Research conducted by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has shown that law firms are not doing enough to make their clients aware of the right to complain about poor service. Only 20% of 3,680 people who contacted LeO stated that they had first heard about the scheme from their legal service provider.

Firms have an obligation to inform customers of their right to access LeO’s service, but a separate study showed that 72% of firms had provided either no information or incorrect information. LeO has provided sample wording that firms can use on their websites, in engagement letters and at the end of their own complaints process, explaining the consumer’s right to escalate the complaint to LeO.

Between  1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, LeO made 2,533 decisions in relation to 1,673 legal services providers. Only 870 of these decisions required further remedy by the firm; in the other decisions, LeO was satisfied that the firm had handled the complaint satisfactorily.

There will always be clients who persist in believing they have received poor service when they have not; perhaps their dissatisfaction is with the outcome of their legal issue, through no fault of the firm’s handling of it. But effective complaint handling should usually stop cases needing to go as far as LeO. Indeed, in some cases, a swift response that goes ‘above and beyond’ will leave a customer more satisfied than they would have been had everything gone smoothly. 

Sverre Hjelm, a ‘customer experience’ expert, writes about a customer service award: “The overall winner was a local airline company, and the head of customer service gave a presentation of how they were working. I especially noted one point he made. They had done surveys on the customers to measure their level of satisfaction. Amongst the customers who had not experienced any serious problems (canceled flight, lost luggage, etc), the customer satisfaction index (CSI) was 70. However, the customers who had experienced such a problem, but then been well treated by the customer service department, reported a CSI of 77! In other words, the customers who had gotten their flight delayed ended up being more satisfied than before, simply because they felt they were taken well care of. (The ones who did not get proper service fell to a CSI of 50.)”