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Our guest blog is written by Darren Hall, Director of Operations at Countrywide Conveyancing Services.  Countrywide Conveyancing Services were early adopters of automation technology and, having reaped significant benefits, are continuing to re-engineer their mailroom to take full advantage of the latest technology. Here Darren shares their story.

Cast your mind back…The year is 2007, the worst financial crisis since the great depression gets underway, the smartphone revolution has commenced with the launch of the game changing iPhone, and another game changer, Countrywide, the largest property law firm in the UK, partnered with the team at Embrace Digital and Kofax to become an early adopter of the digital mailroom.

As a business we were top of the pile.  We were moving more people every year than any other company, double that of our nearest rival – and because the legal process of buying or selling in this country hasn’t really changed much over the last 100 years - that meant millions of pieces of paper coming into our business every year. With that volume of paper, we knew we wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing service requirements of today’s customers – paper means slower processes, and the possibility of documents being misplaced, duplicated or lost… Paper is manual…

Keen to uphold our high standards of customer service, we quickly recognised a need to change our approach and to look at how the latest technology could support us. 

We went through a tender process, and the team now at Embrace Digital (formerly at Digital Vision) really demonstrated their value to us in being a partner of choice. You hear that phrase ‘partner of choice’ used a lot, maybe misused in my opinion sometimes.  At Countrywide it was important for us to find a partner who could share their experience and knowledge from the outset, not only advising us about the best approach and technology, but understanding our business thoroughly enough and asking the right questions to make sure we found a solution that met our immediate requirements whilst building a sustainable and flexible solution for the future. We needed a partner we could trust; for them to come into our business, work closely with the team, deliver the solution without issues, and support us through the transition and beyond.

We are now 12 years on, and our digital mailroom is a hygiene factor now. Before lawyers even come into the office to start their day any post on their files is scanned, classified, linked to a case and in their system workflow ready for them.  In fact, because of the level of automation from the Kofax software Embrace Digital helped us develop, there are certain tasks that happen in the background as soon as the post is scanned.

What benefits did we gain from digitising our mailroom? Year on year we have benefited from significant cost savings (our post room is 50% of the size it used to be) and our customer service proposition has been greatly enhanced. Our teams are easily able to access client documentation when required and have greater visibility over the conveyancing process, and we no longer have the burden and risks associated with manually handling documents.

But most importantly for me, we increased the accuracy of our processing as the system only automates what it knows is 100% accurate, and refers exceptions to a human. It removed a lot of monotonous tasks for our people, it made their job easier, quicker and better!

So, why am I sharing this story with you now? 
Well, I’m incredibly proud to say that the team at Countrywide are still at the top of their game. We recently won Gold in the Best National Group category at the prestigious ESTAS Customer Service Awards for 2019 and I was hugely privileged and honoured to accept the Princess Royal Award on behalf of the team at Countrywide for our inspirational commitment to learning and development.

Time has moved on though since we digitised our mailroom, technology has advanced and offers us exciting new opportunities.  We more or less have the same system we implemented all those years ago. It’s been very low maintenance, has integrated with all our other systems including a change of workflow system, with only a few minor upgrades required in all this time.  But as a company that continually strives to be the best, we know it’s time to update to keep ahead.

We’re keen to utilise the latest offerings in automation and robotic technology to enhance our customer service delivery.  As such, we went out to the market again to review what was available to ensure we got the best for the business.  I’m delighted to say that we’ll be continuing to work with the Embrace Digital team and Kofax software – the technology they offer matched with their experience is, in my opinion, unrivalled.

We are now working on a major upgrade to move to the very latest version of Kofax, to leverage intelligent automation & the document analysis benefits that this brings.

On our strategic roadmap in 2020, we are going to implement RPA (Robotic Process Automation). That’s where the real “Clever Conveyancing” comes in to it; we aim to automate around 30% of the tasks that a human is doing now, which means our lawyers can focus on being lawyers rather than spending time on repetitive manual tasks and admin. 

These are exciting times for us as a business, and for the conveyancing industry as a whole.  I’m proud to be part of a team that leads the way in the use of technology to optimise our customer service delivery.  I look forward to sharing our progress and success, and maybe a few lessons learned along the way, with you in the future.

Darren Hall, Director of Operations at Countrywide Conveyancing Services. 

 

Further reading

What's your tipping point? Making the change from manual to automated