The Need For Efficient Complaint Handling Procedures

Introduction 

The updated SRA Transparency Rules introduced in 2018, required firms to publish price and service information across certain common legal services.

There was also a requirement for all firms to publish information on their website about their complaints procedures.

The SRA has continued to check firms’ compliance with these rules, and at The Strategic Partner we have been engaging with clients who have received notifications from the SRA when they have been found in breach of these updated requirements.

This article looks at the importance of having an efficient complaint handling procedure in place, not least of all to ensure compliance with SRA regulations but to additionally drive effectiveness and efficiency within the firm.

Client Complaint Handling 

The focus on a clearly defined and accessible complaints procedure by the SRA, acts as a reminder to all firms of the need for solicitors generally to provide complaint information in a manner which the client is able to comprehend and to make sure that their complaint procedures are transparent and usable.

However, it would be remiss to simply see this as another obligation that must be adhered to, as not understanding the value that firms can derive from a well-managed complaints procedure is a lost potential in law firm development and growth.

Research has shown that within the professional services and legal industry, dissatisfied clients rarely raise a formal complaint, however, this results in clients simply not instructing the firm again, criticising the firm to others, or criticising the firm publicly over social media or via online reviews, all of which can be extremely damaging and a situation which should be avoided. Defining clear and transparent complaints procedures will give dissatisfied clients the reassurance that they have the ability and right to do so and that complaints will be heard and addressed appropriately. Additionally, a firm can gain insightful information by processing these efficiently.

To do this, all firms need to adopt and implement an effective, robust and transparent complaint handling process. Having this in place can highlight a number of valuable factors including:

  • Client satisfaction – reviewing a complaint can be used to highlight shortfalls within the firm and give the firm an opportunity to raise levels of client satisfaction.
  • Inadequate procedures – if a firm’s current procedures or work processes are causing issues or service failures, this could be highlighted within a client complaint, clients may highlight repeat inefficient processes or communication that needs to be addressed.
  • Staff competency – complaints can alert a firm to issues such as whether staff are competent and able to handle matters in an adequate and timely fashion, understand the matter they are advising on or are able effectively to explain matters and solutions to clients. Training issues can be highlighted or if management of staff is inefficient.
  • Charging levels – if a firm’s costs are too high or hard to understand then this will quickly become apparent through complaints – especially when clients will likely be aware of competitor pricing.

Unfortunately, complaints are often unavoidable and the consequence of providing legal services. Whilst most firms receive very few complaints, the handling of them is a cost which cannot be recovered and they are an unfortunate diversion for senior staff and fee earners.

The Strategic Partner has designed a Complaint Management Service to deliver to firms an outsourced, independent, and efficient way of managing complaints. The assistance of an external expert who specialises in the handling, management and resolution of complaints is both a cost effective and focussed way of ensuring any complaints received by your firm are resolved effectively.

Our Service – An Overview

The Complaint Management Service is designed to provide firms with an expert solution that operates impartially and independently, but always in the best interests of the firm and their clients. Our Service covers the initial intimation of a complaint, the investigation and liaison with the client through to the final resolution.

Core elements of the Complaint Management Service are: –

  1. Cost-Effective – It is a cost-effective way to manage complaints and fee earners can focus on delivering service rather than non-fee earning tasks that do not generate fees.
  2. Responsive – We are responsive to the needs of our clients and recognise that complaints must be dealt with quickly and efficiently to avoid escalation.
  3. Impartial expertise – Our advice and service is impartial and will help deliver a quick and effective resolution of complaints. Clients will respect that an independent expert is reviewing their complaint which will often result in a conciliatory approach with less emotion.
  4. Effective Resolution – Through effective management, we will seek to resolve the complaint with a minimum negative impact on the firm and in the best interests of the firm and the client.
  5. Avoidance of Escalation – The focus of our service is to avoid escalation of a complaint to The Legal Ombudsmen or The Solicitors Regulation Authority where costs, fines, and damages can increase substantially.
  6. Technical Advice – Our complaint handlers understand legal services and their provision. Where the complaint is of a purely technical nature, we will work with your technicians to draft the appropriate response.
  7. Partnership – We will not commit the firm to a direction that they are not comfortable with. Our service is advisory and whilst we will guide the firm on the appropriate action to take to resolve the matter, we will always be sensitive to the firm’s own requirements.
  8. Compliance – The management of complaints by The Strategic Partner will ensure the firm is meeting its regulatory obligations.
  9. The Legal Ombudsmen – We will represent you if a complaint is escalated to The Legal Ombudsmen and where necessary, ensure that any penalty action is minimised and where appropriate disputed.

Get In Touch 

Our service has been designed to ensure that firms do not suffer the negative consequences of complaints through cost-effective management. To find out more about this service you can email us at info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk or call: 0203 911 9710.

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