Effective complaint handling helps legal service providers to build a solid reputation and can have a positive impact on business, says a recent YouGov report, commissioned by the Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Services Consumer Panel.
The report, which examines difficulties and obstacles encountered by customers during the complaint process, discovered that many customers were likely to still recommend a lawyer following a complaint, provided there is a positive resolution.
A survey of approximately 1,000 people who went to the ombudsman before approaching their lawyer with a complaint – the so-called premature complaint – shows that 63% contacted the ombudsman first due to concerns that their case would not be taken seriously and treated appropriately.
Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, Elisabeth Davies, said: "This hard-hitting report reveals why so many consumers don't complain about poor service by a lawyer - people are confused about what to do, get completely thrown by legal jargon, believe they won't get a fair hearing and fear that upsetting their lawyer could have repercussions for their case. Just as bad, a quarter of those who do complain rate their experience as 1 out of 10.”
The three most common issues surrounding customer complaints were conveyancing, family matters and probate. In around 64% of the cases when the complainant went to the ombudsman first, the complaint process was still underway. About 30% of the sample said that the matter had already come to an end and the rest claimed the process was still ongoing but it was entrusted to another legal firm. Among the reasons cited most frequently by people for filing a complaint with the ombudsman were mistakes identified in the lawyer's actions in handling the case and unsatisfactory quality of service.
When returning to the law firm to make a complaint, a substantial number of people said they were satisfied with the outcome, with a third of the respondents stating that their complaint was fully or partly upheld. Another 30% said they worked out a compromise with their lawyer.
It is clear that all of us can learn from the conclusions of this report and must ensure that we have effective measures in place to respond quickly to any complaints and bring about a swift and satisfactory resolution.