Emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence must go hand in hand

17 February 2021

6 minute read

Director, Donna Scully, has been speaking to Modern Law Magazine about the changing needs of your team, the importance of the ‘human touch’ and how we can manage the ever-changing nature of client expectations.


It’s been a while since our readers have heard from you! For our readers that haven’t been lucky enough to meet you, tell us a little bit about Carpenters and your role there?

Carpenters Group is one of the UK’s leading national providers of legal & insurance services. We work across the board doing claimant and defendant law, but also have a big inhouse 24/7 FNOL Unit and carry out a wide range of outsourced claims services for insurers, brokers, MGA's and fleets.

Since I first joined as a joint owner, way back in 1997 (which makes me feel old), our team has grown to approximately 1000 staff across six locations throughout the UK, including Liverpool, Birkenhead, Glasgow and Haywards Heath. We have various specialist teams including fraud, serious injury and a Bikers for Bikers team. My role now is a strategic one supporting our Executive Team who run the day to day. I spend a lot of my time public speaking, attending roundtables, writing articles and trying to influence any impact or reform on our industry. 

How are new technologies helping law firms meet the changing needs of their staff?

Technology has always been at the core of the business, constantly improving the way we interact with both claimants, clients, and staff. This investment has paid off handsomely since we started, but never more than when we all moved into lockdown, allowing all our staff to be up and running from home within days. Great technology also shapes our culture and influences how our staff interact with the physical workspace. 

I think employees today expect the technology they use in the workplace to be just as advanced and intuitive as the apps they use on their smartphone. The level of expectation of clients and staff has also changed because of technology in the workplace. Results are expected much faster than ever before. 

This digital transformation is forcing organisations to rethink everything about the way they do business. The firms and people that will be successful in this new era will embrace new ways of working, collaboration and teamwork. I fear if law firms have not already embarked on this process, they will be left behind.

Technology has also helped us ‘keep in touch’ and look after our staff in Covid. Our internal comms Team have done a wonderful job with our intranet, our digital weekly newsletter and with weekly virtual updates from our CEO. We don’t want staff to feel too removed when working from home and our technology (and culture) helps with this.

Do you believe the benefits of the ‘human touch’ in law are being overlooked in the technology arms race between firms, and in which areas will the retention of the human element be imperative?

The pace of digital transformation in businesses, including law, is only getting faster, accelerated by the pandemic. It is revolutionising the claims journey for clients and automated technological systems are an inevitable core element of the future.

However, we should be wary about replacing human judgement and experience with algorithms entirely. With the increased automation of claims processes and the risks of fraud with frictionless claims, good old common-sense checks by a real person will remain essential. Automated systems can only go so far, and we must make sure that fairness remains at the heart of the claims process.

The use of technological solutions must also be balanced with the customer’s needs at what could be a difficult time. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of the ‘human touch’ bringing empathy, expertise, and knowledge to the customer experience. In short, customers want to have someone to speak to, not just an automated bot. We need to strike the right balance. Recent months have also highlighted the challenges faced by the digitally excluded. Emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence must go hand in hand.

How might consumer experience of other products and services influence the expectations of legal services?

The customer experience is evolving fast and it is a business imperative to have the right people, skills, and technology to perform whenever and however the customer chooses to interact with us. Customers are increasingly benchmarking their experiences with that of larger retail services who provide first class customer service, expecting comparable levels of service when pursuing a claim.

They demand a claims service that is easy to navigate in a way that suits them, with support when needed. If they can track a parcel online, why can’t they track their vehicle repairs or their claim?

Customers’ expectation to communicate instantly means live online chat, instant messaging, or easy access to someone with the skills and knowledge to help in the first call. A claim, and certainly an accident claim, is a very personal thing and customers will often want the option to talk to someone, so we will likely always need someone at the end of a phone line with the right people skills.
To satisfy customers’ increasing expectations inevitably means investing heavily in the latest technological advancements, but always the right people too.

Unfortunately, during the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in fraudulent activity in the industry. Though firms are doing a lot to help educate their staff, how do you believe law firms can protect and educate their vulnerable customers better from these same fraudsters?

Regrettably, fraud is very much still with us and is likely to get worse. With financial hardship rising rapidly, many more previously law-abiding consumers may be ill-advisably tempted to make a dubious claim. First, we must all remain vigilant to the rapidly changing threats from fraudulent behaviour. We must do all we can to educate both staff and customers about potential fraudsters and to be alert for suspicious emails, advertising, or social media posts.

We must however also look to working with the wider sector. It is only going to be through close collaboration with all parts of the sector that we can identify the threats and educate the public.

A particular bugbear of mine is that the digitilisation of claims, particularly following the RTA reforms due in 2021, are likely to further exacerbate the problem of fraud. When the reforms do come in and the floodgates are opened to some dubious CMCs and claims farmers, we are going to have a major problem.

Robust safeguards need to be in place to protect claimants and insurers alike from those who seek to exploit the gaps in the system. The FCA, who now has responsibility for regulating CMCs, are making all the right noises about tackling bad behaviour, but the reality is that it is under-funded and over stretched to police CMCs or tackle the unregulated sector of underground firms. There is also a serious structural flaw in the regulatory regime. The FCA only regulates CMCs who trade in bodily injury, so if they pursue repair or credit hire claims exclusively, they are not subject to FCA regulation at all.

The pandemic has shown the importance of a compassionate and trusting exchange whilst highlighting frustrations that can be felt from digital only interactions, how have client expectations and behaviours changed?

On the whole, clients have embraced these changes, recognising that digital conversations are efficient and productive. Video medical consultations and treatment, for instance, have shown to have benefits for both claimants and defendants. Early assessments can be undertaken where logistically the claimant may perhaps not be able to travel due to their injuries or due to Covid restrictions.

The past few months have highlighted the need to empathise with our clients, some of whom have really struggled. Whilst generally positive and understanding of the circumstances of the pandemic, our staff have reported an increase in impatience amongst clients wanting to resolve their claim ever faster. To help address this, we have taken a very proactive approach to collaborate with the industry and have significantly increased the level of communication with our clients to update them on the progress of their claim.

Donna Scully,
Director, Carpenters Group.