By: 22 September 2016
Lawyers running out of time to prepare for customer service revolution

Many law firms are running out of time to get to grips with the new realities of customer service, according to a new report from First4Lawyers.

The independent legal marketing collective, based in Huddersfield, has warned that lawyers need to wake up to the fact that the profession’s regulators are looking to help consumers shop around for legal advice.

The report comes on the back of news that the Competition and Markets Authority 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.

First4Lawyers talked to a number of firms as it worked on the report and found that they all recognised that there was room for improvement when it came to dealing with clients.

According to the marketing collective’s research, only 26% of firms use online feedback sites to gain client feedback and only 41% have given fee-earners customer service training. 61% said that they were trying to better understand their clients, but recognised that they still had some way to go

Cripps’ chief operating officer Christina Blacklaws, who is also the Law Society’s Deputy Vice-President, said: “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.”

Professor Ian Cooper, a business development consultant to the legal profession, writes 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.”

First4Lawyer managing director Qamar Anwar said that proving that lawyers deserve to be instructing by a client was becoming ever more important.

“In our experience, many solicitors still have a long way to go on this, despite the obvious business imperatives to prioritise it,” he said.

The report also says that lawyers need to consider the major technology driven changes that will impact the way they deal with clients, such as a fully automated online offer. It predicts that many clients will soon expect automation in their dealings with service providers, with comparison websites becoming the normal route to firms.

It also gives some tips for firms to improve their customer service, including making someone responsible for training all staff in making the right impression and imposing firm-wide policies for response times to email and telephone enquiries.