Failing to answer or return phone calls could result in a reportable breach

News: Legal Eye phone

June 10, 2013

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Persistently failing to answer or return telephone calls that go on to generate a string of concerns or complaints could now add up to a reportable breach of the industry’s regulatory code. While one or two unanswered calls might be classed as a minor breach, add them up and they can become a material breach over time. Every complaint to the Legal Ombudsman when a firm is found wanting, is now likely to cost £400 so ignoring those telephone calls can not only prove expensive but can also be highly damaging to a firm’s reputation.

Jaunita Gobby, Legal Eye Director says: “Virtually all communication these days whether by email, text or phone call comes with high expectations of an immediate response.

“It is hugely frustrating for clients when calls are unanswered, directed to voicemail or a promise to call back just doesn’t materialise. This deepens if it’s a direct dial or mobile number, rather than a general office number, where at least a caller might get a receptionist to talk to.

“With emphasis quite rightly on client care and an outcomes-focused regulatory code, regularly failing to answer or return calls can lead to a real headache for a firm’s compliance officer and will be highly damaging to the client experience. There have been examples of complaints being referred straight to the Ombudsman and accepted for investigation without ever having been through the firm’s own process.

“Our advice is to take a close look at the way your business handles its inbound calls. This can be done in a number of ways, for example make better use of your technology through more meaningful messaging, improve the use of phone divert options or invest wisely in a telephone answering service.”

Moneypenny’s Glenn Jackson agrees. He says: “While there are wonderful examples of law firms offering an excellent response on the telephone and a first-rate customer experience, we know there are others out there falling short. We offer a dedicated legal team who are currently handling telephone calls for more than 700 legal firms across the UK.

“We know from our own research that 79% of callers hang up when prompted to leave a voicemail message and a recent monthly report of one of our legal clients showed that of 2,100 calls taken, 400+ were new enquiries. In an increasingly competitive marketplace and with demands from both the client and the regulator, mishandling calls just isn’t an option.

Every firm needs to be absolutely sure it is not only capturing all in-bound calls, but is also dealing with the information successfully following that first contact.

“In our experience an increasing number of law firms are turning to outsourced support to cost effectively improve their customer service and ensure they’re working smarter either by diverting calls on an overflow basis or by outsourcing their entire switchboard. For some the option to have calls answered 24 hours a day is an important factor and in all cases this kind of support allows firms to focus on their core business of delivering excellent advice to clients.”

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