Formed in 1983, Countrywide Emergency Relocation Solutions is the UK’s longest-established and most experienced relocation provider. Part of the country’s largest estate agency and property services group, it provides an invaluable service to loss adjusters and insurers, reducing the costs and difficulties of finding emergency relocation for over 6,000 vulnerable claimants per year, who have endured fire, flood, and other traumatic events.
The company’s emergency relocation business faced a number of process and IT challenges around case handling and management. The business recognised that these were impacting efficiency, cost control, and, ultimately, quality of service to customers. They included: • Manual communications – Communication with the business’s critical external partners, such as loss-adjusters, relied on the case handlers to repeatedly write and manage emails. • Paper and storage overheads – Case files were managed in hardcopy; this incurred significant paper costs and necessitated expensive, large-scale document storage and recovery facilities, for client audit. • Workflow/prioritisation issues – There was no business-wide method of identifying which cases required immediate prioritisation, especially at specific times of the year. • Interest costs – Management of the float that the business maintains to cover the cost of claims was manual, causing delays that resulted in interest charges. • Complaint response delays – Manual update of information was slowing down complaint responses, impacting response time to clients. • Legacy system requirements – Bespoke IT development and support could potentially alleviate many of the issues outlined above, but the Microsoft Access system in use dated from 2003 – so specialist legacy software knowledge and long-term support engagement would be needed.
In 2007, Countrywide Emergency Relocation Solutions chose Transition Computing as its long-term IT partner, to supply bespoke software development that would boost business efficiency, as well as support that would deliver system stability. The internal name for this innovation was Phoenix. Phoenix was a significant undertaking. It enabled case handlers to manage multiple time-critical processes, providing policy holders with alternative properties, and to transact deposits, pay-outs, reclaims and rehousing costs. Transition has also enabled Phoenix to instantly scale up or down to accommodate varying user numbers and caseloads. This is crucial; the system is normally used by around 40 case handlers, managing a flexible daily volume, but “in surge” these numbers can increase by up to 1000%. Like many Transition projects, Phoenix’s success is built on Transition’s experience in developing and supporting software that integrates fully with legacy systems – including bespoke developments carried out by previous IT suppliers, sometimes many years previously.
The benefits that Phoenix has delivered to the business are decisive, scalable and measurable. Paper and storage overheads have been slashed by 50%. Automatic work queuing now ensures cases are seen 25% more rapidly than they were previously, and the business processes in the system now drive automatic emails to external partners and customers, resulting in a 20% reduction in the time spent writing and managing case communication. Financially, the business performs better too, as Transition has built an interface into the business’s accounting and billing system, enabling payments that were previously keyed manually every night to be performed automatically. This has greatly reduced interest charges. Transition has also enabled Phoenix to reduce the business’s exposure to industry fines, by building information audits that help case managers to rapidly assemble complaint responses, within regulatory time frames. Apart from the operational improvements delivered by Phoenix, Pierre Craddock, Relocation Director at Countrywide, also speaks enthusiastically about the enhanced experience of its (often vulnerable and traumatised) customers. “We train our staff specially to respond to people who have suffered a huge shock and are understandably traumatised”, he says. “But I was determined that the process of actually getting their claims through to completion should demonstrate that same degree of concern and empathy, by progressing as quickly and as painlessly as possible, and improving the customer experience. Because Phoenix has streamlined our workflows, improved our communication, and made it easier for us to move money to where it’s needed, it has enabled us to do exactly that.” "Working with Transition", Pierre Craddock says, "was key to delivering a successful project, for three reasons: collaborative input, responsiveness, and agility." “We have a very strong relationship with Transition,” he comments, “because they provide valuable input that, I believe, enables Phoenix to be and remain best of breed." Transition don’t deliver to a ‘tick-box’ spec – they listen to what the business wants to achieve and if that means you need to take a different route to what you originally envisaged, they’ll tell you, and help you make it happen.” Of Transition’s agility and responsiveness, he says: “I deal with IT suppliers who take days just to tell you that they’ve received your query. Transition are the polar opposite of that – there is a single point of contact who is highly communicative and highly available. If a change in my market means we urgently have to develop Phoenix further, they’re onto it immediately.”
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