leads. The below text recounts a conversation between me and two individuals from a Social Security law firm, the call center manager and a lead screener. This firm has a successful national practice and an inventory of several thousand cases. In this particular firm, the call center manager is responsible for managing lead distribution and tracking lead performance, while the lead screener calls the leads and, with the assistance of a supervising attorney, identifies which cases merit pursuit. The interview took place on September 23, 2014, and the client graciously agreed to share the content with our readers.1
Me: Once a lead arrives in your lead management system, how much time elapses before you make the first call?
Lead Screener: Almost right away. We try to be as quick as possible. We usually make the first call within the first couple of minutes and definitely before five minutes have passed.2
Me: What is your follow-up cycle like? How many calls do you make? Do you leave messages or send e-mails? If so, how many?
Lead Screener: So, we’ll make the first call within the first few minutes, like I said before. If the person isn’t there, I’ll leave a voicemail and then call back later the same day. The first week, I’ll leave 3-4 voicemails. After that, I do not leave many voicemails, but I will keep calling at least once a day and sometimes twice if it seems like it could be a good case. I also send out a mass e-mail to all my pending leads once a week.
Call Center Manager: After three weeks, we remove the leads from the screeners’ queue. We’ve found that the resolve rate does not increase enough to keep calling after three weeks.
Me: Wow! That’s a lot of calling. So, you could end up making about 30 calls over the course of three weeks before giving up.
Lead Screener: Yeah.
Me: Some people who use our service will make 1-2 calls and leave one voicemail before giving up on making contact. What would you say to that?
Lead Screener: I wouldn’t advise that. Many of these claimants have a lot of medical and financial issues in their lives, so they will usually not return calls. You have to keep calling until you reach them.
Me: Do you find that the claimants are more receptive to your e-mails or to the actual calls? Do you have any data to show this?
Lead Screener: I don’t have any data, but from my experience, the claimants will reach back to me sometimes through e-mail to let me know that their number has changed or something like that. But, you have to get them on the phone to see if they have a good case.
Me: Do you prioritize the leads you call?
Lead Screener: Yeah. I’ll try to call the ones that seem like they have the best cases first, based on what is written on the form, and then circle back to call the others.
Me: Do you call every lead, regardless of what web form says?
Lead Screener: We call all the leads. Obviously, the ones that seem like better cases will get more attention. But, the case description on the leads is not always accurate, so we call them all back.
Me: That’s good to know. In the end, what percent of the leads do you actually speak with?
Call Center Manager: We typically make contact with 70-75% of the leads.
Me: Many of our clients also ask about how many leads you can realistically expect a staff member to resolve. By “resolve,” I mean to have a conversation with the lead, which would result in the case being either accepted or rejected.
Call Center Manager: We have 15 full-time staff members, in addition to 2 part-time staff members, and their sole responsibility is to call the internet leads. We expect the full-time screeners to resolve about 20 leads per day.
Me: That’s also good to know. Getting back to the actual calling of the leads, clients sometimes ask me how they should introduce themselves on the phone. After all, the claimants fill out the web form on our website, not yours. How do you introduce yourself on the phone?
Lead Screener: Yeah, that’s a good question. I tell them that I am calling about the form they submitted online about their Social Security Disability benefits. A lot these people want to know if they qualify, so I tell them I can conduct a quick five-minute questionnaire, which will tell me whether I think they will be eligible for benefits. I really stress that the questionnaire is quick.
Me: When conducting the questionnaire, how do you know which questions to ask first?
Lead Screener: So I first look for any noticeable holes on the web form. If the form says that the person is not treating with a doctor, I will ask about that. If everything checks out, I then ask the typical stuff like age, work history, etc.
Me: What are some objections you typically face when speaking to claimants on the phone?
Lead Screener: One objection is people not understanding the benefits of having third-party representation. I then let them know how hard the application process is and that the evaluation I give is completely free. I also highlight what we will do for them, such as filing documents and representing them at hearing, and that we don’t get paid unless they are awarded benefits. There will always be some people who just hang up on you. The main thing is to be compassionate, polite, and conversational. Many of these people have a lot of hardship in their lives and are just looking for someone to talk to.
Me: What do you think the most important qualities to look for in a lead screener?
Lead Screener: I would say personability. It’s not too hard to teach someone what to look for in a case, but the person has to know how to converse with the claimants in an informative and compassionate way. Like I said before, many of these people are looking for someone to talk to you, and you have to be able to do that.
I hope this dialogue has underscored the importance of lead follow-up and has shed some light on the skills required to increase your contact rate. A high contact rate represents the first piece required to maximize your return with internet leads. Bear in mind that this is the experience of just one firm. Some firms may not be equipped or desire to perform this level of follow-up. Further, following up in this manner may not guarantee success with internet leads, as there are many other variables involved in determining performance. If you have any questions about this article or would like to talk more about best practices for lead follow-up, please feel free to contact us.
1The reported interview captures the essence of the conversation that occurred between us. For the sake of brevity and clarity, certain sections may have been paraphrased or otherwise modified. Further, many of the conversational pleasantries have been eliminated to keep the article as succinct and as focused as possible.
2This particular firm performs the lead follow-up in-house and does not utilize a third-party call center. Leads received during weekends are called on the next workday.