Nikki Shorto, licensed conveyancer at MJP Law, makes a case for hybrid client care by using law tech innovations to deliver a personalised service for clients.
There’s currently a lot of talk about modernising conveyancing firms by ensuring they are better equipped and integrated with case management systems, leaving behind fax machines and starting to accept instructions by email.
This is exciting—and good news for the large percentage of clients who will benefit from more efficient ways of working and get completed transactions much faster as a result.
As firms increasingly adopt more automated ways of working, with app-based ID verification, and documents sent out for electronic signature, we may be seeing our clients less and less. Some we might never meet. So, what does that mean for client care? Can we still provide the level of service that we strive to, or are we attracting a new type of client who isn’t fussed about putting a face to the name of their solicitor? Do these clients expect a more hands-off approach? Will they contact us less often for updates? Or is this only suited to clients who have bought and sold several times, and are thus already familiar with the process?
Although I am genuinely encouraged that most firms are embracing new technology and helping the industry to dispel the poor impression that conveyancers only progress files when we feel like it, in our efforts to modernise the way we do conveyancing, we must keep a watchful eye on our client care.
Two main types of client immediately come to mind when I think of our technology moving forward: first time buyers, and elderly clients. Ultimately, we might be alienating a large portion of clients by forgetting the aging population we have, and that - for some of them - using an ATM is still an experience which fills them with fear of identity theft. We may seem more efficient to first time buyers by emailing out forms and legally binding contracts to them quickly, but how are we ensuring that they understand the true weight of the paperwork they sign, at double the speed?
It might seem quaint to consider it this way but using new technology and systems doesn’t mean that we can neglect to provide old-fashioned service when it is appropriate to the client. Elderly clients are not about to go away – we’re all living longer and there will be many more of them. Likewise, one might grumble at the extra time spent answering the questions of a client who is unfamiliar with the process – in which case, one should consider what can be done to pre-empt those questions.
It’s a business at the end of the day, so pushing through completions to meet targets is a natural goal. But how many of us think about how, if we make just one client happy, they are likely to recommend us to three others? And how, if we don’t, our name will be shared negatively with ten others? If you’re an employer who has ever read a business book, you will know that it is easier and cheaper to keep an existing client happy, than to spend the time trying to hook a new one.
So, there is a strong case for what I am calling ‘hybrid client care’. The best client care is where you understand your client’s needs and adapt to work with them. It’s about making their experience better rather than yours. The hybrid part is this: finding a balance between providing that tailored service which makes them feel heard, understood and supported, and at the same time working more efficiently at the back-end using newer tech. The two need not be mutually exclusive.
Ultimately, if you can build a respectful, trusting rapport with all of your clients, regardless of their age or experience, you will never be short of them.