Last year, HM Land Registry launched its ‘Digital Street’ strategy. A move by the organisation “to break away from the constraints and current ways of thinking about the home buying process as it stands today”
The strategy is now in its second year, and HM Land Registry has made further announcements about developments on their side, which are all focused on reviewing and improving the conveyancing process through technology. It followed this with a charter demonstrating the Land Registry’s commitment to improving the conveyancing process through innovation, and delivering on customer needs.
I firmly believe that the Land Registry have set about a strategy that will be beneficial to conveyancers. Their approach is aiming to focus on making conveyancing faster and more convenient. However, one aspect of its plans struck me as slightly misguided and that was the call to make conveyancing cheaper.
It’s unlikely there is anyone in the property sector, from conveyancers to home-movers, that can argue with the sentiment of making the process faster and simpler, but we certainly shouldn’t be making conveyancing cheaper. Because when businesses place the utmost importance on price and making products or services cheaper, we inherently devalue it – and that’s a position that is very hard to come back from.
Other businesses in other sectors should serve as a warning of just why we should avoid this, at all costs. A classic example of this is DFS Sofas. The furniture retailer has had a great level of success in the past by running an annual Christmas campaign, which focuses on slashed prices and its biggest sale of the year. However, a couple of years ago the sofa-seller switched its focus, moving away from a price-driven message, and instead developing an advertising campaign based on emotion and focussing on a higher value customer. But changing perceptions takes time. Customers of DFS have been accustomed to a particular price point and know that they can rely on DFS to provide it. Previous advertising has built a perception that they cannot move away from. To retrain a consumer from a perceiving value based on cost, to instead trying to convey perceived value is incredibly difficult.
Using a price driven message, DFS has managed to devalue what they deliver (usually in time for Christmas) to be about the cost only. It’s price over quality. Now, apply that same thinking to conveyancing – a far more complicated, time-consuming task than just selling a sofa. By only emphasising the price message, it reduces the ability of conveyancers to stand out, disregarding the quality of service and experience these individuals and businesses offer.
Furthermore, by selling conveyancing using a bargain-basement price message, it ignores the rising demand for quality customer experiences. A recent Customers 2020 report demonstrated how customer experience, rather than price, will be the main differentiator in the future, regardless of the industry. So, to focus a service-based industry such as conveyancing on price would be doing a disservice to those working in it, now and in the future.
HM Land Registry has their heart in the right place in terms of bettering the conveyancing process by making information more conveniently served, faster and easier, but they should not be suggesting it is made cheaper. This would only serve to cheapen the expertise of the industry, and by placing importance on driving down the cost between conveyancers, it would create a race to the bottom, leading to detrimental outcomes for both the solicitor and the client at a time where the customer experience is king.