The SPICERHAART GROUP owns and operates the largest independent Estate Agency in Europe.
The SPICERHAART GROUP owns and operates the largest independent Estate Agency in Europe, valuing over 90,000 residential properties in the UK each year. The group has created a one stop shop for estate agency, financial services, legal services and surveying. Over 330,000 customers register with Spicerhaart each year for property purchase and to discuss their new mortgage requirements, making the company amongst the largest mortgage brokers in the UK. Its financial services division arranges over £1.5 Billion of mortgages every year.
The company prides itself on bringing all aspects of the house buying process together using innovative technology, and it aims to provide a ‘total moving experience’.
Underpinning this steady growth and market expansion has been a consistent corporate ambition to eliminate paper from the business and reduce mounting storage space costs with document scanning and storage technology.
Now that we are doing everything electronically there are no files lying around. We have effectively feng-shui’d the business! added Steve.
THE DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT JOURNEY BEGINS
Spicerhaart had some early forays into document management technologies some years back with limited success. Nonetheless the experience did enough to demonstrate to the business the potential that could be realised by reducing its reliance on paper, particularly for archived material that was consuming vast amounts of space and yet infrequently accessed. A decision to move to EASY SOFTWARE’s integrated document scanning, archiving and retrieval technologies started a journey to minimise reliance on paper that has now swept through much of Spicerhaart and has today transformed the business at branch and corporate level. EASY SOFTWARE UK has been providing Document Management solutions for over 17 years.
First to embrace document scanning and storage was Spicerhaart’s HR department. The simple, but storage demanding, application to capture and archive leaver files at its head office was a quick success eliminating paper from the business. Leaver files are collated and filed on each departing employee and accessed during their retention period or recalled for reference purposes etc.
This application was targeted as it could eliminate paper completely. The department scans the complete leaver file, indexes and archives it in EASY and the paper is then destroyed. The application uses a combination of barcode, scanning, indexing and archive technologies.
Steve Lamb, Chief Information Officer at Spicerhaart has overseen the transition to electronic document management from this first application in HR. “This is a simple, very effective application of document scanning and archive technology that has eliminated paper storage and management. It works very well and is still being used today and successfully paved the way for the next phase of the project.”
LIBERATE THE BRANCHES; ENABLE THE CALL CENTRE
Spicerhaart turned its attention to paper handling and storage in its 180 estate agency offices and 45 lettings offices. These offices, handling property purchases and enquiries, mortgage requirements and applications are very paper intensive. Storage in high street offices is at a premium too. “We had 5 warehouses full of paperwork!,” adds Steve. “Storage, management, filing, refiling, shipping were all consuming in time and cost and efficiency. We didn’t have the space to house files at the branch, so we simply addressed the problem by installing scanners in each one. Live files remain on paper but once the property transfer is completed, the file is scanned and integrated with our back office system.”
Not only is this a very visible benefit as paper storage is no longer needed at the branch, but the availability of the information on-line empowers Spicerhaart’s call centre staff to up-sell and cross-sell its financial services and legal services with immediate access to the completed agreement and contract.
THE JEWEL IN THE DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT CROWN
Spicerhaart’s corporate sales division is one of its fastest growing brands employing 100+ staff in its Blackpool office. Corporate Sales provides a wide range of services, including the management of assets and repossessions for corporate clients working closely with banks, building societies and organisations that manage property, from the commercial sector to housing associations and property developers.
Here Steve and his team have developed a sophisticated case handling system accessible by their clients, that has transformed what was a paper intensive process into a fully integrated electronic store of all the documentation and information associated with each case file. Lenders can see the information status, actions and documentation through one integrated, web based system. “This has completely changed the shape of our business and service,” says Steve.
The aim was to provide a much different and improved service experience for clients/lenders by giving them live access to all the information related to cases, through a web interface. The team began by scanning the backlog of documentation and then went on to tackle a day to day paperless office environment by scanning each document (fax, letters etc) as it came into the post room and attaching it to a case reference. EASY DOCUMENTS then notifies that a new case has arrived which generates a series of activities enabling case handlers to identify and action each communication. On average the post room handles 5,000 faxes a month and 3,000 new items a day are scanned straight into the system.
“Previously our staff spent their time responding to client phone calls and emails, looking for files, then filing and refiling. We stored the documents in leased storage warehouses which were very expensive and this was considered ‘dead’ money. Locally stored documents were spread across 3 floors and often files were lost or misplaced. Now that we are doing everything electronically there are no files lying around. We have effectively feng-shui’d the business!” added Steve.
Initially the post room scanning process consumed 6 people to handle the quantity of incoming paper. Today that has been reduced to 3 or 4 people as an increasing amount is now received electronically and this is a trend that Steve expects to continue. “This is the second biggest office in our group and is a substantial income generator. The system has transformed the service that we provide to our clients and it has been very positively received by them as fast and easy to use. Improving the customer experience and service level is key to business growth and this electronic case handling system is at the heart of achieving that goal.”