In this webinar, Dan Couvrette speaks with Mike Melis from Kenect. They discuss how text messages can help increase your leads, improve your online reputation, and more.

Dan Couvrette: Welcome, everyone, to this Family Lawyer Magazine webinar featuring Kenect. My name is Dan Couvrette. I’m the publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. Our webinar today is titled ‘Increasing your caseload using text messaging.’ Our guest speaker today is Mike Melis from Kenect. Mike, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and give us the lowdown on how people can make great money using texting?

Mike Melis: I appreciate that. Dan, we’re excited to be here. We work with quite a few attorneys across North America using our platform. We’ll chat a little bit about that. I am the head of business development here. The goal we have today is to talk about increasing your caseload using text messaging, why you should be thinking about text messaging, and how it could be beneficial to you in a few different ways in your practice.

I think the goal of any webinar is to take away one or two things that you could implement into your practice. We’re going to talk about a few of those things that are facilitated via text message, and hopefully, you take a few things away from it today. I’m going to jump right in and talk a little bit about Kenect for those of you who may be unfamiliar with who we are.

We’re a text messaging platform. We’ve got firms throughout North America using our solution. When you think about texting, a lot of people think: ‘I don’t want to text clients on my cell phone.’ We’re going to talk about doing it differently. It’s business texting, but not over your personal phone. We help with four things, one of them being how to communicate more effectively and efficiently with your clients in a way that they want to communicate with you. We’re also going to talk about generating more leads and growing your caseload. Collecting payments via text message is also an effective way to get paid by your clients. By collecting those payments over text messages, and then driving online reviews, you can maximize efficiency. And that’s what Kenect does.

Managing and driving online reviews on Google and Facebook is really beneficial. You’re growing your caseload, growing your practice, and you’re getting the reviews. This can all be turned into future business. So we’ll be talking about a few of these things and how you can put a few of them in place today to grow your practice. And that’s what we do.

But before we do that, I want to talk about the old tried and true methodologies for communication that every attorney out there is using and why some of them are a little less effective now than they used to be. The first is the phone. Some reports suggest that about half of the calls that we get on our phones now are spam calls, and if you think about your phone as well, the phone app on your smartphone is the fifth most-used app on your phone. Four other apps supersede the phone app on your phone, so it’s just less effective and less used for some of those reasons. Here’s why: a lot of us don’t pick up the phone anymore. Only 10% of us are willing to take a call from a toll-free number, only 15% of us will take a call from a different area code, and only 30% of us are willing to take a call from an unknown number (but for me, that’s zero percent).

Phone calls also just take a lot more time. Texting and email are efficient, quick methods for communication. A phone call can take two minutes or more. We’re all time-crunched. There’s even technology now that’s making it a little more challenging to reach your clients by phone. Apple, in this case, introduced a feature in one of their latest iterations of iOS that if you’re not in their inbox, if they don’t have your phone number saved, the call will go straight to voicemail.

Email is getting a little challenging as well. About half of the emails we receive now is spam, we all get a ton of messages coming into our inbox every day. I’ve got a friend who was super proud of all of his unread emails, so he took a picture of his home screen. It was interesting to see that he had over 100,000 unread emails on his phone. He was excited that he had reached that threshold, that he had a bunch of unread emails and unopened voicemails, with zero unread text messages. When Kenect talks about texting, we’re talking about business texting. The number reaching out is your firm’s number, not your personal number or any of your staff. It’s coming from a centralized phone number for the firm that can be sent from any device. This helps you respond and communicate with clients anywhere that you’ve got an internet connection. It could be your mobile phone using an app, but it could also be on your desktop. Anywhere you’ve got a connection, you can log in and reply and send messages back and forth with clients.

Here are just a couple of interesting statistics around this. Pew Research did a survey and they found that 89% of clients would prefer to interact via text message rather than a phone call. It’s a timely form of communication. 98% of all text messages are opened and 95% are read within three minutes. If you pull up your smartphone right now and look at the bottom of your homepage, you probably have unread emails, and you probably have very few unread text messages. Your clients are seven times more likely to respond to a text message than they are to a voicemail. Clients want a different experience there. They use text in many other aspects of their life, and they would prefer to communicate over text. It’s an efficient way to communicate with your clients.

Oftentimes we get questions about an older client base. Can they handle texting? Would they want to do that? The answer is, regardless of the age group, your clients are texting in some aspect of their life. Younger people use text in virtually every aspect of their life. It’s kind of a ubiquitous tool in that age group, but even as you get kind up in the age brackets, even your older clients are texting. They’re texting with family, friends are texting with service providers. It’s a tool we’re all familiar with, and it’s a tool that facilitates communication with clients in lots of different areas of their life.

These are a few of the ways that firms are using text messaging to communicate with clients, everything from scheduling appointments, to sending reminders, to sending quick case updates. It’s an effective tool. The intake process with clients is effective over text messaging. For clients that collect fees and retainers, you can do that through texts as well. It’s just one quick button to send a payment request. It’s a full-featured tool and allows you to send and receive virtually anything including documents, PDFs, attachments, videos, and more. Clients can send you evidence, and you can send them documents back and forth.

We’re also going to talk about reviews, why those are important, and why they matter. It’s easy to ask for clients to put a little review out there for you on Google or Facebook using text messaging.

Capturing leads from Facebook, Instagram, and your website is also easy using text messaging. We’re going to talk a little bit about a widget that we help with on your website that allows you to start those text communications right from your website and also with Facebook and Instagram. If you don’t have a profile page on Facebook and Instagram, it’s something that you should think about. These platforms have over one billion active users, and inside of Kenect, we pull the messaging from Facebook and Instagram directly into our platform as well, so it’s just like a text message on your side. It gives another channel for clients to find you and interact with you directly from a space that they’re using every day and that they’re familiar with.

Giving clients the capability to reach out and communicate with you over a texting widget on your website effectively gives your clients an alternative form of communication. You may have a ‘contact us’ page where they fill out a form with predefined, required fields that you may want them to fill out. For some clients, it may not be the right form of communication for them. That ‘text us’ button gives us a simple way for clients to start to engage with you. It’s a little less intimidating. It’s a quick, easy engagement. One firm that started using a text messaging widget on their site saw a pretty dramatic increase in the number of leads that had been captured from their site. Every firm we talked to is trying to do their best to drive traffic to their site, but capturing those leads is a different story. Getting them to come to your site and engage with you is a whole different scenario, and giving them an easy way to do that is a great idea. In this case, this firm has a few different areas of practice, so they’re giving a few options here.

If you’re specifically just a family law firm, you can customize the buttons. What this does is the client or potential client fills it out. They give a name and number, and they start a message. The team can communicate back and forth. Different members of the team can be assigned to handle those messages, but you’ve got all the information coming into one central spot. So you’ve got visibility at the firm level, but from a client-side, they’ve now transitioned. They’re not stuck in front of their computer. They might be in the boardroom at work, in a meeting, at the doctor’s office, in your car, in between meetings, things of that nature. Your clients want that capability, and they don’t want to be stuck in front of their computer when trying to communicate with you. They might not be able to take a phone call, but they can send a text message, and so it transitions them, and you can do that from your inbox or on your desktop.

We also have a nice mobile app that has all the same functionality. It allows you to send and receive messages, use templates, send documents, photos, and more. We also have what are called ‘quick replies,’ which is for those messages that you send over and over again, things like your business hours, directions to the office, directions to the courthouse, if you want to ask for a review, if you want to, ask for a payment, and more. All those tools are built right into the system that makes it easy and quick to communicate, and you’ve got all that history of that communication with this client. For example, if you wanted to click the payment button, when you click that, it allows you to request payment from a client. So just inside of a text message, you can click that payment icon, and enter the details. In this case, it’s requesting 3000 for a retainer. When we do that, the client gets a little link with your logo and a payment request. When they click it, here’s what pops up on their side. They complete the transaction, they fill out their card information, and then they make the payment. On your side, all of that is stored inside of the transaction history, so for clients that do want the capability to pay via text, they can do it using Kenect pay. You can simply copy that link into a text message with a client. It’s a nice way to collect payments should you need that.

I want to shift gears just a bit here. I want to jump into reviews. Every firm that we talked to is trying to grow their practice and they’re trying to leverage any tool they can to get their name out there and drive traffic to their site. If you think about your online reputation, we’ve got a platform that helps you manage that and pulls in reviews from Google and Facebook and lets you manage those.

Here’s why reviews matter. The days of relying on just clients sending a recommendation and word of mouth still happens, but most of your potential new clients will be finding you on the internet. They’re going to Google and typing in ‘family law firm near me.’ So 81% of your clients are going to use reviews as their first step.  88% of your clients trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation or someone who might have referred them, and 87% won’t consider a firm that has a low online rating. This is something that should be on your radar. If you’re not thinking about your online reputation, you should, because this is what your clients are seeing when they go on Google. They start the search for a firm to solve their problem. Harvard Business Review did a study on this, and what they found is Google’s Map Pack. Google Map Pack gets 500% more views than your website. And according to Harvard, a one-star increase in your ratings can equate to about a 5 to 9% increase in revenue. That’s why it’s so important to manage that online reputation. And as you can see here, these firms here have done quite a bit of work to get good reviews and get good ratings. We’re going to talk about how to get those, and how having a process in place is something you can start doing right now.

The firm at the top of search engines will most likely get the phone call. If they’ve got 167 reviews and five-star reviews, they’re probably going to get picked even over some other popular firms. This is because they’ve done the work to be there. Here’s what your clients are looking for in those reviews in that Map Pack. They’re looking for five-star reviews, and they’re looking for recency. Most of us disregard older reviews, and we also tend not to trust them. And when a company has under 50 reviews, most of us tend to think that those reviews are friends and family, which is probably the case. So we tend not to trust reviews until a company has over 50 of them. Amazon has trained us well on this. We look for stars, recency, quantity, etc.

Another thing we have found is owner responses to reviews. Responses to reviews that your clients are leaving for you, good or bad, is the second thing they’re going to look at. It gives them a little insight into how the relationship might go with you. They want to see how you respond to those reviews, so it’s an important part of the process.

Getting reviews can also sometimes be a bit challenging. Lots of firms just try asking for reviews in person or by asking you to send an email. What we have found is that asking for reviews via text message is significantly more effective – about 200% more effective than just asking for the reviews. When you’re interacting with a client, one thing that’s easy to do is say: ‘hey, we just solved this challenge for you, would you mind filling out a review for us? If you don’t mind, I’m going to send it to you by text message.’ And if you’ve texted with them in the past, this is going to be familiar. You’re taking friction out of the process of them wondering how they would fill out a review for you. You send a text saying it was a pleasure working with them and leave a link asking them to leave a review. They click that link.

We’re trying to make this process simple. We give them a couple of options of where to leave the review, and they make their selection there. In this case, we’re going to walk you down the Google path here. Adam, in this case, is on his phone, he’s signed into Google at some point, so it automatically pops him up. All he’s got to do is select the number of stars and enter a sentence or two about, how great you guys are. Now you’ve got a great new review from a great client. Many forms don’t have a process that’s formalized for gathering reviews, and what we found is that having a process is an important part of getting reviews. A lot of firms take an organic approach to reviews where they just kind of hope that their best clients are going to go out and leave reviews, and that’s not what happens. Oftentimes, when a client has had a bad experience, they’ll take the time to go and leave a review and try to make their mark. And when you put a process in place to manage that and make sure you’re asking for reviews at the right time, and that you have a repeatable process, you’ll get great reviews from your clients. This makes it easy for them to leave reviews. I’ve got a couple of slides to wrap up here, but I also just got a question:

Is there a way to get an anonymous review if a client doesn’t want to leave their name? 

We deal with many different specialties within the law. We’ve got divorce lawyers, family attorneys, we’ve got attorneys that are defense attorneys handling criminal cases. In those cases, clients are unlikely to want to leave their name. So yes, they can leave them anonymously.

I also have a few slides about why text messaging is important to you and your family law firm. We have certain goals. We want to help you communicate more effectively and also help you generate more leads. This tends to be the overarching theme for most clients who want to add text messaging to their communication options. They want to generate more leads and grow their business. Most of the firms we work with see about a 260% increase in new leads from their website.

If you do need help collecting payments, that’s also effective over text messaging. It’s an efficiency tool as well. If you think about the time that your staff may be spending trading voicemails, there’s a lot of that voicemail tag that happens. And oftentimes, they’re just simple things that a client needs or you need from a client. Text messaging is efficient at those types of communications. There is also a significant decrease in the time to get paid if you’re using text messaging to request payments, and then a huge increase in the number of online reviews that can be gathered using text messaging. So these are effective tools that help you become more efficient and also grow your practice.

The goals for most firms are to attract and convert more new clients and stand out. They also want to generate more online reviews. And Kenect gives your clients a fantastic experience when they’re communicating with you. The number one complaint that bar associations typically report is communication. When there are issues with clients it is typically a lack of communication, and text messaging helps solve that. It also helps increase your conversation rates for the folks that find you and get to your website. That’s what Kenect is all about.

How long does it take to get started?

Our goal with new clients is to get them started within 14 days. That’s from the time that somebody reaches out to us. We sign them up with Kenect to the point where they’re up, we’ve either converted their number to a number they can text from, or they’ve got a number. Once we’ve done all the training and got the widget on your website, it’s about two weeks. It’s a simple process. Also, I don’t have a slide in here that talks about this, but we are connected with many of the case management systems out there: PracticePanther, Clio, etc., where all the text messages synchronize back over into your case management system as well. We were just picked by Clio as one of their top new integrations at their annual meeting, which they just had just a few days ago. All of those messages are archived and become part of that client record, which is hard if you’re doing text messages just over your personal number. Oftentimes, those don’t make it back into the client record. And so we can make those part of your client record as well.

Is it a-one year commitment?

Yes, it is. It’s a 12-month commitment. Our sales team can help if you have specific questions about what it would take to get started. We can have them reach out to you. You can either pay monthly or you can pay it all upfront. You get about a 15% discount if you pay for the year upfront.

You as the divorce lawyer and your staff can communicate to people who are texting you, right? It doesn’t all just depend on the lawyer to do the communicating?

Yes. Let me jump back a couple of slides here to make that abundantly clear. You’ll see that different messages are assigned to different individuals. As a partner, you may want some oversight into everything that’s going in. You may have an intake specialist that handles the preliminary initial conversations that come in, and they do that intake process. This can include answering a few questions, to scheduling a meeting with an attorney or paralegal. That conversation can be assigned to a team or individual. Then they’ll start seeing those messages and they can respond. So yes, the responsibility can be shared, it does not have to be just one person. It isn’t just contingent on the attorney. If you’re text messaging with clients over your personal number, that tends to be one of the bottlenecks. All the messages come to you directly, and you’ve got to respond to them personally. With a team inbox, everybody can help out with that.

When somebody does become a client, do they tend to change the parameters in terms of communicating with the client? Do they just keep on texting the client, or assign the paralegal or whoever’s going to look after that client?

When you say parameters, what do you mean by that?

There may be an expectation that when you send a text, one of the benefits of texting is that it gets an immediate reply. If you’ve set up your relationship with your client, and they’re always expecting an immediate reply, you may or may not be able to keep up with that as a divorce lawyer, because you’re in court and dealing with other clients, etc. Part of just setting up parameters might include saying ‘I’ll get back to you within three hours,’ or ‘I’ll get back to you within a day,’ or ‘John, my assistant will get back to you.’  Do you have some guidance you would give lawyers based on your experience on how to set up their communication? 

I think text messaging has inherently two thoughts there. One is that a text conversation can happen over a long period, but you can also set the expectation with clients and say ‘we will get back to you.’ You can even have autoresponders on text messages, so if you’re going to be unavailable, you can have a message that comes in handy as a response. I also think that explaining upfront that you have an amazing text messaging tool helps. That way you can explain that the replies may not always be immediate, but you will try to get back to them just as quickly as you can. I think that’s part of managing that expectation upfront with the client. I also think that a shared inbox leads to better communication as opposed to a ‘contact us’ box. Clio did a study on that and found that only about 50% of those get responded to. Many clients also feel that filling out the ‘contact us’ form might be a dead-end for them.

I just want to make one last comment, at least from my point of view as a marketing guy working with family lawyers for 25 years. I suggest that they seriously consider adding the ability to text potential clients and current clients. We spend a lot of time working with clients on their websites and other marketing efforts including pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, and more. And if you can add something to your practice, it’s going to increase the results from all that work, because it’s a lot of work to set up websites and do the marketing for the websites. I highly recommend that people seriously consider this. There are lots of people in the world who will only text. They will not pick up the phone, they will not email. These people love texting and only text, and they’re not going to change. You could lose them as a potential client if you’re not willing to change, so I highly recommend the system that Kenect is offering.

I agree. I have a few of those people in my life as well. I have one friend who has a voicemail which says ‘do not leave me a voicemail, send me a text message, I will not respond to your voicemail.’ So I think it’s a form of communication that is here to stay. And it’s one that is a very effective tool as well. I think anytime that you can meet your clients where they are, you’re going to see results.

No family law firm says ‘I have too many leads.’ They’re doing a lot of work in some form or fashion to drive traffic to their website and to communicate with their clients. I think giving your clients one more way to communicate with you is effective. It meets them where they are. It’s always a great idea.

If the system is not integrated with Kenect, can you download the text correspondence with a client to save to their file?’ 

The answer is 100% yes. I think it’s two clicks. You can drop the entire document into a PDF, and you can save it right into their file as well. If we don’t have a connection with your case management system, or if you have

an in-house system that we may not be connected with, we can 100% still do it.

If there are other questions, feel free to reach out. We’re always happy to hear from clients and potential clients and people that just want to learn more about texting. We’d be happy to help in any way that we can.

Mike, I want to thank you for your time. And thank you to the folks who are listening in. It’s been a real pleasure to listen to you talk about your company and what you can do. Again, I highly recommend that people text or send an email if you wish, and see how this can benefit your family law firm.

I appreciate your time, Dan.