Monday, 30 November 2009

Accolades, Pettifoggers and the X-Factor

There's quite a buzz in the office this week because we’ve just had our Lexcel accreditation confirmed by the Law Society. Thank you for not scrolling away and allowing me to have my moment of glory, because for us lawyers, this award is the equivalent of a Michelin star. Except it’s for lawyers, so for everyone else, it's not quite as sexy.

But the principle’s the same: inspectors go into your establishment, go through everything with a fine toothed comb, interview everyone, go through everything again with an even finer comb and then go away and write an extensive report that analyses everything from customer service standards to staff engagement. You’re lucky if you come out alive. But we did and we’ve now got the badge to prove it – a badge that only 6% of legal firms in the UK are entitled to wear.

This is what the president of the Law Society, Robert Heslett, said about us: “By successfully gaining Lexcel accreditation, Mayo Wynne Baxter is proving their commitment to delivering a high quality service. The Law Society’s Lexcel standard is a prestigious achievement for any practice. Clients can feel reassured that they will receive a service which is first class, committed, focused and businesslike.”

To put it in context, the Law Society is an important lobbyist and opinion former in the legal and wider world. According to the website, it was set up in 1825 to “raise the reputation of the profession by setting standards and ensuring good practice” and (I assume), to wipe out the “pettifoggers and vipers” that were “disgracing the profession”.

Of course, there are pettifoggers and vipers in every profession and circumnavigating these often charming individuals is one of life’s challenges. But when you need a service, whether it be to mend a garden wall or to negotiate the terms of a deal, you have to brace yourself and enter the murky waters to find the right person.

An independent recommendation, if not from a trusted friend, then a trusted publication is always of value. Many business people who habitually engage lawyers often turn to one of the legal who's who directories. The most highly regarded of these is the Chambers UK Directory where solicitors are ranked according to ability and specialism. Chambers employs teams of researchers who spend their time interviewing solicitors’ clients and only those who are consistently recommended make it into the directory. It's a bit like X Factor: a talent show with public voting, although I’m not sure Chambers will appreciate the comparison.

We’ve got six partners with the X Factor at Mayo Wynne Baxter; they probably won't appreciate the comparison either: Melanie Minter and Rob Bell who specialise in Clinical Negligence; Simon Baillie-Hamilton, our Agriculture and Estates specialist; Alan Larkin and David Stevens from the Family Law department and Lee Hills, our Travel Law expert. Each of these people have been independently recognised as experts in their field: able to get the job done to a very high standard.

Melanie has a Top Tier Chambers ranking so I could extend the analogy and compare her to the X-Factor's Stacey Solomon, who is top of the polls to win, but it's a bit tenuous so I won't. And anyway I haven’t heard Melanie sing yet.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Client Service- the recipe for success

A friend of mine had a horrible meal at his usually very good local pub last Sunday – he likened the soup to washing up water (dirty) and the pâté was so runny it dripped rather than spread onto the soggy toast. They didn’t stay for the main courses.

Apart from being disappointed and hungry, he was mortified because he had brought along some foodie friends to whom he had sung this particular pub’s praises. But, the pub had let him down. So he won’t be going back and neither will the friends and they’ll tell all their friends who will tell theirs and so on until.... fast forward six months and there’s the landlord scratching his head over the steady downturn in business never thinking to connect it with that fateful Sunday lunch when the chef had an off day...

I go hot and cold when I hear stories like these because although I know that no professional at Mayo Wynne Baxter would ever serve the legal equivalent of soggy toast, a delayed response or an unreturned phonecall can sometimes cause a client to get up and leave.

This is why we use a Mystery Shopping Service which makes regular checks on the standard of our client service. These audits have made everyone from partners to support staff re-evaluate their customer service skills and I think we’ve all raised our game as a result. It might be Big Brother, but the client is what matters the most.

Outside of Mayo Wynne Baxter, we are endeavouring to champion good customer service by sponsoring the Customer Service category of the Eastbourne Business Awards. There were several excellent contenders for the title (the afore-mentioned pub is not one of them) and the winner was recognised at the swanky awards ceremony on Friday November 6.

Now, I’m off to lunch. Recommendation anyone?

See the full range of Client Services that are available at Mayo Wynne Baxter and talk to our Sussex solicitors today.