LSB’s consumer research identifies customer experience is most important

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published new research into the challenges people face when comparing and choosing legal services providers and took to Twitter to ask the industry a question – How can we ensure the market works better for consumers?

The new research was carried out partly because the general public lack the knowledge of what they need or how legal services work, and partly because the information is hard to find, inconsistent or non-existent.

Sixty-nine members of the public from diverse backgrounds across England and Wales took part in a qualitative research study. They were asked about potential ways of making it easier to gauge and compare the quality of legal services.

It was noted by LSB’s research that customer experience is most important to identify a ‘high quality provider – but participants in the research looked for a range of attributes to point out a ‘good’ legal advisor such as outcomes (a good track record), Technical skills and knowledge (a specialist) and values (honest, reliable, trustworthy and professional)

More recently, following the publication of the research, Ian Bond, head of wills and estates at Thursfields tweeted saying:

“Interesting that a 27 page discussion paper on Quality Indicators in the Legal Market does not mention legal directories at all in consumers choosing their legal service provider. Are the days of Legal500 and Chambers & Partners numbered? Only of interest to fellow professionals?”

A summary of the main findings of the research are:

“Participants felt choosing a provider in legal services was harder than in other sectors. This is due to a combination of factors: there is a lot at stake, they believe that legal costs will be high, and they have limited knowledge and experience of what is needed.

“After trying to look for legal services providers to advise in a fictional scenario, participants realised that this task became more difficult because there was limited information readily available and little consistency in information between providers.

“Participants felt that – in reality – their decision-making process was likely to be affected by the stress, anxiety and worry caused by the situation (relationship breakdown, house-move, estate-planning, redundancy) and exacerbated by the difficulties of finding a provider.

“As a result, most felt that in real life, they would be more likely to make a rushed decision; to be swayed by more emotional factors (such as rapport with an advisor); and more likely to fall back on familiar and known providers and recommendations from friends and family.

“In research exercises, participants had to find a legal services provider to meet their needs in a fictional situation. Their customer journey in the research was relatively considered and logical. It must be recognised that this process does not necessarily reflect ‘real life’ (given that 70% of people do not shop around for legal services, and the likely impact of stress on decision-making). However, it enabled exploration of how participants used the information currently available to help consumers make decisions; to understand what they looked for and valued; and what else would help them decide between providers.

“Participants started with a relatively consistent set of criteria in mind in their search for a legal service provider in the research exercise. These included specialism, being ‘good to work with’, the right price, and having the correct skills and experience. For some, a local firm was important too.

“Most used a rough process of scoping the market through an initial online search, followed by a filtering process, and then a final selection. Most found it easy to come up with a long list of potential providers but were overwhelmed by the number of options returned by the search. From there, they found it hard to decide between the options to find the one that would be best for them.

“Specifically, participants found it exceptionally hard to gauge and compare the quality of the providers they came across. This was partly because they lacked the knowledge of what they needed or how legal services worked, and partly because the information was hard to find, inconsistent or non-existent.

“Participants did not talk explicitly about ‘quality’, but when pushed to consider what ‘good’ looks like in legal services, they focused on:

“• Customer experience was a combination of technical aspects of client care (accessibility, responsiveness, timeliness) and – often more importantly –good ‘rapport’ with an advisor.

“• Outcomes: Participants wanted a provider who would get a good result for them. However, they struggled to know how to judge this.

“• Technical skills and knowledge: Echoing existing research, participants found it hard to know whether a provider would have good technical skills. Some assumed this as a given, but others wanted more on individuals’ qualifications and experience.

“• Values: several participants talked about information that spoke to the values of a provider, such as honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and professionalism. They found this hard to judge from an internet search but again relied on ‘gut feel’ either from a website or phone conversation.

“Value-for-money was important to participants and involved weighing up costs with the component of ‘quality’ listed above.”

Click here to read LSB’s report in full.

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