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For this week’s blog, I spoke to our Customer Services Deputy Supervisor, Howard Doherty. I wanted to know what a normal day looks like for our Customer Services Team. I wanted to hear how they got such great customer service scores, when they were (normally) not delivering welcome news to customers. And more than that, I wanted to hear his opinion and advice on how to manage and cope with CCJs from someone who is constantly talking and interacting with people who are in financially vulnerable situations.

Merrill: An easy question to start but what is the most common reason people ring our Customer Services team?

Howard: The majority of calls that come in to us are actually more to do with the credit reference agencies or courts. Usually it will be somebody asking for the claimant details, which unfortunately we aren’t yet privy to, or asking if we have a different telephone number for the courts they can use. Sometimes we have people checking an amendment has been sent to the credit reference agencies.

Otherwise we tend to get a lot of calls from defendants who have had a judgment or decree issued against them from one of the courts outside of England & Wales (such as the Scottish Sheriff Courts or Northern Ireland County Courts) asking what their next steps are, or how they can have their judgments or decrees updated.

We take pride in giving the caller clear next steps, even where we aren’t able to directly answer their query.

Merrill: How do you get consistently positive feedback from people, even when it’s bad news that you’re having to give them?

Howard: I think the key for us is making sure that we’re not making any judgments (no pun intended) about those who call us for assistance. One of our core values is remaining impartial, so we try to listen to what the customer needs, and then we can either help them directly, or point them in the right direction.

We also provide a lot of training around good service and clear communications, which I think has really helped us when we’re speaking to people who are potentially confused or worried by their situation.

Operationally, we’re also as efficient as we can be – so when people e-mail us they normally get a same-day response. And when you call us, you’re not routed via any kind of automated recording – you come straight through to a member of staff. I think that goes a long way!

Merrill: If I were to discover tomorrow that I had a Country Court Judgment against me, what would you is say the first thing I should do?

Howard The first thing to do would to be to find out the case number, and contact the court that issued the judgment to get any further details. As soon as it has been paid, let the court know so that they can go about updating it for you. Our website has links that will help you find the right court.

Merrill: I can’t pay off my judgment, does this mean Bailiffs will come and repossess my belongings?

Howard: It all depends on the claimant. If the claimant chooses to enforce the judgment, then there is a chance that a Bailiff or Sheriff may visit. Many bailiffs have amended their working practices now in line with government guidance around Covid-19, so may be in touch first via phone, e-mail or letter.

Merrill: I have paid my off my judgment but why can I still see the judgment when I do a TrustOnline search?

Howard: It may be that the court haven’t yet received the relevant proof of payment. There is no legal onus on the claimant to provide the evidence that a judgment has been paid, so it would always be worth contacting the court yourself to ask them what they would need from you to mark the judgment as satisfied.

If proof of payment has definitely been provided to the court, it may be that they have not yet processed the amendment. You can contact the court to find out their current turn-around time. Once the court have processed your amendment, it is usually reflected on a search of the Register by the end of the next working day. We send those amendments straight through to credit reference agencies.

Merrill: Not knowing who the claimant is can be frustrating for the defendants. Do you have any advice for how the defendant can trace the origins of the debt?

Howard: Unfortunately, the only people who know the claimant details are the courts. I know it can be frustrating waiting to hear back from them with the details of the claimant – which is why I would always recommend phoning them in the first instance, as although you may have to wait in a queue for quite some time, it will likely be a lot quicker than waiting for a reply to an email.

Merrill: The economic crisis that is occurring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is going to make those most financially sensitive in the country sadly only more vulnerable. Do you have any advice or resources that may be particularly valuable to anyone facing financial crisis?

Howard The best piece of advice that I can offer would be to always reply to a court summons, and turn up to a hearing where possible. Many courts now offer remote hearings, which you can attend. The chances of a judgment being registered against you if you are present during the hearing are significantly less than if you fail to appear or file a response – as this will result in a judgment being issued automatically. The judge may also take your financial situation into account and order smaller payments over a longer period of time.

Everyone should also be aware of advisory services, who provide timely advice to people in financial difficulty. It’s vital to make contact with the likes of the Money and Pensions Service, StepChange and Citizens Advice if you need help.

Merrill: Finally, working from home has become the new normal for everyone at Registry Trust. What do you think the biggest success of the Customer Services team has been during this period?

Howard: I’m so proud of the fact that we’re still maintaining the same level of service and responses to queries, despite processes which have been completely re-worked and even improvised to an extent. Everybody has really pulled together and chipped in to help keep on top of things, and as a team we’re constantly communicating with each other, either through an online messaging service, email or by telephone, which has definitely helped!

If you want to know any more about judgments, please visit our Help Topic pages which answer specific questions about different types of judgments and how different jurisdictions handle each process.

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