Customer documentation: Eat with your eyes first

A common phrase used by TV chefs is “we eat with our eyes first”. This phrase is usually used to reinforce the importance of presenting the contents on the plate in an appealing and enticing way notwithstanding that the food may be nutritional and tasty.

It seems to me that the same advice is relevant to firms with regard to the presentation of information to customers in the retail legal services market. This was particularly highlighted when I participated as a judge (honoured to have been a judge since the 2013 awards) for the LFS Conveyancing Awards 2015. The judging process included a review of the information presented to customers at the beginning of a conveyancing transaction.

It was evident during the judging process that firms strive to provide information to customers which they are obliged to provide. It is clearly necessary for firms to provide a lot of essential content to customers at the beginning of a transaction in order to inform them, appropriately manage their expectations and to require them to take action to facilitate the ongoing transaction.

Furthermore, some of the information provided is also designed to protect firms in the event that disputes arise in the future whereby documentary evidence of information communicated to customers could be critical in order to avoid adverse outcomes.

Even though the provision of the necessary information at the outset of a transaction may tick the ‘compliance to regulatory obligations’ box, there remains the possibility of missing the opportunity to enhance the customer experience through the presentation of that content in a more user friendly way.

It seems to me that improving the presentation of customer documentation can result in the following benefits:

  • Minimise misunderstanding;
  • Enhance informed engagement of customers;
  • Make it easier to navigate through lengthy documents.

Three tips that firms may consider to improve the presentation of customer documentation is as follows:


1. Organise for the customer
 The information provided should be structured with the customer in mind. Firms need to design the presentation of information taking into account how the customer is most likely to consume the information. So continuing with the food analogy, firms need to avoid presenting the desert before the starter. This would involve organising the information based on the relative priority or significance of the information. In addition, the chunking of related information in appropriate sections should also be a key consideration.

2. Call to action
Firms need to emphasise clearly the information that is a call to action to the customer. The call to action needs to clarify the specific action that the customer is required to take. In addition, firms should aim to clarify the likely timescale and/or sequence of the required action either through appropriate chunking of that information or helpful signposting through the bundle of documents.

3. Enhance visual style
Firms should consider adopting a visually appealing format in order to make it easier for customers to consume the information. For example, adjusting the font in certain aspects of the documentation helps to quickly draw attention to key information.

In addition, the appropriate use of headings and subheadings can help customers to easily navigate through long documents. Using questions that customers are likely to ask as headings could be a helpful way to demystify certain aspects and/or language of the conveyancing process and provide the answers that customers want.

Furthermore, firms should consider an appropriate mix of lists and paragraphs to outline key information. Excessive use of dense paragraphs could deter customers from engaging appropriately with the information. Finally, check that there is sufficient white space in the customer documentation.

Returning to TV chefs, we recognise that there are diverse options to present the same dishes which is a helpful reminder that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the presentation of customer documentation is neither desirable nor appropriate. Firms should therefore not constrain their creativity and innovation in the provision of compliant customer documentation.

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