By Legal Futures’ Associates CILEx Regulation
For many people, comparison and review sites have become part of how they choose products and services. These sites are also gradually playing more of a role in helping consumers choose legal services. Find out how comparison sites can help consumers choose a law firm and how legal regulators are working to bring together comparison sites and law firms.
Serenaded to “go compare” and urged by meerkats to “compare the market”, most people have used comparison websites as part of their journey to choose the right product or service. This is particularly true for purchases such as car and home insurance, air flights, home utilities and credit cards. Comparison sites have developed to assist consumers by taking the leg work out of finding prices and other information on a range of goods and services. They bring products together in one place and offer information on a variety of factors, in a uniform way, to help consumers decide what best suits their needs.
There are different types of comparison sites, from simple “best buy” tables to sophisticated automated “price comparison websites”. Using the sites often leads to saving money, and people often buy or switch services through the sites.
Many comparison websites supply reviews as part of the choice-making information. There are also standalone review websites which only host customer reviews.
Customers’ reviews are collected and presented in a variety of ways. Customers may be asked to provide a star rating, or add comments in a free-text box, or a combination of both, which are simply published on the review site. Some sites ask customers to give a rating in response to a set of satisfaction questions. These are then published on the site along with customer scores for each question. Other sites use technology to convert such responses into an overall rating for a supplier.
Review sites have taken various steps to help consumers trust their reviews. These include stating whether the reviewer is a verified purchaser and enabling suppliers to leave replies to customer reviews.
Choosing a law firm
When someone finds themselves with a legal problem, they want to find a law firm that offers the legal work needed, compare services and prices offered and judge which firm will deliver a good and timely service.
A sensible approach is to draw up a shortlist of firms, using a variety of approaches including online searches, recommendations, and comparison and review websites.
Regulated firms must meet the minimum standards set for them by their regulators, so consumers can expect them to be competent, to behave ethically and to offer a set level of redress if anything goes wrong. However, like any service, the quality provided may vary between different law firms. Some firms may have expertise in specific areas of law. Certain services may be offered in a highly personalised way, while others may be provided via a standardised “no frills” delivery model.
There are now a growing number of comparison and review sites specific to legal services, where consumers can see what other people are saying about law firms and what ratings they have.
By looking at several reviews, consumers can gain a balanced picture of a firm. No business gets it right all the time, so one negative review does not mean a firm will not provide a quality service. If there are several negative reviews, consumers might want to think carefully about whether a firm is right for them. It is important to read any responses from firms to customer reviews, to understand the firm’s point of view and how they deal with customer dissatisfaction. Things can go wrong, so a firm that is proactive in putting it right will be good to deal with.
Bringing comparison and review sites together with law firms
Along with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, CILEx Regulation has launched a pilot scheme which brings together law firms and comparison website providers. The aim is to increase the number of consumers leaving and reading customer reviews about law firms, in particular regarding house buying and employment law.
The comparison and review websites taking part collect and publish customer reviews. Some of these sites will publish reviews on any law firm, others only publish reviews about law firms who have signed up to their services. Some of the sites provide other comparison information about the services provided. The sites are:
We have given these providers a voluntary code of conduct, setting out the standards we expect of these sites to ensure they are independent, transparent and fair to both consumers and the firms they provide information about.
Leaving a review
People use law firms at crucial moments in their lives. As well as getting value-for-money, good customer service is important. However, finding out whether a firm’s customers have had a good experience can be difficult. People may ask someone to make a recommendation, but even this is unlikely to give an overall picture of whether a firm provides good customer service.
Online reviews can help potential customers. A one-off review may not be so helpful. Every firm can occasionally provide an outstanding or poor service. Yet if more customers leave reviews, everyone gets a more reliable picture which can help consumers more easily pick out firms who consistently provide good service.
This is why we want to encourage more people to use and leave reviews on these sites.
Leaving a helpful review
It is recognised that most people do not understand technical legal work and they are not expected to review this. Consumers want to know about a firm’s customer service and whether the person leaving the review would be happy to use them again. Everyone can comment on that.
Research shows good customer service really matters when using a law firm. It is helpful to think about some of the following questions when writing a review.
- Were the firm empathetic and interested in your case?
- Did you feel listened to?
- Did the firm provide you with the information and advice you needed in a way you could understand?
- Were the firm easy to contact?
- Were you kept informed about what was happening?
- Were any documents they produced accurate and well written?
- Would you recommend the firm to a friend?
It is important that customers leave fair and honest reviews. Just like any business, law firms can take action if a customer says something about them publicly which is not true.
A firm does not like a review
No one likes to find out that their client is unhappy with the service they provided and that potential clients are reading about it. Review sites allow firms to respond and leave their point of view in response to a review about them on the site.
However, firms should not be forceful or pressure a client into removing a review. If a person feels a firm has behaved in this way, they are encouraged to speak to the review site and contact the firm’s regulator.
Complaints to firms and reviews
All firms must have a complaints procedure, and if a client is unhappy, they should make a complaint to the firm so it can try to resolve the problem.
Whether or not a person complains to a firm, they can still leave a review. If someone has not complained directly to the firm, it may ask them, in a response to the review, to contact the firm. It can then understand the concerns and try to resolve them.
Regulators encourage firms to resolve customer dissatisfaction, but it is up to clients to get in touch with the firm first so they can do this.
No information about a firm
If there is no information about a firm on a comparison site, most law firms have websites. If a person has a firm in mind, or has narrowed down options to a few firms, they can find information about the firm’s services by visiting their website.
CILEx Regulation rules require their firms that offer legal services for home buying to publish information about the services they offer, including details on how services are delivered and prices. Firms must also display a digital logo on their website so consumers have the confidence that they are dealing with a genuine firm.
Firms can also be contacted, via email or phone, for more information or a discussion about a person’s specific circumstance, so they can decide whether they want to work with the firm.
With the pilot now underway, we will gain increased insight into the working of comparison sites and their role as quality indicators for consumers in the legal sector.