According to the Law Gazette today, 69% of survey respondents ‘agree they would be concerned about the quality of (legal) service offered’ by banks and supermarkets. This may well be the case – after all, banks are currently very much out of favour.
But the really discernable difference between the banks’ and supermarkets’ approach and traditional firms of solicitors won’t be in the quality of service offered. It will be in the definition of service- speed, efficiency, response -not personal service. They will provide “transactions” not “relationships”.
This will enable these alternative providers to sell their legal services at a much lower price than their law firm competitors. And in areas that are susceptible to a high-volume, low-value approach, price will be the ultimate determinant of success. There is simply no reason why most consumers would pay more than they need to for a “transaction” – for example a Will, or for the Conveyancing work on their property.
The consequence of this is clear – firms that are in business in these areas must become as tightly run as possible, or they won’t be in business for much longer. They must be able to provide the same service in a shorter time, and at a lower cost. This means that IT and delegation become absolutely vital to processing matters as efficiently as possible. Not every task in a transaction requires a qualified solicitor!!
The other area where the supermarkets and banks will take advantage will be in the marketing of their services. Many firms do not even know what different services they sell to each client – and consequently they have very little chance of taking opportunities to cross-sell. This is a question of database management, and of a simple but coherent firm-wide strategy to target existing clients for their services. Most firms won’t be able to compete with the marketing budgets the banks and supermarkets will throw at potential clients. But not maximising opportunities with existing clients is unforgivable, and potentially fatal for the firm.
If firms want to compete with alternative providers, they need to sharpen up in those areas which affect the delivery, not the law – or current client perceptions won’t much matter for long.