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A client complaint handling lesson for every professional services firm

Better complaint handling is a big opportunity for every professional services firm. So beaton is very pleased to refresh A client complaint handling lesson for every professional services firm. With his permission, the contents is based on Loyalty moments and online dispute resolution – a lesson about complaints? by Professor Richard Moorhead (bio below).

It is a privilege to have this direct access to Richard’s insights into many facets of the legal and other professions contributed in his incisive and inimitable style. Please welcome Richard and join this important conversation on complaints and complaint handling in professional services.

Loyalty moments and online dispute resolution – a lesson about complaints? was first published on August 19, 2015 by Richard Moorhead on his blog Lawyer Watch.

“There are a couple of very interesting (and short) posts by Colin Rule, doyenne of online dispute resolution, on lessons eBay learnt when implementing their online dispute resolution systems (here). The key lesson was that a better, more accessible, complaints system a) led to more complaints, and b) increased the volume of business for eBay. Another way of putting it is that it increased trust in eBay and did so in measurable ways. A particularly interesting claim, not entirely surprising to students of Tom Tyler’s procedural justice theory, is that even those complainants who were unsuccessful were more likely to use eBay than they had previously. Dealing quickly and (in a way that is perceived to be) fairly may extend beyond simply being damage limitation. Rule puts it like this:

What that meant was that buyers who “won” their case increased their activity, but buyers who “lost” their case also increased their activity. Now it is true that the buyers who lost their case did increase their activity at a slower rate than the buyers who won their case, but most surprisingly, both of those buyers increased their activity more than buyers who never filed a dispute in the first place.

Lawyers may not get repeat clients often enough to get very excited about this, but they do get word of mouth referrals. Capturing complaints at the very earliest opportunity and dealing with them fairly, may still be good business – as well as the right thing to do. And with more legal business being sought, handled, even transacted, online, the need for online dispute resolution with clients may become more pressing.”

About Richard Moorhead

Richard was Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London ate the time of writing this post. He is now Head of Law School at University of Exeter.

Richard has special interests in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts. I first met Richard when he made a major contribution to NewLaw New Rules, my e-book published in December 2013.

Client complaint handling for every professional services firm

beaton’s B2B surveys show every professional services firm (more than 100) we have researched in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and southeast Asia has a fair proportion of dissatisfied clients. ‘Dissatisfied’ is gauged by a score of 5 or less on a 0 to 10 point when respondents rate their overall client service experience; some proportions are as high as 30%.

The now well substantiated adage (see here for example) that one unhappy customers tells 10 others, while one happy customer tells only one other, is a scary fact if you have even a 10% dissatisfied client base. Think about it this way: If this 10% represents 10 clients, then they will tell 100 others, whereas the 90% of satisfied clients will tell only 90 others. beaton’s anecdotal evidence from verbatim comments suggests a proportion of this dissatisfaction relates to the failure to elicit complaints and poor complaint handling. Industries like airlines and banking have well researched and resourced complaint handling processes.

Why don’t professional services? For cogent evidence of the reasons read our recently updated post Grow your firm by helping clients to switch to you.

For more information

For more information of beaton's findings from our research into your clients and how your firm can obtain a benchmarked and tracked report on your performance, contact George Beaton at

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