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Tales of the Unexpected – from the world of call handling

Law firms have been using outsourced call handling centres to help them manage calls at peak times or to improve client service by better management of their phones however in our latest legalit guest article, Adam Tilson, Head of Call Centres at Direct Response, looks at how having telephone support can also bring some unexpected benefits.

Contingency Planning
Preparing for an unknown or an unseen business threat is notoriously hard, despite the fact that they can cause severe disruption to a law firm’s operation or even a client’s business. Whether it’s a simple thing such as a short term power cut or something more catastrophic like a fire or flood, every day businesses will face threats, yet only a few have adequate contingency plans. No business wants to believe that such incidents would happen to them, while others find it hard to justify the costs to prepare for an incident that may never happen.

However, during a particularly cold snap in February 2009 a serious incident did happen, threatening the operations of one of the City’s leading law firms. Heavy snowfall had caused severe disruption to lawyers heading to their central London offices. At the same time heavy rainfall in the North of England had cause the river Sheaf to burst its banks causing significant flooding in the Sheffield area.

Together the two incidents put one multinational law firm’s operations under serious threat as fee earners were unable to get in to work in London and the firm’s switchboard team was unable to access its Sheffield site due to the building being evacuated due to flood risks. Inbound calls went unanswered and the firm’s employees who had made it in were being pulled in all directions as they tried to cover for colleagues.

The firm already employed Direct Response to manage their “out of hours” and overflow calls and having this facility in place provided an immediate solution. Direct Response was able to quickly and efficiently divert all inbound calls to its own call centre staffed by a team of experienced employees, who were already well versed in handling switchboard calls on behalf of the firm. The calls handled by Direct Response were done so in a prearranged manner and when necessary were forwarded to alternative landlines or mobiles depending on individual lawyer requirements or location. Within fifteen minutes of notifying Direct Response the firm was able to operate with minimal disruption.

Other examples of effective planning include a Magic Circle law firm, with 29 offices across around the world, whose client was being investigated by the authorities. The firm’s client was raided by the authorities early one morning as they looked to secure papers and documents. As the raid was out of hours, the company’s inhouse legal team was not readily available yet the client needed immediate access to legal advice as to their position and whether the documents had to be submitted.

There was significant pressure from the client to get hold of appropriate and immediate legal advice from their retained law firm, yet the team on the ground was completely unaware of who or what office was handling their business at the law firm. Fortunately the law firm had arranged with Direct Response to operate an emergency contact line that would connect any enquiry to an appropriate and fully briefed lawyer 24/7. If a lawyer was unavailable the call would be escalated with the call centre taking complete ownership on getting the call placed.

Using the pre-arranged telephone number, the client was able to immediately call their legal advisors and receive accurate and well briefed legal advice from people who knew their business and the issues they faced. To support the decision making process, the call was escalated internally to help put the law firm and their client on the front foot in managing the process.

As part of Direct Response’s work as an outsourced call handling team they constantly monitor the wider environment for issues that could impact on a client’s business.  Over the last year alone this has included bomb threats, the Olympics, fire drills even a pandemic flu threat. But by working with the client closely you can assess the available options and strategies before any issues arise.

Admittedly not all firms can plan for every scenario or foresee all possible contingency needs, but there remains a requirement for businesses to work smarter and at least show due diligence in their planning, operations and management manuals. For many who choose to use call handling support, whether 24/7 or only out of hours, there can be many unexpected benefits to help manage the unwanted threats.