Can law firms learn anything from banks' woeful customer service?
I hate bankers. Probably for all the reasons that you are thinking, but more so because I am permanently irritated by the appalling service I receive from banks and the fact that this poor service clearly has nearly no relationship with their rates of client retention. Something like 62% of people retain their bank account for over 20 years, which is daft.
I can envisage (and have even experienced to a degree) the circumstances where your wages go in, your direct debits go out, you don't inadvertently exceed your overdraft, and ad hoc payments can be made seamlessly through an online banking system. This happy existence obviously doesn't encourage people to move banks - as long as the possibility of having to deal with a human being doesn't rear its head.
The moment you have contact with a bank, usually via a contact centre, I've found it to be a complete disaster. My latest run-in with customer services (you've got laugh), which prompted me to switch banks, happened to coincide with my receiving a letter from the bank about a change in their terms and conditions. I suspect the change in terms was not particularly significant - I don't really know, because I just put it in the recycling as I normally do.
The only thing I cared about, as I was seething and unable to access my online account, was the appalling experience I was having of trying to access my money, and being barred by a 'computer says "no"' banker (or customer services rep) on the other end of the phone.
But, it seems, the bank had spent a lot more effort on the letter than it was spending keeping me happy. What can we learn from this?
I suspect it cost the bank next to nothing to send me the T&C letter. I don't know why they didn't email it, but that's another matter. A great machine of mail merging and printing would have generated the letter with the bare minimum of human input, and the compliance side of their business was taken care of within the blink of an eye.
But compliance has nothing whatsoever to do with client care, which was manifestly absent when dealing with my bank over the phone.
This is something the legal profession can learn a lot from, because it does much the same thing. Our regulator has long referred to the 'client care letter', in which it was prescribed we put all our compliance information. The profession has blindly followed the Pied Piper and got its knickers in a very costly twist over these - producing great reams of bespoke 'client care letters' which clients put in their recycling bins.
But, unlike the banks, not least because we have to speak to our clients, we will not be able to rely on enviable client retention rates at the same time as serving our clients so poorly.
It behoves us to learn the lesson of what is actually important to clients, and to deliver on that... and to put compliance in its proper, inexpensively produced box.