We’d grown tired of sitting around eating bonbons and were looking for something else to do to pass the time. We knew there were personalised Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars in the locked marketing room, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to steal them.
Then, one of our lawyers stopped by and interrupted our afternoon quiet time with what turned out to be quite a tricky question: “how do we help our clients and agents know what’s going on with their case? Because whatever we’re doing, clearly it’s not working any more”.
This frankly made us feel a little hard done-by because we send more text notifications, email alerts, weekly updates and messages than you could count. Well, it was lots.
It always worked before
Since I started the business, I figured pushing out information to our clients and the agents would help us deliver a better service. If people knew what was going on, they wouldn’t need to call us so we could carry on eating bonbons and doing as little work as we could get away with.
Every Monday, we review all our cases and send out updates to our clients, agents, brokers and anyone else that is interested. People absolutely loved them – agents would recommend us on the strength of these weekly updates alone (and our Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to be fair).
When a client got ripped off by a fraudster through a fake email, we knew we had to eliminate any expectation that they would receive communication this way, so we built a client portal. It was wonderful and our clients loved it. They never had to worry about receiving any emails from us and we even stuck in a pretty case tracker and a live financial statement so they could see what was going on.
Flushed with this success, we went a step further and made our pre-contract enquiries available to our clients and agents, so everyone can the status of every enquiry raised and clients could even answer some themselves, which was nice. We had found the perfect solution to keeping people informed and were pretty pleased with ourselves.
But then something changed
Remember in Mary Poppins when Mr Binnacle says: “the wind has changed sir. Seems to be coming in from a new quarter”, which was the signal for Mary to leave? Well, it seems that we’re experiencing our own Mary Poppins moment in the conveyancing world, with the “the new normal” in which we find ourselves.
We used to enjoy quiet Monday afternoons. Everyone had gratefully received their updates and were now just waiting for the next move. Despite reviewing every case and putting out a short summary, this no longer suffices and Monday afternoons are now one of the busiest periods for our phones during the week. We receive more calls than ever before from agents and clients checking in to see if anything has changed since the update was sent, or whether there is more detail to be gleaned.
Clients will send a message to our portal and despite the concise message that says: “this is not Whatsapp or Facebook Instant Messenger or Instagram, so there’s no blue tick that you can wait for, or some dancing dots to show you that we’re writing, so you’ll need to bear with us as we’ve actually got quite a lot on at the moment” (note to developer: maybe we should shorten that). It’s now common for clients to call straightaway to make sure we have received the message and discuss it with us.
Our portal enables us to send documents to our clients neatly packaged up and labelled in separate chapters, and we even send a message explaining which are the important ones. Our clients love these – online, easy to find and read. However, we are now increasingly finding they are calling us up to ask us which they should read and can we summarise them.
So what do we do?
These story raises several important issues.
Firstly, just because something worked before, doesn’t mean it will continue to work – we must always be evolving. We need to understand how we can make it easier for our clients to consume the vast amounts of information we send them.
Secondly, we have to learn from more established technology-enabled industries how to guide users through a complex customer journey. We cannot just say, well, “it was in your Report on Title on page 135”.
Finally, this kind of tricky problem really needs chocolate to help solve it – so where’s the key to the marketing room when you really need it?
Peter Ambrose is the owner and Managing Director of The Partnership – a boutique legal provider specialising in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing services.