What I discovered on my travels last week – quality service leads to repeat business if you adapt well

 In Gill's Blog

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Travel, Tax and Training

Gill Steel Blog prefI am a lucky person. I am not stuck in an office all day every day – I get the chance to get out and about around the country meeting with all kinds of private client practitioners. Take this week, I went up to wonderful York and met an old colleague at the Hilton National Hotel opposite the Clifford’s Tower over supper and then had a cracking day with members of Yorkshire Law Society in a medieval Merchant’s Hall.

Many of you know that these days I have to eat gluten, dairy and egg free and avoid eating raw vegetables. Quite difficult for organisers to manage but full credit to the catering at Yorkshire Law Society – I was given a delightful plate of food for my lunch. Black marks go to the Cross Country train service though who struggled to even manage a peppermint tea and certainly provided nothing I could eat in either direction over a five hour journey each way apart from a bag of crisps – not very healthy is it?

If some chains can manage to take intolerances and allergies seriously why can’t transport services and hotels? I was over in Swindon a few weeks ago for STEP Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and had lunch at Wagamama’s. I had never been to this restaurant before but would recommend it to anyone with food problems – the staff were great; they take it all seriously and even have an allergy manual which lists all their meals and breaks down the contents against typical allergies and intolerances. All food is then freshly made by the head chef.

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When in Hull last month, speaking to Hull Probate Practitioners Group run by the estimable Terry Moore of Burstalls, I also visited Ask Pizza and was surprised to find they too have a positive attitude to helping those with intolerances and allergies.

I cannot say the same of the Hilton National in York who, whilst the staff were co-operative, there was actually nothing on the menu that I could eat and the chef had to make me something off the menu. I thank them, of course, but really this seems sad to me.

Approaching change in the tax and legal landscape

All this comment on food is simply to demonstrate that the hotel and catering industry has had to change to address something which is becoming more prevalent in society. After all they need customers and without providing what some need others may not choose their facilities either if the family or group cannot all be accommodated.

To some extent this change has come about quickly and as indicated above, some providers have adapted brilliantly but others are sadly lacking.  So, by the same token what are we doing to attract new clients; retain existing ones and approach changes in the tax and legal landscape?

There is always something changing in tax. The Solicitors Regulation Authority recently issued a warning notice about how disciplinary action would be taken against a member if we facilitated tax avoidance.

There are delays to our access to the Trust Registration Service so you will have a backlog of new complex estates and trusts to register and no ability to put on existing trusts. We learnt this week that there are problems with the system and the HMRC Guidance has had to go on professional body websites for now rather than their own. This is not a quality of service we like and we lobby for HMRC to try harder. Who do clients lobby if they do not think your service is value for money? I suppose they simply vote with their feet.

All consumers of services set the bar for quality higher and higher and our regulators too. We do need to focus on service quality and complex work to retain and develop our client base. Simple work tends to be won on price alone (you can buy a burger anywhere but where can you buy a gluten free & dairy free burger and bun?) and with the high costs to our practice of regulation we are often more expensive than some potential clients want.

This should encourage you to seek better quality work rather than enter into a race to the bottom. To do that you need to keep up to date and also extend your knowledge and practice. All congratulations to those I have met in recent weeks who are doing just that.

Gill Steel
13 October 2017

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