Lawyers need to prepare for “customer service revolution”

Anwar: you have to prove to potential clients that they should instruct you

Anwar: you have to prove to potential clients that they should instruct you

A regulatory agenda that is looking to help consumers shop around for legal advice means that many law firms are running out of time to get to grips with customer service, a report being launched at today’s PI Futures conference has warned.

But it identified several “beacons of best practice in the profession that demonstrate the small and big changes that can be made to create a customer journey that delivers results”.

The report, by leading marketing collective and conference sponsor First4Lawyers, also highlighted the trends that firms need to address, such as the need to have a fully automated online offer and the growth of comparison websites.

It said the pressure is coming from the Competition and Markets Authority, which is looking to improve transparency of both price and service quality in the legal market so that consumers can more accurately judge what they are buying and from whom they should buy it.

The report quotes Cripps’ chief operating officer Christina Blacklaws – also the Law Society’s Deputy Vice-President – as saying: “Being a really good technical lawyer is taken as read, so what else are you going to be able to provide for your client?

“You need a deep and rich understanding of that client’s journey. I think a lot of people who are good at this do it intuitively. But there’s no room for complacency – not in our competitive market.

“Even clients who have been loyal to firms for years may walk away these days. There isn’t any certainty you will be able to keep the client unless you’re providing them with a fabulous service. It helps to have a good understanding of project management and process mapping of client journeys within the firm. Then you can re-engineer your systems to create a best practice approach and train your colleagues to embed a new, more efficient and client-centred culture.”

North-west firm Stephensons, meanwhile, has a client loyalty scheme called Constant, which provides a variety of legal tips, guides, how-to videos, fixed price services and discounts – for example, it offers a 50% discount on storing goods when clients move house, and a free counselling service for clients who have had a bereavement or are getting divorced.

Business development consultant Professor Ian Cooper wrote in the report: “When did a client last tell you that your drafting skills were impressive? Clients will not judge you just by your legal ability, but by how they were made to feel.”

First4Lawyers managing director Qamar Anwar said: “It is all very well getting the phone to ring or email to ping, but you then have to prove to potential clients that they should instruct you. In our experience, many solicitors still have a long way to go on this, despite the obvious business imperatives to prioritise it. As our report explains, there is very good reason to address this issue.”

The report also said lawyers needed to consider the major technology driven changes that would impact the way they dealt with clients, such as a fully automated online offer – with many consumers now expecting automation in their dealings with service providers – the fact that comparison websites will be the norm and that “big data will drive everything”.

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