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LeO Links – our quarterly bite-size knowledge alerts

The Legal Ombudsman is committed to sharing and disseminating what we learn with the public and the industry. Throughout the year we will publish LeO Links – summaries of information that we come across during our research that we think our readers will find interesting and relevant to their work.

If you would like any further information about the projects or issues mentioned please contact Research and Insight Officer Sian Lewis (sian.lewis@legalombudsman.org.uk).

Our flagship research in to the Language of Complaints is now drawing to a close. Read more about the emerging findings from this project, and other interesting research undertaken by our colleagues across the sector below:

Language of Complaints research

In our last issue, we told you about our research in to how the language used throughout the complaints process can impact on the outcomes for complainants. This research is now drawing to a close and we have some interesting emerging findings. So here is a taster for you.

It appears that customers’ experiences of complaining to a legal services provider or a claims management company can be overshadowed by the service providers’ earlier interactions and a feeling that the provider has already behaved poorly towards them.  This is sometimes complicated by a reluctance to revisit a stressful event, i.e. which was the subject of the legal or claims management case, or about diverting time and attention away from the case itself. 

Concerns about being bamboozled by legal jargon remain and the researchers found that unhelpful instances of provider communication and language used in the complaints process sometimes serve to confirm these fears. Some providers also focused on justifying the provider’s actions to date – playing into customer fears that the complaint handling stage will be subject to the same negativity as the original transaction.

The research also highlighted the impact of good practice in first tier complaint handling. Customers responded positively where communication started with an apology; acknowledging stress or inconvenience caused and showed genuine concern. They were positive when service providers demonstrated that the complaint had been investigated and had outlined their complaints procedure, clearly setting out timeframes and next steps.

The research has also focused on the language used by the Legal Ombudsman and while it found that our communication is generally felt to be clear, it identified a number of areas where ‘jargon’ has slipped in to our verbal communication and could be impacting on outcomes for our customers.

Our research partner IFF is still in the process of finalising the report and we are planning to publish it, along with helpful tips on how service providers can improve their complaints communication, during the autumn.

CMC User Profiling.

In 2013, we commissioned YouGov to undertake research to profile legal users and their media habits. To support our broader jurisdiction, we recently conducted similar research for CMC users to identify trends around their demographic profiles and media habits and provide us with insight into how they can be effectively targeted through media and outreach activity.

The final report will be published soon and key findings include:

  • CMC users tend to be older, white and from lower social grades
  • They tend to be spread across Britain and roughly a third have a gross household income of below £25,000
  • One in two are married and nearly half work full time
  • CMC Users are more likely to read a Broadsheet newspaper and gain news from TV or a social network website than the national population
  • They are significantly more likely than the national population to have used a price comparison site like Money Supermarket in the last two years
  • They are also more likely to use MoneySavingExpert.com than the national population

Legal Services Consumer Panel Tracker Survey

The Legal Services Consumer Panel has released the results from its 7th annual Tracker Survey.

The survey, which shows how consumers are using legal services, revealed that trust in lawyers increased to 45% from 42% in 2016.

Respondents with prior experience of using a legal service provider trust lawyers slightly more (49%) than those who had not used one (43%). However, there is a persistent trend of lower levels of trust and confidence among BME groups, with 41% trusting lawyers to tell the truth, against 47% of White British.

Although trust in the sector appears to be improving, only 44% of respondents said that they would feel confident in complaining about a lawyer which was much lower than people’s confidence in complaining about supermarkets (70%), banks (55%) and mobile phone companies (51%).

Findings also showed people from a higher social grade were more confident in complaining about a lawyer (ABC1, 48%) than those from a lower social grade (C2DE, 35%).

All the data tables and key findings can be found here.  

 LSB –Vulnerable consumers’ experiences of legal services

The LSB commissioned Research Works to conduct 60 in-depth interviews across England and Wales with individuals (or their carers) with either mental health problems or dementia. All the participants had used, or tried but failed to use, legal services in the preceding 18 months.

The interviews set out to explore:

  • What features of the market are particularly relevant to these client groups
  • What circumstances contribute to these individuals being vulnerable when purchasing legal services
  • The extent to which the legal needs of those in the study are being met
  • What approaches by practitioners could improve accessibility, service experience and outcomes

The research identified how small steps by practitioners can make a big difference for people with dementia or mental health problems. Across both groups, a key theme is creating a safe space in which people feel comfortable to volunteer information or be sensitively asked about their needs.

The SRA also published its research report into the experiences of consumers who may be vulnerable in family law earlier this year.

Competition and Markets Authority Market Study

Having reviewed the regulator action plans issued in response to the CMA’s market study of legal services, we are looking forward to attending the Remedies Programme Implementation Group. We will be engaging with our stakeholders to look at how we can use the information we gather to support plans to increase transparency in the legal services market.   

Other useful reports:

First tier complaints research – Legal Ombudsman / SRA
Our research with the SRA into how firms’ handling of complaints can influence the quality of service clients receive is well underway. In-depth interviews with firms have proven to be very insightful and we are very grateful for everyone who participated. The final report is expected later this year.

Law Society – PII Surveys
The Law Society has published its findings from its annual survey of solicitor's renewal experiences which identifies areas of difficulty and analyses market trends. The survey was conducted by telephone interview with over 600 firms of up to 25 partners and the results can be found here.

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