In this business you get used to dealing with regular customer and third-party feedback, input, and (occasionally) complaints.
Much like the agency market I suspect, conveyancers are sometimes demonised and accused of being responsible for every single delay, problem, or obstacle that might arise during a transaction.
This tends to come with the territory and we should all have our eyes wide open for this ‘perk’ of the job.
When it comes to negative feedback or complaints, while I wouldn’t go so far as to ‘welcome’ them I believe you have to be open to them.
Indeed, without this type of customer interaction your firm may be oblivious to a particular problem – just because you’ve always done a task a certain way, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.
I have lost count of the number of times we’ve made process changes or tweaked our service following feedback.
In a very true way, complaints can help you deliver significant improvements.
You’ll sense, however, that there is a ‘But’ coming here. And you’d be right. But (there it is) on the other hand I am not enamoured of criticism or complaints which have no basis in fact or come without sufficient evidence to back them up.
This reminds me of those TV talent shows where the ‘nasty judge’ effectively tells the contestant: “You’re rubbish, get off the stage.”
No-one learns anything from this and it just breeds resentment and anger with no opportunity for learning or growth.
Reading recent ‘research’ from LV= Legal Services on the number of transactions it believes to have collapsed last year, and the reasons why this might be the case, the fault it would seem for all of those cases not making it to completion can be well and truly laid at the door of the conveyancing market.
In effect, it’s all our fault and every single reason why cases collapse is down to ‘poor conveyancing services’.
By this they seem to mean that delays – purely caused by conveyancing firms you understand – are the key component for a failed transaction.
In essence, conveyancers take too long – LV= even put a number on it; 96,000 sales collapsed in 2015 as a result of poor conveyancing services.
Where it actually gets these numbers from is a moot point but the target is clear and (one presumes) all customers, advisers, lenders should stop using their existing conveyancing firms and move to LV= immediately.
Now I’m long in the tooth to know that this type of ‘X transactions collapse because of conveyancers’ has been designed to generate media headlines, and lo and behold, look I’m writing about it here.
But, for a start, I’m not sure that berating the entire conveyancing sector is the right way to go about it.
Take for instance, those statistics again. In the story I read covering this press release, it goes on to say that of those 96,000 collapsed sales, 21% were because buyers were gazumped and 15% were because the vendors pulled out at the last minute.
Now, let’s take that in; how are conveyancers to blame for a client accepting an offer higher than the original?
Also, how are conveyancers to blame if the vendor pulls out of the transaction?
They are unquestionably beyond the control of the conveyancer and even the most hard-nosed critic of conveyancing firms might accept that these types of occurrences are not the sole fault of the conveyancer.
In many cases, it’s very easy to blame the conveyancer for a transaction failing to complete.
‘They took too long’, is an easy excuse without seeking to understand the reasons why a case might have been delayed.
As one of our member firms stated recently at our Management Committee Meeting, no quality conveyancing firm in their right mind wants to sit on a case longer than absolutely necessary.
We want cases completed as quickly as possible and therefore you have to understand just what is causing the delay.
Is it a problem closer to home? Are we waiting for information? Let’s look a little deeper behind these issues and hopefully uncover accurate reasons why there are delays, and develop solutions for them.
So, while I’m not saying that conveyancers are completely blameless in certain cases, I am saying that they cannot be blamed all of the time.
Bashing firms for the sake of it – or even to promote your own proposition – may be part of the marketing game but it does not do the reputation of the industry any good, especially when those accusations are clearly false.
I would be the first to accept culpability when it is deserved, however by the same token we have to stand up for our sector when those playing the blame card are so clearly in the wrong.
*Eddie Goldsmith is Chairman of the Conveyancing Association