The importance of good service

I knew there was a good reason to go to Prague last weekend – aside from celebrating a big wedding anniversary with my beloved – and it being an excellent place to visit, as everyone told me beforehand.

Before leaving, we’d just had news of the massive Court fees increase, with only a few week’s notice.   Tempted though I was to vent some spleen on this score, we are where we are and even I am bored with the sound of my own pen on that subject. No, I have something far more interesting to talk about here – it’s something we all want but rarely receive in good old Blighty and my visit to Prague restored some lost faith!

Something we all want…

You might be thinking this has something to do with the huge numbers of highly-decorated churches, or the odd imposing castle, monastery, bridge, civic building or opera house. Yes, they made a very impressive statement about the vision, skills and commitment of many hundreds of people 500 years ago, but these weren’t what impressed me the most.

What really struck me was the attitude of service we found in the hotels, restaurants and taxis. Getting people to ‘serve’ customers well – consistently, reliably and intelligently – is extremely hard to achieve. How often does service ‘blow you away’ in the UK? In a taxi?  In a restaurant (especially when asking for something troublesome like a jug of water, or decaffeinated coffee) or hotel or store – these days. On some occasions it’s even hard to find someone to speak to!

I found myself asking – how does Linda, one of the hotel waitresses, remember without notes everything we tell her? How does she remember and action, the following day, our preferences for tea and coffee at breakfast before we even sit down at the table? It wasn’t just Linda, it was every staff member. The porter who greeted us upon arrival didn’t see me for 3 days, and yet, in passing me in the corridor, greeted me by name.

How do they do it?

OK, no doubt they have a sophisticated CRM system.  But that cannot prompt the porter in the corridor who is already talking to a colleague as he passes by. There is something in their desire, their intent, their delight in serving the customer. How is that achieved?

It must be something to do with excellent training?  For sure; but there’s more than that. What is it?

There’s got to be something deeply inspiring and motivating to keep your concentration and initiative consistently high.

What we need to learn from this

I figure that there must be a culture of respect for yourself, your colleagues and customers that perhaps we miss here in the UK. It’s all about how you yourself are treated and viewed by managers and colleagues. Do they respect me? Do I respect them? If we believe in each other, praise each other, trust each other in the nitty-gritty of daily life… it warms the heart and motivates.  If you’re not trusted, then you’ll lose that motivation, that determination to excel, that drive to go the extra mile.

I doubt Linda was paid a lot. But she clearly loved her job.  And we loved the pride and excellence she showed in her daily work. I found her attitude challenging and inspiring – and to complete the circle, this blog is now winging its way to the hotel manager.

Author: Charles Wilson,  Managing Director – Solicitor,  Lovetts plc

Happy New Year – what’s coming up for the CCUA in 2014…

 

May I somewhat belatedly wish all CCUA members a Happy New Year! I don’t know where the time has gone since our offices reopened after the Christmas break but I’m sure we are all now back in the swing of things ready to continue lobbying for improvements in the court service.

Court Fee Consultation

The Consultation closed on 21 January 2014 after being rushed through in seven weeks which included the Christmas and New Year period.

Rob Thompson, Chair of the CCUA Lobbying Committee, drafted a clear and concise summary of the situation and I hope everyone managed to get a chance to read it . Should the fees be increased as proposed, past experience would seem to indicate that this will result in a reduction in the issue of money claims. As Rob points out, there was a decrease in the issue of Warrants of Execution when the fee doubled, showing the cost of action can be prohibitive.

Also, could the timing of the consultation be worse? As users of the court service, I am sure most of us are dissatisfied and in some cases, extremely frustrated with the inadequate service provided not only by CCMCC but by the court service as a whole. We can only hope the Ministry of Justice give careful consideration to the CCUA’s response on behalf of the members.

Regional meetings February….

South West Region – next meeting will take place on 5 February at the offices of Burges Salmon, Bristol at 10.30am for 11am start.

Greater London/South East Region – next meeting will take place on 20 February 2014 at BDO offices in Baker Street, London, at 10.30am for 11am start. The guest speaker is Alan Smith, Director – Corporate Governance, High Court Enforcement Group. His presentation will be on ‘The future regulations for execution against goods’ which will come into force as part of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 Order 2013 in April 2014.

Diary dates March

6 March 2014 – Northern Region meeting to be held at CCMCC (sponsored by Shoosmiths)

Simon Hardy, Chair of the Northern Region, says “The focus of the meeting will be the CCMCC and will include a tour of the operation and an opportunity for questions and answers.  Good attendance at this meeting would be much appreciated as HMCTS/CCMCC are genuinely keen to work with us and do welcome feedback”.

What a great opportunity to see inside the CCMCC and identify their main problem areas. Such a visit may help us, to help them, improve the service provided and gain a better understanding of their systems and procedures.

14 March 2014 – House of Lords dinner.

News for 2014…

Christmas is coming…

I don’t know about you but December seems to be arriving quicker each year so maybe now would be a good time to consider our New Year’s resolutions before we enjoy our well deserved break. With the CCUA committee becoming busier each year, how about a resolution to become a more active member of the CCUA ?

Volunteers needed

In 2014 volunteers will be required to attend workshops, provide updates and maybe even write a blog or two! Probably the easiest way to assist the Association would be to respond to any surveys emailed to us asking for our views on the service we are receiving from the courts. Monitoring the results ensures the Associate can provide valuable feedback and highlight the problem areas to those concerned.

Also, please remember that if you have having a particular problem on a case, this may be reported to the Association using the email address: claires@ccua.org.uk. Just a few brief details of the problem you are encountering and the court dealing with your matter is all that is required to log this. The more feedback we receive, the better, to build up a complete picture of the court service. In the interests of fairness, we should also report any exceptionally good service we receive!

We must remember that the result of all the work we put in should be an improving court service which will be beneficial to all concerned.

Regional meetings

Looking forward now to the regional meetings for December…

Northern Regional – next meeting will take place on Thursday 5 December at the offices of BDO in Leeds. One of the guest speakers is a representative from the Northampton CCBC who will provide an update on the activities at the centre and will provide performance statistics etc. The meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to network with other members and with representatives of HMCTS.

Central Region – next meeting will be on Tuesday 10 December at the office of KPMG in Birmingham. Greg Wasinski, Jurisdictional and Operational Support Officer, Civil Improvement Team, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service will be the speaker and his presentation will be on the very topical subject of mediation.

Diary date 2014

House of Lords dinner – Friday 14 March 2014.

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

 

News from the CCUA Conference

Conference

As always the CCUA conference was a great success and this was followed by a hugely enjoyable gala dinner.  Although I was unfortunately unable to attend I managed to keep up to date with the events via  Twitter which proved very successful. I particularly enjoyed the photos and thought the celebratory cupcakes looked delicious!

Congratulations And Thanks

I am sure you will join with me in congratulating Central Region member, Jeremy Chaplin as he takes up his post as Chairman of the CCUA and Amir Ali, as he continues in his role as Vice-Chair. With changes coming into force next year with the new PCOL  and MCOL systems and continued issues with the court service, it will be a busy year for all concerned and ‘as many hands make light work’ if we all pull together we can make the work load a little lighter for all concerned.

A huge thank you must go to Brian Havercroft for all the hard work and dedication he brought to the role of Chair and although he will no doubt be kept busy, he may be able to take it a bit easier.

Another thank you must go to Anthony Sharp as he steps down from role as conference Chair and congratulations to Lisa Keating as she takes on this role.

Regional meetings

Looking forward now to the regional meetings for November…

Greater London and South East Region – next meeting will be taking place at BDO offices in Baker Street, London on Thursday 21 November starting at 10.30am. David Philpott, Conduct Redress and Standards at The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has agreed to come and address the meeting.

South West Region – next meeting will be on Wednesday 27 November also starting at 10.30am and will take place at the Offices of Burgess Salmon in Bristol.

Diary dates for December

The Northern Region meeting – 5 December 2013

Central Region meeting – 10 December 2013.

 

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

Court Fees to Increase?

I returned to work after a short break to find the latest issue of ‘Court Focus’ on my desk. After grabbing a cup of coffee I sat down to have a read as a way of getting back into work mode!

Another great article by Brian Havercroft informs us that the Ministry of Justice is considering an increase in court fees.

It is hard to believe that the court would even consider an increase at a time when confidence in the service provided is at such a low. Although, as Brian has pointed out, we will have to wait for the results of the survey carried out by the Association and Lovetts LLP to confirm if members continue to be as dissatisfied with the service as they were last year.

The Ultimate aim…

It appears that an increase in the fees may dramatically reduce claims issued which may be what they are ultimately trying to achieve, however court proceedings are only ever issued as a last resort when all other means to obtain payment have failed.

Generally I find small firms are now reluctant to even consider issuing proceedings to recover sums due to them as they have to pay the court fee together with fixed costs with no guarantee of payment ever being received from the debtor.  Usually clients will ask for a more amicable approach to be taken in the first instance with claims only being issued against debtors who are withholding payment despite having the means to pay.

When we look at debt recovery success rates, I am sure we look at debts we have recovered to the satisfaction of our clients and not how many claims we have issued to court.

With the Association continuing to assist the Government to understand the debt recovery procedure maybe in time a user-friendly, cost effective system will be put in place.

Conference 2013

The annual conference will soon be upon us and this year the Association will be addressing ‘Civil Justice; is it still accessible in 2013?’ An interesting variety of speakers have been lined up and we will be provided with an update from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service in respect of ‘delivering services to the civil court users’.

The ‘Question Time’ session, chaired by Paul Lewis, should be most interesting and provide some lively debate in the afternoon before Gala Dinner and Champagne Reception.

All of this, plus the opportunity to gain 7 CPD points, makes this a great opportunity to meet new members of the Association and catch up with familiar faces.

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

The New Alternative to PCOL

An interesting meeting at the Ministry of Justice was held to review the online claims procedure and in particular the PCOL system.

Background

The Government website states “Government Digital Strategy and Departmental Digital Strategies commit us to the redesigning and rebuilding of 25 significant ‘exemplar’ services. We’re going to make them simpler, clearer and faster to use. All these are to meet the Digital By Default Service Standard by April 2014 and be completed by March 2015.

The 22nd exemplar in the transformation process is civil claims. Further information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/transformation/court-claims.

Discussion Group

The purpose of the discussion group was for members to provide information in respect of users requirements of PCOL so a completely new system can be produced rather than an improvement to the existing one. It appears at present that courts are still reliant on papers files as the current functionality of the system means a large proportion of contact with the court is still via paper and telephone calls.

It was interesting to hear the views of others on how the system could be improved and in particular the need to eradicate the use of paper claims. Currently PCOL is limited in its function and therefore a new system will need to be able to deal with a variety of scenarios such as deceased and term expired possession claims.

Another interesting feature discussed was the possibility of adding a Title Number to the property address details to assist with identification of the property which would be of use in respect of properties with garages or additional land.

Going forward

The meeting really showed how much needs to be discussed, as the allotted time passed so quickly, but hopefully further discussions will be held to ensure the success of the new system.

Further feedback from members on any functions they would like to have available on the system would be beneficial to all concerned and ensure the CCUA is at the forefront of promoting a user friendly, time saving, modern claims system.

Now time for summer hols and sunshine (I hope!).

Author – Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

 

Hitting a moving target?

Last night, tennis commentators were saying that yesterday was one of the most extraordinary days in Wimbledon history.

An unprecedented number of top stars dropped out of the tournament, either through injury or through unforeseen loss to a much lower-ranked opponent.  Federer, Sharapova, Tsonga, Azarenka, Cilic, Isner all went home.

Coincidentally, I was asking my legal claims manager at Lovetts to complete the online survey about HMCTS service levels which all CCUA members have just received from chairman Brian Havercroft.  (I shall be analysing the results in July for the CCUA as a follow-on from my speech at last year’s Annual Conference).

What is the connection between Wimbledon and the CCUA?

Well, it’s this.  As I’ve talked with my managers recently, it is clear that the problems in the Court Service are changing all the time. Like tennis balls. So too is our feedback to HMCTS, it’s a moving target.

It takes repeated effort to obtain it, and then feed it back to senior Court staff. And they’re asking for it…if you know what I mean. For instance, last year, our CCUA and CCBC members scored our local courts as relatively high for competence, helpfulness and response.

I suspect this year, our views may be different.  Resourcing for local courts is patchy, and delays and mistakes are, in Lovetts experience, more rife than ever before.  How sad, when you think how dedicated the local court staff have been over so many years.

The huge performance difference between courts

Two weeks ago, I was shown a report produced by HMCTS South-Eastern region at a CCUA meeting.  It showed that some local courts in the South-East were performing very badly compared to others.

The exact timescales for handling claims in top and bottom performing courts were shown. Thus, a small claim in Brighton in 2012-13 typically took 25 weeks from Claim to Hearing.  A small claim in Reigate (a few miles up the A23 from Brighton) took 44 weeks.

That is a staggering 19 weeks difference, or 4.5 months longer to get a case heard and resolved.

Let’s keep feeding back

Wimbledon stars are knocked out when they cannot hit the moving target of a small yellow ball.

If we don’t keep feeding back to HMCTS – through CCUA – the detail of what is happening in our Courts, then that moving target will not be hit, and we’ll be in danger of being knocked out of the tournament. Bluntly, our debtors may, by then, be bust.

Author: Charles Wilson, CEO of Lovetts plc, Debt recovery solicitors