Law firms to compete against retailers on the ABS battlefield.

      

Law firms to compete against retailers on the ABS battlefield.

Adam -blogThe battle for the consumer legal market is well and truly on.  The number of businesses granted alternative business structure (ABS) licences by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reached double figures last week as companies look to take on more traditional law firms. 

ABS's, commonly dubbed "Tesco law", are seen by many as a radical relaxation of the tight ownership restrictions on legal businesses and an opportunity for "non legal" firms to enter the marketplace.  So with some of the UK's leading retailers literally looking to offer "off the shelf legal advice" how are traditional law firms going to compete with the champions of customer services?

Commentators have even suggested that the traditional high street practice is doomed, but whether this is reality or scaremongering is a matter of interpretation.  There can be no doubt that times are changing for solicitors and that the much heralded deregulation is only one of a handful of issues currently creating the perfect storm for the legal profession.

To add to the issue, research shows that customers are more concerned with service levels than just reputation or specific legal advice - so it's going to be a tough fight to take on these big brand names with their polished customer service skills. 

But what can be done to counter this threat?   Our experience of working with law firms suggests that all is not lost as the type of customer service and support demanded in the legal world is very different to the service one would expect when buying a pound of sausages.

Perhaps there is even a case for law firms to take on the big brand retailers at their own game?  One key battle ground will be how the business interacts with its customers. High street firms can offer a more personable service and easier access to expertise than is likely with the, high volume call handlers that are destined to support the leading retailers in huge, shiny call centres.  

But to adequately counter the threat, some law firms may need to examine how they are currently handling their own inbound calls and look at ways of increasing their flexibility while keeping a good control of the costs. 

However efficient a firm's reception is there will, undoubtedly, be situations when the team comes under pressure and customer service may suffer as a result. Customers don't like to be kept waiting, have their calls ignored or, even worse, feel rushed when discussing delicate legal matters. The option to divert calls to an experienced outsourced partner, in total or for just "overflow calls", will ensure that high levels of customer service are maintained at all times.  Equally if there are periods of low call volumes, legal firms are not paying staff to twiddle their thumbs during this time.

Many law firms are now recognising this and there has been uplift in the number of firms looking to appoint their own outsourced call handling team to back up or replace their existing reception function.  Using a provider with experience in handling legal calls will ensure that all calls are captured, regardless of the time of day or volume of calls, and that the right questions are asked in a manner that reflects the client company's brand.

With such support, legal practices are also able to reduce cost in staff heavy areas such as reception and customer services. Furthermore it frees up reception staff to meet and greet visitors and allows experienced staff to focus on what they do best, providing expert legal advice and working on their caseload instead of handling customer service related calls.

Selecting the right outsourced partner is also critical therefore you must Ensure they have expertise in handling legal calls and that they understand the business and how it likes to operates with its key people and key clients

With the right team a firm can have expert and knowledgeable call handlers available at their disposal to promptly, efficiently and accurately managing their calls If a firm is considering aggressively marketing its services they will have the resources available to manage any uplift in enquiries without the need to take on less qualified or motivated temporary staff.

As the first round bell rings in the introduction of the so-called 'Tesco Law', it's clear that traditional legal firms are under pressure. However with the right support and improvements there could even be an opportunity to be seized as the big brands make consumers more aware of the benefits and opportunities presented by having the right legal support.

As the marketplace becomes even more competitive and innovative it is important to remember what it is that has helped retailers become so successful - keeping the customer at the heart of their business.  With this in mind and the right support and structure in place, there is a real opportunity that the traditional law firm can take on, and beat, the retailers at their own game.

 

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Direct Response provides award winning voice, data and contact centre services to legal firms and other organisations in more than nine countries around the world.  The company was founded in July 2001 is headquartered in London, where they employ 60 people, Direct Response is also supported by over 400 contact centre agents based in two UK operations.  For more information visit http://www.drltd.com/.

 

Written by Adam Tilson at 10:00

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