SPECIAL FEATURE: Sub-standard customer experience in conveyancing is not an option – LexisNexis

SPECIAL FEATURE: LexisNexis have written an article on the subject of sub-standard customer experience in conveyancing not being an option.

Being a great conveyancer today means more than just being a legal expert. With the pressures of meeting client expectations, adhering to rigid timescales, whilst simultaneously, ensuring a good level of communication to a broad spectrum of interested stakeholders, over time, has meant that issues pertaining to customer service have been laid bare, leading to an increased perception from some consumers of a substandard approach within the conveyancing sector.

As we know, property sale and purchase are not just legal transactions but highly emotive, financially burdensome, and stressful activities. Fuelled by miscommunications of case progress and lack thereof, many customers are afflicted with grief.

For an industry that has seen little change in the way transactions are executed, arguably from several centuries ago, one would expect the process to be a well-oiled machine but with external factors affecting the everyday, the reality is that in fact, the average time to completion is increasing, as are the dropout rates, leading to high financial and emotional cost for buyers and sellers alike.

Varying levels of maturity

There are some fundamental issues pertaining to the makeup of the sector that make frictionless industry-wide execution of transactions difficult. The industry is led by a number of groups and bodies – such as the UK Finance, the Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Estate Agents, as examples – each providing their own set of best practice for the sector to follow.

Then there are the refers, the introducers, the search providers, the software providers, and the conveyancers themselves. These players have long seen technology as a panacea for removing and ironing out difficulties in the conveyancing process, but mostly from their business’ operational standpoint.

Less focus has been applied to the consumer experience (although there are some notable exceptions) and even less to the experience in the broader eco-system where provider meets provider. Furthermore, these participants are at varying levels of maturity in their technology adoption. The result is that there isn’t a platform or approach that glues all the different technologies, digital processes and procedures together to enable a consistent and transparent way of completing transactions. 

This is why blockchain technology is exciting. It offers the capability to securely and seamlessly connect all the different and disassociated, but commonly interested, players across the conveyancing process, end-to-end.

It seems obvious that adopting a common industry-wide blockchain platform within the conveyancing sector is the right thing to do. Nevertheless, with nearly 2,600 service providers, realistically, a wholesale move to a standard platform will take time.

In the interim though, maintaining the status quo on sub-standard customer service simply cannot be an option. Conveyancing service providers, across the chain, need to work together and proactively endeavour to improve customer experience.

Technology, a barrier for the customer

So, conveyancers must strip out the unnecessary, time-consuming processes and improve communication across the transaction journey, providing the visibility and transparency customers are demanding.

Technology already exists to materially help address all these issues, and more. Converting a prospect into a customer is effectively a scripted process today. There’s absolutely no reason for client onboarding to take more than 24 hours and with the numerous apps available, Know Your Customer (KYC) can easily be integrated as part of the onboarding process.

And yet, from a customer’s standpoint these processes are terribly cumbersome and frustrating. I speak from recent personal experience of a conveyancing transaction. I got sent an app from the conveyancer via a link. I spent 10 minutes setting it up and inputting a ton of information, but I eventually reached a point where I simply couldn’t follow the process through. I ended up calling my solicitor to ask when I could meet with all my paperwork in hand to complete the process. Technology proved to be a barrier. This is coming from me, as someone who is a qualified practitioner and has spent years delivering technology projects.

There’s an abundance of technology designed to ease and smooth processes across the lifecycle of conveyancing transactions, and with many service providers having adopted these tools too, what is the roadblock?

Service providers come unstuck because the criteria or key drivers for selecting these tools aren’t always aligned with customer requirements. They tend to deploy technology for the benefit of the conveyancer, the mortgage lender, the estate agent and so forth – forgetting the impact the changed processes may have on the customer experience – the individual who has the least voice but is the most important.

Therefore, the quality of the customer journey and experience needs to dictate technology selection, not the other way round.

Automation to improve customer experience

Automation of activities such as onboarding, KYC, search requisitions, automated registrations and sharing of documents are simply no-brainers. If conveyancers are filling in forms and charging their clients for the time spent, under the garb of “we provide a personalised service”, they are wasting customers’ money.

Likewise, there’s no reason not to incorporate routine follow ups, chasers, and updates at key milestones, as part of overall conveyancing workflow – saving the personal, human interactions for meaningful and value adding interactions in the form of advice, counselling, helping pre-empt risk, and so forth.

Another area that is seemingly neglected by conveyancers, but ripe for automation, is registration. The length of time between completion and completed registration varies massively. The reason? Solicitors are typically focussed on completing front-end transactions.

Once the firm is paid for the conveyancing transaction, the final paperwork is put on the back burner due to client demands elsewhere. Nonetheless, they have a duty to get the completed registration to the client in a timely manner, as opposed to waiting for a breather from other activity to get it done.

Forced legislation is best avoided

Thus far industry bodies and governments have encouraged the sector to improve processes and follow best practice to enhance customer service, but with limited success. The conveyancing sector needs to up the ante in this area or potentially deal with a highly enforced legislative and regulatory environment.

The electric vehicles industry serves as an example. A large proportion of electric vehicles are being written off for having even the slightest damage to battery packs and are ending up in scrapyards as they are deemed unrepairable – throwing advantages such as sustainability and reduced carbon emissions out of the window.

Why? Because the regulation doggedly demands phasing out of petrol and diesel cars in favour of electric vehicles. One wonders if vehicle manufacturers could have prevented the current scenario had they adopted a more proactive approach to developing clean artificial fuels, which is the real reason behind the move to electric vehicles. After all, current automobile technology works, and is highly advanced with decades of investment under its belt.

By taking heed of other industries and proactively addressing issues to ward off unnecessary, heavy-handed regulation, the conveyancing sector could make a real and positive change to reverse the undesirable reputation that is continuing to build around its customer service capabilities.


SPECIAL FEATURE: Sub-standard customer experience in conveyancing is not an option - LexisNexis

Simon Farthing

Written by Simon Farthing, Commercial Director, LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions


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