Should Law Firms Use Chatbots Rather Than Mobile Forms?
BY Virginia Mayo
You may have noticed that Chatbots are replacing mobile contact forms. The trend is not limited to retailers, airlines and hotels. It is also taking place on law firm websites. Should law firms abandon mobile forms and go entirely to Chatbots? Mobile forms may still have a place, especially on law firm sites, where the law firm invites the client to sign up for an appointment and describe their legal problems. Nonetheless, law firms deciding to stay with mobile forms should take a good look at the advantages of Chatbots.
How Chatbots work
Chatbots are analogous to virtual assistants.
A computer program stimulates a conversation using audio or text. Operating from a set of predefined instructions, the computer program delivers conversation in a simulated human voice or through words in a text box. Consumers access Chatbots through chat tools like Facebook Messenger. Many law firms use ApexChat for their live chat software and service.
Mobile app use
In 2008, the Apple Store launched mobile programs that became known as apps. Users have downloaded billions of apps from the Apple Store alone. The use of apps went from smartphones to tablets, watches, laptops and televisions. By 2015, the use of apps peaked and began to level out. As the market became flooded with apps, users began to worry about space and usage time. Retailers, airlines and food chains found a new way to reach consumers by using Chatbots.
Law firm's use of a Chatbot
When you click on a law firm's website, within seconds a Chatbot will appear. Why are so many law firms turning to Chatbots?
- Convenience: Many clients find lawyers online. Someone looking for a lawyer will do a Google search for lawyers who practice in a particular area or who have an office in a particular location. Even if a friend recommends a lawyer, a potential client will probably go online to do some independent research. The potential client will see the Chatbot on their phone or laptop and start a chat. It is easier than calling the firm or browsing the firm's website.
- Keeping the client on the website: The potential client can use a Chatbot to engage in a virtual conversation. The client does not have to browse the website to find a form to complete to make an appointment.
- 24/7 assistance: The Chatbot is available at any time of the day and on weekends. The potential client does not have to leave a message and wait for a return call. The Chatbot can be programmed to answer questions. For starters, a law firm can program information on each attorney and on what areas of law the firm practices. After using the Chatbot for some time, the firm can program other questions that come up most often.
- Time management: The Chatbot can perform tasks that will free lawyers and their staff for more pressing matters. For example, a caller may want to know directions or if the firm offers a free consultation, and a Chatbot can answer such questions.
- Simplifying the process: Filling out a mobile contact form can get complicated. The user may fail to complete a field or may find the form too long. A Chatbot can give the user choices for answers and make the process less difficult.
- Gaining clients: The potential client may give their contact information and a description of their legal matter on the Chatbot. The potential client may not want to go through the time and trouble of leaving a phone message or filling out an online form.
- Keeping up with the competition: Many law firms are using Chatbots. Some potential clients may expect a law firm to have a Chatbot and move on to another firm when searching for a lawyer if a firm does not have one.
- Class actions: Law firms can use Chatbots to let clients know about potential class actions. For example, the law firm may be bringing a case for patients harmed by a side effect of a prescription drug. Chatbots can reach out to clients through SMS text messaging. Mail gets thrown away, email messages get deleted, but people often respond to text messages and engage in a virtual conversation.
- Reference to form: A potential client may prefer to fill out a form online describing his or her legal problem. The Chatbot can explain the process.
Use of mobile forms
Mobile forms still serve a purpose. Someone scanning their cellphone or tablet for a law firm may be comfortable with typing in information about a potential case. Law firms should make the process as easy as possible. The potential client will not spend much time looking on the firm's website for a contact form.
The wave of the future
Some surveys suggest some dissatisfaction with Chatbots. According to a 2019 report, a 2018 Helpshift survey of internet users showed 50.7 percent complained of being kept from a live person, 47.5 percent of getting too many unhelpful responses, and 39.5 percent of being redirected to self-serve frequently asked questions. According to a 2019 Spiceworks survey, 59 percent of respondents said Chatbots misunderstood nuances of conversations, 30 percent said Chatbots performed commands inaccurately, and 29 percent said Chatbots had difficulty understanding accents.
As Siri and Alexa – and their equivalents – become more common, the trend toward Chatbots and away from mobile forms seems likely. Society has gone from writing letters to sending emails to texting messages. People want answers to questions instantaneously, and Chatbots fill that need. As Chatbot continues to evolve and solve user issues, a law firm can make Chatbot an integral part of its service to clients and potential clients.
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