Those 4,333 respondents told us they want:
- discounts on travel and accommodation;
- discounted optical care and dentistry;
- further discounts in shops, restaurants and wine bars; and
- beneficial arrangements with training course providers and booksellers.
Self-employed practitioners also want more products and services that support them in their practice. From the responses we learnt that there is a general lack of understanding as to why Member Services offers its portfolio of products and services, how partner companies are selected and what measures are in place to monitor performance. Member Services must communicate more effectively with the Bar in order for it to understand how a partner organisation is selected and the process through which quality and good customer service are assured.
We asked members what mattered most to them when deciding to buy a product or use a service. It will come as no surprise that competitive pricing is the leading consideration. However price is not the only key driver behind a decision to use products and services offered through Member Services, quality and service are just as important.
It is clear from the responses that members of the Bar prefer to be contacted by email rather than traditional snail mail. Emails are by far the most effective way of keeping you informed about the latest developments, especially so if you can simply click on a link to a website and peruse at your leisure, or save it in your inbox for future reference.
What did Member Services do?
Armed with this new member intelligence, Member Services started reshaping the portfolio with confidence.
Bar Council online bookstore
We are testing a new Bar Council bookstore which is the result of a new partnership with Hammicks Legal Services, a brand name readers will recognise from the internet, or one of their stores or their loyal presence as an exhibitor at the Annual Bar Conference. This new online bookstore uses the latest technology and secure payment protocols and will be launched soon.
Reviewing our existing portfolio of products and services
We listened to what does and does not fit well in our existing portfolio of products and services and undertook a comprehensive review. As a result, I am delighted to announce our new relationship with Cavanagh Group, Independent Financial Advisers (“IFA”), who take over the IFA position within our portfolio in late September 2009. Cavanagh are unlikely to be strangers to many members of the Bar after supporting Bar Council activities in recent years, including sponsorship of the Annual Bar Conference on 7 November 2009. This year there will be an air of excitement around their stand at the 24th Annual Bar Conference at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, as we celebrate their new partnership with Member Services. So if you are coming along, don’t miss out on your chance to speak to Cavanagh about how they might be able to help you.
Another well-known name in the Bar community is Place Campbell Chartered Accountants who represent around 2,500 barristers. Place Campbell supports the Bar throughout their careers by providing invaluable advice from Call through to retirement. Their specialist knowledge of life at the Bar is one of the many reasons why Place Campbell were an obvious choice to become the latest new company to be awarded Service Partner status within Member Services’ expanding portfolio. Like Cavanagh, Place Campbell will be at the forthcoming Annual Bar Conference, so if you are not already a client, why not approach them and put them on the spot to find out what they offer over and above their competitors?
Bridging the gap
Like most businesses in the UK, our partners have not been immune to the recession and as the credit crunch bit harder, one of our long-term partners, Syscap, who featured in this magazine (see “Fast Finance” Counsel, October 2008, p 32), were forced to withdraw Aged-Debt funding. Aged-Debt funding is one of the most important services provided within the Member Services’ portfolio, so it is good news that, after working tirelessly on behalf of the Bar, Syscap have secured new lines of funding to help with aged-debt problems. As I write, those lines of funding are worth up to £50 million, which will come as a great relief to many barristers who are facing a build up of aged-debt. You can read more about this funding at www.barcouncil.org.uk/memberservices.
What will Member Services do next? Services that support your practice
A new portfolio of services, loosely labelled Procurement Services for Chambers, has been extensively researched with the co-operation of 20 chambers up and down the country. Member Services are now negotiating with various companies, including IT suppliers, telecommunications providers and suppliers of staple business goods and services to meet the needs of self-employed practitioners.
Member Services will soon communicate with the Bar through email. But don’t worry, emails will be sent out selectively and in a timely fashion; after all, we want you to read them not delete them. We will continue to tailor our website according to the feedback we receive so that you can access products and services easily. As Member Services develops the portfolio further, the website will be updated, so make sure you visit www.barcouncil.org.uk/memberservices regularly to take advantage of all the benefits on offer to you.
Staying in touch
The research conducted by mruk gave us rich and reliable data which will underpin our strategy for the future, but we still want to hear from you. If you know of a supplier who fits the values of Member Services, whether they are a national company or a small local business, please get in touch with either me or Rebecca Dobner, Relationship Marketing Manager (E-mail: RDobner@barcouncil.org.uk). Our values are that the portfolio of services provided by Member Services will:
(a) promote the interests of the Bar community and be in the interests of the Bar;
(b) offer value for money and be competitive within the market;
(c) remain inclusive to all members of the Bar;
(d) provide proactive and responsive customer care; and
(e) be delivered with the highest standards of quality.
With these values at the heart of the portfolio of services you can confidently rely on Member Services.
Paul Mosson, Head of Member Services,
To contact Member Services
Telephone: 020 7611 1329
Via the website: www.barcouncil.org.uk/memberservices
I will be at the forthcoming Young Bar and Annual Bar Conferences where I hope to meet many of you. You may also get in touch with me directly by e-mail at PMosson@barcouncil.org.uk; or telephone: 020 7611 1394.