Listening and learning is the most important thing to do - Vicky Crichton

Vicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy, Scottish Legal Complaints CommissionVicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission
Vicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission
Listening to your customers is one of the most important things you can do to improve your service. That’s true of any business, but can be more difficult when you’re providing that service at a time when your customers are likely to be distressed or vulnerable. That’s often the case with legal advice and representation, and it’s certainly the case when people are making a complaint or being complained about.

It doesn’t make it any less important or valuable, though, and there are many ways to do it. Sometimes we just need to take the time to really listen to the feedback we’re already receiving. That might be someone asking for clarification, which tells us we’re not explaining clearly in the first place, or taking the time to check understanding and answer questions. Or it might be responding to an anxious caller by explaining upfront when we expect to be in touch with an update, so they don’t worry when they haven’t heard from us.

Asking for more feedback doesn’t always have to be onerous either. A couple of quick questions at the end of a phone call can help to quickly build a really helpful picture of improvements that your customers would welcome.

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We recently carried out a survey of this type, speaking to complaint parties about how they wanted to communicate with us, and the findings have helped us to shape a new approach for those who would prefer to schedule a call back to discuss their case. It’s a small change, but one which our customers told us would make a helpful addition to our service.

Of course, complaints themselves also highlight really important learning that can help to improve services. Whether or not we feel a complaint is justified, there’s always something we can learn from how a situation has developed, or where actions or intentions have been misunderstood.

Many of us make complaints looking for a problem to be solved for us, but also to try to make sure the same issue doesn’t happen again, or happen to someone else. Really listening to complaints means going beyond deciding who’s right or wrong, but accepting there could be learning that could improve your service to customers, now and in future.

Sometimes you’ll want to create a dedicated space to listen. We did this recently when we invited solicitors from across Scotland to speak to us about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

We pass on our heartfelt thanks to those who took the time to talk to us about recruiting and retaining staff, client expectations, risk management and the use of technology in legal services, among other issues. It was immensely useful to test our own understanding, and to hear about emerging issues. It was also a chance for the profession to challenge us, ask questions and suggest changes we could make in our work. That’s equally important and useful, because it gives us a chance to reflect and improve our service.

Listening and learning isn’t always easy, but it’s the most important thing we can all do to help our customers and improve the service we provide. However we do it, it’s always worth the effort.

Vicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission