In the last of three articles concerning client care letters (CCLs), CILEx Regulation’s consumer engagement and policy officer, Sue Chandler, explains why CCLs are a great opportunity to win over your client.
Let’s be honest, we all like an easy life! So, it follows that lawyers will make their CCLs an easy read for their clients, doesn’t it? Well, actually, no. Many clients find the CCL they receive far from easy to engage with according to research published in November 2016.1
We have become familiar with communicating by sparsely worded texts and gathering information through infographics. Consequently, clients are ill-equipped to navigate a CCL resembling a chapter from War and Peace.
The research provides eight key principles to follow when preparing a CCL (see Figure 1). The principles have been built taking account of the EAST framework developed by the behavioural insight team. The framework describes four general principles that should be used to encourage engagement: make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely.2 We look at principles 6, 7 and 8 in this article.
Principle 6: highlight key information
Simplify navigation through your CCL by making key information straightforward to pick out.
Achieve this by:
- using bold text to highlight essential elements, for example, estimated costs;
- making use of imagery so details stand out, such as summary boxes for a glossary or key information;
- providing information in tables (see Figure 2 below);
- listing content, for example, displaying a complaints procedure as a staged process; and using subheadings throughout, so content of greater relevance can be quickly identified.
Principle 7: make it easy to read
A CCL that gives the initial impression of being easy to read is vital to getting your client’s engagement with the content. Aim to:
Use a font size of at least 12: This is more inviting to read. Individuals with visual impairments find a small font size a fundamental barrier.
Prepare short paragraphs: Dense text is often skim read, or ignored, leading to vital details being missed.
Separate out content: Breaking down information makes it more visually appealing, less daunting and easier to manage. There are various ways to do this, including:
- bullet points;
- tables; and
- a staged process for complex content (see Figure 3 below).
Principle 8: consider additional opportunities to engage
Consider alternative ways to provide information which clients view as less relevant at the beginning of a case, such as terms of business and details of your complaints procedure. While you cannot make clients read these details, it is essential that they are aware they are available, particularly because much of this information is a regulatory requirement. Clients’ interaction can be improved by:
Separating out information: Remove generic information from the CCL by providing it in leaflets and signposting to the leaflet in the CCL. Avoid the dangers leading from your client discarding the leaflet by e-mailing a copy later.
Sending reminders: Clients are more receptive to certain information as the case progresses. Details such as your complaints process may be more relevant once the case is underway, and particularly closer to completion when clients are more aware of the service they have received.
- How easy is it to engage with your CCL?
- Have you ever put it to the test?
- Why not ask a family member or friend to read through your letter and give feedback?
- How many tweaks will you make to your CCL this month to gain even better client satisfaction?
1 Research into Client Care Letters: qualitative research report, available here.
2 EAST: Four simple ways to apply behavioural insights, available here.