“The most effective engagement happens early, and draws on a variety of techniques”
Effective engagement could happen when you:
- recognise an “expression of dissatisfaction” as soon as it happens. During face-to-face interaction, this will include watching out for non-verbal clues
- acknowledge the concerns and confirm that you will look into what happened
- actively try to understand what exactly has upset the complainer – both the underlying and trigger points
- discuss what solution the complainer is looking for
- confirm to the complainer what you have understood from the conversation, what you will now do to investigate, and by when.
You may choose to offer an early meeting or call with the Client Relations Manager. If any early engagement manages to resolve the problem immediately, we suggest you confirm the resolution (including any dates by when it will be implemented) in writing.
- If you need more time, tell the complainer as soon as possible, give an extended time frame – but do stick to it!
If early engagement hasn’t resolved the problem, you and the complainer need to be clear on the next steps. You could use either a brief complaints policy, or direct communication, to summarise:
- who will look into the matter
- what concerns they will consider
- how long this will take
- how the firm will give its final answer – bearing in mind any special adjustments the complainer may need.
- A separate third party complaints policy or statement can be very useful. In addition to the point above, this can confirm that your duty of confidentiality to your client means you cannot give the third party full details on instructions received or the advice you gave.
Mr C complained that the firm failed to respond to his letter of complaint “when needed”.
The firm had told Mr C they’d respond to his complaint within 3 weeks. On the Monday of the third week, they contacted Mr C to say they’d need a further three weeks. Before the extended time was up, the firm apologised, explained that they’d needed the extension “due to illness and pressure of business”, and provided a full response.
We recognised that this was a long and complex complaint. The solicitor had genuine reasons for the delay, and had explained them to Mr C. The firm had also investigated and explained every point raised by Mr C. In the particular context, we found that although the time taken had exceeded the time stated in the firm’s policy, the complaint had been dealt with well, and within a reasonable time.
You should never suggest, either in your Terms of Business or any other engagement, that you will charge for your time to look into the complaint.