Basic skills: client phone calls
It should be a simple task but many trainees find calling a client a daunting prospect. For most of us, it stems from not wanting to look incapable, the fear of not having an answer and the (highly unlikely) possibility of the client being so unimpressed by you that they cease to instruct your firm.
While it is possible that awkward phone conversations with a client can occur, there are a few common sense things that you can do to try and avoid this:
1. Plan your greeting
When you have a lot of information in your head ready to relay it is easy to forget that you need to greet the person you are calling in a professional manner. You may also have to ask to speak to that person. Make sure that you have your greeting ready which states who you are, where you are calling from and the full name of who you wish to speak to.
2. Plan what you are going to say /ask
I find it helpful to jot a few bullet points down before the call so that I know what I am going to say. That way if your mind goes blank mid-call, you have something to jog your memory. It will also ensure that you don't forget to ask something and have to call back.
3. Be brave enough to tell the client that you don't know
Although some clients may expect you to know everything about the law and every detail of the matter, the reality is that this is never the case. It is possible that a client will ask you something which you simply do not know the answer to. In these situations you should never try and blag an answer which later turns out to be wrong. Have the courage to admit that you don’t know, but tell the client that you will find out for them. And then make sure you or the fee-earner you are working with does get back to them on this point. It will be difficult to regain a client's trust if they find out that you have given them a wrong answer.
4. Note down what the client says
This is a tip to prevent you coming off the phone and realising you haven't taken in anything that the client has said. Have a notepad in front of you to write down information as the client is speaking. Take down quick points rather than verbatim as the client is likely to be busy and will not want to wait for long periods so that you can write things down. However, don't be afraid to ask for a couple of moments to make a note or ask them to repeat what they have said. At the end of the day, there is no point in calling if you do not get the information you need.
After a few conversations over the phone it will get easier and you will realise that clients are just normal people and (usually) won't try to intimidate you or purposefully ask questions that you don't know.
Using these tips has helped me to become confident when speaking to clients over the phone. Now when I am required to do so, I see it as an opportunity to get exposure with clients instead of a potentially intimidating situation.