New research warns professionals on importance of their language in complaints

Press release

2 November 2017 

New research warns professionals on importance of their language in complaints


The Legal Ombudsman has published new research and top tips that can help legal and claims management professionals prevent complaints escalating.

Advice has been compiled from the Legal Ombudsman’s new Language of Complaints research, which highlights how the type of language used in the complaints process can affect customer decisions.

Among the tips, which will also feature in a Periscope video next week, are reminders to avoid jargon and pretentious language, acknowledge any stress or inconvenience caused and be clear with the client. The Legal Ombudsman also reminds professionals that they should not be afraid to apologise and say sorry without caveats and conditions if they have made a mistake.

Independent and impartial, the Legal Ombudsman is a free service that investigates consumer complaints into poor service from regulated legal or claims management service providers. It also feeds back to professionals on how they can improve their complaint handling processes.

The new research also looked at language used by the Legal Ombudsman and recommendations to be simpler and clearer in its communication are now part of improvements being made.

Simon Tunnicliffe, Director of Operations at the Legal Ombudsman, said: “This new research emphasises that how professionals communicate and the language they use can have a huge impact on how a complaint is resolved and when.

“This research is important in challenging some of the legal and claims management industries’ preconceptions about what ‘good communication’ looks like to consumers. The research has also provided useful insights for us to improve our own communications.

“We hope this research will improve the way complaints are handled and make it more satisfying for everyone involved.”

Sian Lewis, Data and Insights Officer at the Legal Ombudsman, explained that key issues included how consumers perceived some language to be intimidating, particularly legal terminology and complex language, and left them feeling ‘put in their place’.

She added that other words used also gave the impression of a company not taking a complaint seriously because they failed to respond to a customer’s communication or gave overly informal responses, such as “we’ve had a word…”.

Even when formal responses were provided, the research found it was common for providers to avoid acknowledging any mistake or switch into self-justification mode, trying to shift the blame back on to the customers. Apologies were often hidden at the end of lengthy documents and worded in such a way that they did not sound genuine, for example using phrases such as “I’m sorry you feel this way”, rather than a simple “I’m sorry.”

You can read the top tips for responding to complaints on the Legal Ombudsman website along with the full Language of Complaints report, conducted by IFF.