Secret E-Diary

When should clients feel satisfied with our services?

‘You’ve got to keep reinventing. You’ll have new competitors. You’ll have new customers all around you’ – Ginni Rometty

We have employed a personable young man in Chambers called Emanuele da Luca. He comes from the world of web design and interactive customer relations and has a large following amongst the junior juniors for a variety of reasons together with an extensive range of well-cut Italian suits. He was first going to revamp our somewhat dated website which has a photograph of me looking 15 years younger and a series of silhouetted head shapes representing half of Chambers who failed to have their photographs taken, plus one of Hetty Briar-Pitt who said her actual photograph might attract unwelcome attention from perverts. There then followed a list of all the subjects Chambers handled, which seemed to vary from crime to aircraft law with a small amount of Chancery thrown in and a series of out-of-date case profiles where old legal triumphs were guarded by their authors with unwavering ferocity.

The new website is highly interactive and the slightest touch on any button, however inadvertent, is likely to take you to a whole series of impressive displays, some still and others moving, together with a strange logo floating around the screen. I did, however, need to amend some of the material. Whilst flattering, I felt that the description of the Head of Chambers as ‘the thrusting CEO of this corporate looking business’ might draw unfavourable attention from the Bar Standards Board.

However, Emanuele’s next suggestion has caused a stir. It is now common practice for those providing goods and services to request completion of an online customer satisfaction survey. Everyone is doing it. The most bizarre manifestation to date that I have experienced was an email from a well-known provider of telephone services specifically wanting to know how it had handled a telephone call to me in respect of an overdue bill. I dealt with that aspect remarkably quickly, and had plenty of time for the box entitled ‘Other Comments’ to enquire as to when the broadband revolution with super-fast download speeds was ever going to reach my address in the most central part of central London. Now Emanuele wanted a survey…

The original idea was that every client would be given an email link to a survey site in which a series of penetrating questions would be asked, encouraging revealing answers that would enable us to move forward with appropriate sensitivity to our customers’ needs. There was one slight problem: about a third of our defence clients are housed in accommodation where the use of the internet is heavily discouraged and most of our prosecution customers have email security so tight that sending them anything electronically is almost impossible and the climate of fear over the unauthorised use of certain websites is such that they would be very unlikely to accept our invitation, even supposing they were permitted to express an individual view in the first place.

Emanuele is never daunted. His eyes twinkle and he smiles sweetly: and another beautifully presented plan appears. This involved alternative survey forms on beautifully embossed paper. The next hurdle was the questions. Emanuele wisely decided to hand this over to us, as he had an instinct that it would not be easy. Naturally, we formed a committee. It was chaired by Roderick ‘Trimmer’ Twist, contained an abnormal number of junior tenants, commanded my presence ‘ex officio’ and would be advised by Emanuele da Luca.

A committee of barristers is the worst imaginable body for any sensible purpose including the devising of questions. The more barristers there are, the worse the problem will become. We met last week after court for a preliminary canter. It was not encouraging. It took us 20 minutes to decide whether the scale of satisfaction should be 0-5 or 1-10. Just when I had lost the will to live, Emanuele suggested 0-7. This was accepted immediately. The first proposed question: ‘Did your barrister from Gutteridge Chambers give satisfaction?’ was thought to have certain unfortunate connotations. Amelia Farquhar said she thought Emanuele should give us the benefit of his experience. ‘Maybe,’ he said, suavely, ‘we postpone this for a little time as we move forward with new projects.’ He told me later that he found it very difficult to define any objective standard of customer satisfaction for the profession. Not for the first time, I had the thought that the boy will go far.

William Byfield Gutteridge Chambers. William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious.

Issue: