01 April 2021

Contract design: how do our clients interact with contracts?

scale ups

start-ups to scale-ups to multinationals: why we should all be thinking about how our clients interact with our contracts

We are often asked why we chose Lawbox for our name. Many assume, wrongly, that it has something to do with “out of the box” thinking.  In fact, the inspiration for the box has nothing to do with thinking – creativity – or the law. Rather, it’s a nod to the “boxes” that you find in CrossFit.

What we love about CrossFit, and it is why we drew inspiration from them, is the sense of collaboration, fun and bringing everyone along that you get inside a box. As part of our box obsession, we are working behind the scenes on bringing the first of our boxes to life, a complianceBox. Given the focus on collaboration we wanted to understand what goals, concerns and aspirations in-house lawyers and compliance officers have so that we can, through collaboration and fun, support those.

One of the biggest worries of the in-house lawyers we asked was: “thinking about how our customers engage with our contracts”. We were actually heartened to hear this as it sits behind everything that we do. This blog sets out why we should all be thinking about how our customers interact with our contracts, and what we can do about it.

why should we care how customers interact with contracts?

Gone are the days when the only thing contracts have to do is “cover our backs”. Yes, there is an element of putting down what is agreed in writing. Yes, part of that is to make sure that disagreements are handled in the way both sides accept at the outset. However, contracts form part of our customers journey with us and can be so much more than a way to protect ourselves. In a world where it is often said that “customer loyalty is a thing of the past”, a bad experience can have repercussions.

contracts – customer journey – are you mad?

Keep with us. We think an example will help you here!  We are just about to enter into an agreement for pet insurance. We were drawn in by the lovely website. We were able to speak to an actual human being on the phone. They sounded friendly and answered all of our questions. The price was reasonable. The next step was to sign off on the agreement. That’s when we came up against a roadblock. They let us know that they would be sending something by email. We’d have to print it off, sign it, scan it, and send it back to them. This wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t talking about a document thicker than all of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks combined (he has a lot of cookbooks!). That customer journey? Yes, you guessed it, it came crashing down.

As well as the sheer inconvenience of this, as a customer, your immediate thought is drawn to what nasty little clauses are going to be hidden in this document that the sender clearly knows I don’t have time to read and will likely need an interpreter to understand.  What you’re doing is asking your customer to trust you, right from the start of your relationship, when they’ve got nothing to go on other than the fact that you’re an insurance company. Hmmm?!

Okay, so hopefully one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that: “print, sign, scan and return” has become a thing of the past. But, what this does do is show that how we get customers to engage with us, from their first interaction through to signing on the dotted line, makes a difference.

how can we make contracts something people want to engage with?

Don’t worry we have heard them all before and we agree. Stepping into the minds of the people who will actually be engaging with the contracts we produce is a powerful exercise. Whether that be drafting terms and conditions so they are on brand, providing an NDA that is easy to understand and easy to use, or setting out a privacy policy in a way that draws in viewers, making contracts easy to understand and a pleasure to read, is the way that many companies are starting to realise things should be done.

“Lawyers write to confuse”

“Lawyers use Latin to make themselves sound clever”

“Lawyers use extra long sentences so they can charge more”

some examples please!?

Which company excels in customer journeys? Apple! If you haven’t seen their take on data, then make sure you check this out.

We agree that presenting data in the context of a story makes it much more relevant and using stories to help customers engage is something that all companies can get onboard with. At Lawbox, we have been using storybooks to talk about data for some time. This not only helps customers engage it also helps internal stakeholders understand the law better too!

Another big company example of contracts done in the right way? Google’s terms and conditions are easy to read and navigate.

Want something a little bit more relatable? The best example of a legal designed privacy policy remains Juro’s – this has gained cult status – two words that you might have previously struggled to use in the same sentence as ‘legal document’!

what are our top tips to help customers engage with contracts?

empathise with them!

All too often we start putting pen to paper because we have to. We have to cover our arses. We have to make sure that we include everything. We have to…..STOP.

We think it’s time to start thinking about what our customers want and need when they pick up the documents that we send. We know they will inevitably sign (because they have to) – but that doesn’t mean we should be sending them to sleep or making them feel like they have signed their lives away. We need to start thinking about empowering them. What do they need to know? We need to start thinking about how the relationship with our customers will be improved if they understand and feel confident when they enter into an agreement with us.

For more on how to empathise see here.

consider the journey.

Customer journeys have become a bit of a buzzword these days, but not without good reason. Customer journeys invite us to think about every touchpoint that our customer has with us. Contracts are often ignored and are therefore off-brand, old-fashioned and boring. We want to change that!

Think about when customers will be engaging with your contracts. Are they standing in the way of them and a new car – or opening a bank account – or getting whatever it is they have come to you for? How can we make them something that draws them in rather than pushes them away? Are customers using your contracts after they are already a customer? What impact will what they see and read have?

keep it simple.

As parents we are constantly reminded that if you truly know something you can explain it to a child. Just as simply as they can ask the question. Why is the sky blue? How do birds know where to go when they fly south? We have no idea! But, we do know that the best answers to these questions are the ones that sum it up in a sentence. The same is true when you write a contract. Don’t use 5 sentences if one does the job.

don’t write in Latin…unless your customers are ancient Romans.

make it look nice.

There are some people who like trawling through mountains of text, but let’s face it, contracts are usually presented at the worst moments in a deal. They aren’t something you want to read and the text is so small you feel like you should have gone to Specsavers. Done correctly, using visuals can improve the way terms are communicated and will show customers you care about their experience of dealing with you from the off.

a contract revolution!

We want to start a contract revolution. We want all companies – from Google to Sam the painter – to start thinking about how customers engage with their contacts. If this article has left you inspired and you want to find out how you can become a contract revolutionary then contact us.

Interested in how you can help your customers sail through your contracts?
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