Creating great client service

Russell ThomsonRussell Thomson, Chief Business Executive at Eclipse Legal Systems, outlines in a recent LPM Magazine interview how conveyancing could be done so much better… delivering better client service.

Service quality is big at the moment. There’s a lot of talk in legal circles about it, and it’s often accompanied by terms such as ‘client experience’ and ‘client journey’. At long last, how you treat your clients is being accepted by mainstream law firms as a pretty important thing and, as we know, this wasn’t always the case.

There is an old adage that you can have a service with any two of the following three attributes, but you can’t have them all: 1. Cheap; 2. Good; 3. Fast. Though it might sound twee, it’s true all the same – for all commercial enterprises, especially law.

A great example of where cheap doesn’t necessarily make for ‘successful’ business is in conveyancing. For a long time, during the property bubble, conveyancing pricing was driven into the ground by the presence of aggressive competition. But then came the bust that so likes to follow a boom – and we found lots of conveyancing practices (not just conveyancing of course, but let’s stick to that field for this example) could no longer survive.

Now that we’re all operating in a slightly more friendly economic environment, what are we finding? Well, conveyancing prices no longer seem to be rock bottom. In fact, many conveyancers have told me that they are charging more than they ever have. This seems counter-intuitive, but there is sense here.

Throughout the tough times, obviously some conveyancing firms survived to tell the tale. How? In my research it seems to be that a great deal of the survivors all had one thing in common – a dedication to client service. And not just ‘client service’ as a woolly ethos, but with the technology and the mindset to back it up.

So, let’s have a look at a ‘client experience’ and how technology, with a focus on great service, can make the whole thing memorable (in all the right ways).For most people, buying a house is one of the most daunting and stressful experiences in life – especially for those not used to dealing with the legal profession. First contact is therefore important. If the first contact happens online, a nice easy ‘quote’ system that enables the potential client to go ahead with the quote is vital. At the front end, the client completes a form, sees some figures, and hits the ‘yes, let’s do it’ button. At the back end, that’s where it should all start happening.

The details from the quote should be sucked straight into the conveyancer’s case management system to create a client file. Then a text message and email ‘welcome pack’ can be sent automatically to the new client. No manual intervention required, with everything happening quickly and seamlessly.

From this point, a savvy conveyancer should have provided access for the client to a secure online portal. This is where the client then dips into ‘self-service’. From any device (iPhone or iPad, for example) the new client can stay in touch with what’s going on (the actions the conveyancer takes instantly update the client’s portal view of proceedings) and can ask questions regarding the process via a simple messaging system.

Taking it further, the conveyancer should allow their client to personalise the portal. Maybe the client wants to have an image of their new house on the ‘home page’, or have a news feed or FAQs from the conveyancer, where they can be gently guided through the process and perhaps even introduced to complementary services, when the time is right.

At the end of the process, the client feels informed – they feel like they have been a part of the overall journey. Access to information has been instant, it has been on-demand, and it has been available 24/7 on the device of their choosing.

What better time for the conveyancer to issue a satisfaction survey (via the portal of course) and indulge in a bit of cross-selling (a great time to grab a will, for example). A switched-on conveyancer will even ask – at that point – if the happy client can give the contact details of friend or family who is in need of a legal service. And those details, if forthcoming, can be directly imported into the firm’s ‘lead capture’ part of their case management software.

None of this is rocket science – but it does require a focus on technology, and, importantly, how the client interacts with that technology. So it takes thought and investment. But I know of many conveyancers whose dedication to this very thought and investment has seen them survive the tough times and then thrive on the other side.

And no, these firms do not tend to compete on price. So, great news – you don’t have to be the cheapest! But you do have to be very, very good.