Law firm boss emphasises that the legal sector needs to ‘come to the table with solutions’ to combat the personal injury market’s challenges

In July, personal injury solicitor firm Minster Law launched its new digital claims portal, called INK.

For chief executive Shirley Woolham, this type of innovation within the personal injury sector is long overdue as “law firms need to come to the table with solutions in this market and stop complaining about the [whiplash] reforms and the impact that it’s having”.

With the ability to plug in to the future Litigants in Person (LiP) portal, INK provides an omni-channel claims journey that is designed to build internal efficiencies and cost savings as well as improve customer engagement with the claims process.

The portal has been the result of a “two-year journey of listening to what our customers want, responding, iterating, testing, trialing, learning, amending [and] shifting”, Woolham said. “It’s only if you’ve got that mindset of continuous improvement can you really hope to succeed in a digital world.”

And the insurance industry is, albeit slowly, embracing this digital landscape – Woolham added that the legal sector is then “beholden” to up the technological ante in order to support more seamless customer journeys.

She explained: “The insurance sector has worked really, really hard to improve its own claims process and many lead the field in terms of the implementation of technologies to make frictionless processes work for customers.

“It’s absolutely beholden on the legal sector as a protagonist within the process to meet them on that challenge and we think the investments we’ve made and the fact that our portal can be seamlessly integrated into other online claims journeys should help that.”

Behind the curve

Although increased efficiency and customer engagement are the primary drivers behind INK, Woolham added that it is about time law firms stepped up to the plate with solutions to some of the personal injury market’s challenges – and she wants Minster Law to be leading this charge.

Shirley Woolham_Minster Law

Shirley Woolham

“We’ve got to take the challenge up on ourselves,” she said.

“There is a little bit in our market of sitting and waiting, having others to solve problems for us.

”So, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) can only go so far to fixing some of the issues in the sector.

”We just feel like it’s time to start collaborating within the wider industry to fix the problems that exist and digital and accelerating digital has been key to that.

“We could all wait for the Ministry, the MIB to launch the LiP portal and then only start going digital at that point, but our view is the industry itself is probably five years behind the curve.

”There seems to have been so much increased chatter about digital in the legal sector, but there’s been so little progress.

“Minster’s determined to make the move forward that we need to do and if that means leading the way, we’re absolutely going to do that.”

An example of this includes tackling alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which will not be featured as part of the LiP portal.

However, Woolham said Minster Law is “actively in conversations with insurers and technology partners to embark in a range of exciting pilots to see if we can’t fix the problem ourselves, by all protagonists in the process coming together and focusing on what’s really important here, which is getting genuine claimants the damages they deserve as quickly as possible”.

Hitting targets

By using INK, Woolham hopes to minimise the risk of customer apathy while also reducing the cost per claim.

She said: “The [whiplash] reforms will require any organisation to have the lowest cost to serve, but also, quite interestingly, have a solution which makes sure that customers are still really prepared to engage in the claims process.

“No-one really wants to make a claim. At best, they can’t be bothered, at worst they might feel morally disenfranchised from the whole process, so a digital solution really is about making sure that customers still engage in the claims process and it allows organisations like ours that embed it within really strong, totally reimagined service infrastructure to deliver it at the lowest cost to serve.

“Some delays [in the claims process] are created because of customer apathy. They just lose interest, they can’t be bothered and that’s absolutely unacceptable.

“Any apathy that exists in a process is driven because the industry hasn’t created a process that the customers want to use, so our goal is to make sure we retain people in the process and get them to conclude their claim.”

To date, Minster Law’s strategy seems to be working. Since INK’s launch in July, 16,000 customers with personal injury claims are currently on the portal’s system, while 70% of Minster Law’s customers suffering minor injuries are using INK to progress their claims. The portal has also achieved a 95% customer satisfaction rate.

After investing £5m into the portal and corresponding back office functionality, Woolham continued that Minster Law is additionally now reaping the hoped-for cost savings too.

“We’ve been able to deliver a 40% reduction in our cost to serve, or cost per claim. We anticipate the continual roll-out of our digital process, which is the portal and also the whole back end infrastructure, including the great work our people do, to take that down to at least 75% reduction. So, [a] significant impact,” Woolham said.

This focus on digital may also help Minster Law differentiate its services, as the FCA places greater emphasis on value and customer service as opposed to premium prices, following the regulator’s report on tackling price walking practices.

Woolham added: “With the FCA now looking very hard at the differential pricing on new and renewing policies, I’m really interested to see whether or not that means customer service and the service that policyholders get will be a really important driver of choice of policy, given the fact that there will be very little difference between new and renewing policies.

“So, therefore, where is the battle to be won? If it’s not to be won on the aggregators anymore, is the battle to be won in how you deal with me as a policyholder?

”And if it does go down that direction, which for the benefit of the customer, I hope it does, then organisations like Minster who think that way, act that way, whose control of that moment of truth in the claims journey can actually make that policyholder feel more sticky and loyal to their insurer and their broker, can only be a good thing for everyone involved.”