Does your firm truly understand your clients’ needs?

The next in our Risk Outlook 2016 series looks into the importance of catering your service to manage needs of all clients.

Uprooting their lives and making a new home is high on the list of the most stressful times in any person’s life. It’s a conveyancer’s duty to ensure this process runs smoothly and to reduce the impact this process has on their clients.

When you consider which of your clients you’d deem to be “vulnerable” you may automatically think about the elderly or those with a certain degree of disability. However, in truth, all conveyancing clients could be deemed vulnerable, due to the sensitive nature of the process and the risk of emotional impact that any mishaps may have on the client.

Having a high standard of service means being able to cater for the needs of a wide variety of people – those who step through your door and those who you may not have met face-to-face. All prospective and retained clients are just as important as the next. That said, a survey conducted by Shopper Anonymous revealed there are certain forms of enquiry that are being missed entirely, which means lost business opportunities, as well as impact on the perception of the firm.

Standards and vulnerability – overview

Communication and understanding the needs of clients are the basis for this group of risks within the Risk Outlook 2016/17. Where this is particularly applicable to conveyancing is how you can help clients through this stressful time. Effective communication could be the difference between a happy client who becomes a lifelong user of your firm’s services (cross-departmental) or a heavily delayed transaction which could have a negative impact on the reputation of your firm as well as your client’s quality of life.

In Spring, the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) published guidance for conveyancers on how to keep clients on side, after revealing conveyancing made up nearly a quarter (23%) of all complaints in 2015. This is mirrored within the Risk Outlook 2016, where residential property is on the list of areas of law which receive the highest volume of complaints. That said, the SRA have also said overall volume of complaints being referred to the LeO since 2011 has reduced by 3%, meaning firms have been able to manage an increasing amount on issues in-house.

Standards and vulnerability – actions

Review complaints processes. Establishing and maintaining processes within a firm can prove very difficult, but given the figures, it is particularly imperative for conveyancing departments to put effective complaints procedures in place. Having a named contact for each client is an increasing trend in many firms and can help with this, or having certain members of the team manage this as part of their role.

Check relevance and quality of training for all staff. All client-facing staff should be well trained on speaking with clients of all backgrounds and abilities. Consider the employees who are the first point of contact in particular and ensure they are given the tools they need in order to represent your firm in the best way possible. Correct referrals and speedy follow-ups mean your clients have less time waiting and worrying and will trust your ability to keep them informed.

Go above and beyond. Conveyancing certainly isn’t a typical 9-5 profession, and the most client-focussed firms are now catering for the needs of the individuals by working late evenings and weekends in order to reflect their dedication to good customer service and adaptability. Consider the small changes that could be made in order to make the greatest impact and prove that you are the right choice for conveyancing services in your area.

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