With not one, but two UK Customer Experience Awards under their collective belts, conveyancing search solutions experts SearchFlow clearly know customer-centricity and how it positively impacts a business.

The firm won Gold for Best Contact Centre – Small at the finals in Wembley Stadium in October, and Silver in the Transforming the Customer Experience’ category, with the trophies now proudly displayed at the firm’s HQ in Kings Hill, close to Maidstone.

SearchFlow’s Customer Experience Manager, Katriona O’Hare, took time out to chat with CXM about the company and its approach to customers which has led to significant awards success…

Tell us more about SearchFlow and what you guys do

We’re an interesting company in that anyone who has bought or sold a residential or commercial property over the last 25 years may well have used our services, via their solicitor, but not necessarily have realised. We are the UK’s leading provider of conveyancing searches and provide over one million searches every year. This equates to us supporting around one in every four property transactions annually.   

With over 2,000 legal clients across England and Wales, we provide more than 80 due diligence search services and have around 170 members of staff making this happen; 37 are dedicated Customer Excellence professionals.

We’re a complex business, working quietly behind the scenes in what is a very busy, time-pressured housing transaction market. We provide everything from local authority searches, environmental, planning, flooding and mining reports so homebuyers can understand potential risks, through to insurance services and surveys. 

By the very nature of property transactions, we need to act quickly to minimise any delays in the process.

What is the level of customer contact the team faces?

On an average day, our helpdesk handles around 600 call and 1,400 support requests. These can be complex in nature given their tie to the residential and commercial legal process.   

It is up to our team to proactively chase our data providers to ensure there is no lag in the process. To put it into context, many of our searches are for homebuyers who are at potential risk of not moving if SearchFlow does not deliver on time.

What happened within the company over the last 12 months that led to double success at the UK Customer Experience Awards?

Our industry is faced with complex challenges; there are major changes afoot in the property market, with the government pledging to improve the home-buying process. We are also fully aware that our customers – the law firms – are facing increasing pressure to adapt their services to meet the changing needs of ‘digitally connected consumers’.

Last summer, outwardly things seemed ok, but when we scratched below the service, we found the team was struggling to keep up with a host of issues resulting in a backlog of work.

We recognised that we needed to relieve the pressure on the teams before aligning our service delivery model to the product roadmap, to create a solution that would prevent issues from reoccurring in the future. A new search ordering platform has been developed that gives our customers full visibility of transactions via an online dashboard. Case progression can be tracked, with hands on support from our expert team.

We also recognised we needed to evolve our legacy process to better service our customers, placing our contact centre at the heart of a modernised service, driven by an ‘Order Fulfilment Model’, that would deliver proactive support. 

What processes have changed for your Customer Experience team?

Our service delivery model now aligns to market segments and this gives everyone direct ownership and responsibility for specific actions. Our service is now more seamless and streamlined – there are no gaps; everyone is aware of their role and we have a motivated team as a result.   

We have also transformed our culture. My background is one of coaching, mentoring, and developing people. Since starting at SearchFlow early this year, I have introduced peer-to-peer ‘Owlmazing’ awards, which recognise staff for going the extra mile. Since launching we have already presented 71 awards. 

Utilising Microsoft Power BI to bring together all our different inboxes, we created dashboards that provide real-time performance management. We can monitor orders, track KPIs, and benchmark all activities against SLAs, even using our mobile phones!

The company always had this data; it had simply never been exposed, understood or joined together in this way. At the end of the day, we go home with the satisfaction that all work queues are cleared, we have hit KPIs and the board is showing ‘green’ – something we have achieved daily since November 2017!

What have been the outcomes from the Customer Experience transformation programme?

I think it’s fair to say we have transformed the Customer Experience from a ‘reactive call centre’ to a proactive order fulfilment model.

Our new online ordering platform has the back-up of exceptional customer care from the team and we have empowered all staff by reducing areas of responsibility and providing training to improve overall competency and retention. Most importantly, it is delivering what our customers need – the right search, at the right time, on time, every time!

Put into numbers, we spend 40 percent less time on support calls, close and respond to emails faster than ever, work to an average of 90 minutes versus our new SLA of three hours, and have seen a decrease in internal escalations from 50 plus to two or less per day.

Congratulations again on the Gold and Silver awards at the UKCXAs! What has this success meant for you and your business?

To win two awards in the prestigious UK Customer Experience Awards is a fabulous achievement and something the whole team is very proud of. We acknowledged last year that we needed to invest both in our technology and in our people, to deliver a modernised service. 

It is therefore testament to all our efforts that we have been recognised, against blue chip and international firms, by the UKCXA judges.

An impressive year indeed! So what does 2019 look like for SearchFlow?

2019 will be bigger and better! We are working on some new enhancements that will launch shortly, including further investment in our CRM tech and trialling new Artificial Intelligence features to further enable our digital capabilities.

We are proud that we are continuing to play an integral part in the property transaction process for thousands of people every year, and that our focus on delivering an exceptional Customer Experience has been recognised.

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