Being Clear On Transparency
The new Transparency Rules introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last year suggested shortcomings in the way lawyers communicate with the public and implied a change in mindset was needed by a select group of legal services providers, including Conveyancers.
This followed on from the Summary of Responses to the Call for Evidence on ‘Improving the home buying and selling process’ published by the government in April 2018, which called for Conveyancers to provide a better consumer experience.
Under the Rules, not only must practitioners now set out clear pricing structures and explain the key stages in their work, but they should also provide details of their qualifications and their complaints handling procedures.
Conveyancers in particular were instructed to address the level of stamp duty payable, break down the steps involved in the freehold and leasehold purchase process, and indicate the timescales until completion.
While these rules are important and a step in the right direction, they do focus on the information that is provided at the outset. Of course clarity at this point is crucial in helping clients take a view on which conveyancer to instruct, but our duty of transparency must continue until clients pick up their keys, and beyond.
Why is transparency important today?
The world has changed, and so have customers’ demands.
Being open to providing important information about your business will earn you trust and customer loyalty. Clients want to be able to make better decisions not just before they instruct a Conveyancer, but throughout the whole process.
Here are some points to consider in helping Conveyancers be more transparent:
1. LET’S GO ONLINE
Adhering to the new rules is the first step. Having an online presence further offers a unique platform to raise your profile and a means to increase your firm’s transparency. Whether through your website or the array of social media options available, there are opportunities to improve your marketability and service transparency.
2. UNDERSTAND YOUR CLIENT
This is imperative and should be your ethos at all times. Making sure you have a deep understanding and appreciation of your clients’ needs shows emotional transparency. Putting yourself in their shoes will go a long way to establishing a connection with them and show that you are in their corner.
3. EXPLAIN THE PROCESS – AGAIN!
In line with the Rules, you will already have provided information of the conveyancing timetable on your website. This should be reinforced by offering a further summary at the start of the process, tailored to your clients’ circumstances. Not only will this be welcomed by worried homebuyers, but you will benefit from a better understanding of your clients’ particular needs in the process, ensuring you are on the same page every step of the way. Does your client know the difference between exchange and completion? Now is the time to make that clear.
4. “GET REAL”
Frustratingly, all too often clients will have a targeted completion date without prior discussion with you, and with little understanding of the process. Of course, a whole host of factors can make that date slip, so it is important this is explained clearly. Don’t panic – the key to transparency is to manage clients’ expectations and curb their enthusiasm when it is needed. Being straight with them from the start will ensure you build rapport and encourage customer loyalty.
5. BE OPEN
This is crucial, not restricted to the matter in hand, and just requires a change of thinking.
a) Be honest, and don’t promise the world. If you can’t do something, say so, but suggest how you intend to deal with the issue. This will inspire trust and strengthen your relationship.
b) Communication is key. Set aside time to keep clients up to date. It is a good habit to provide an update at important stages during the transaction, which reduces the number of chasers and shows the client you are proactive. And be sure to give them news whether it’s good or bad – they need to know you are on their side.
c) Be available – part of being transparent is being accessible to your client, whether in person, by telephone or email. Having a social media presence demonstrates you are open to all types of communications.
When the work is done and the dust has settled, requesting client feedback shows how much you care. Using the information will ensure you are on track, can assess areas of improvement and help keep lines of communication open.
As scary as the idea of transparency might be, a new approach can help provide new and existing clients with a better consumer experience and take away the stress caused by a lack of clarity and understanding.