Tips on finding the right search provider


February 07, 2013

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Case management and workflow systems are not the only technological advancements that have helped revolutionise conveyancing in this country over the past decade. The advent of electronic searches has removed the bottleneck associated with the historic manual, paper-based search process. But in turn it has created a new problem. The proliferation of dedicated search providers and risk report specialists, with their hundreds of competing products, now affords almost too much choice.

How can you the busy conveyancer afford the time to wade through all these discrete electronic ordering systems? How easy is it to properly compare competing products to ensure you’re making the right choice? Do you really want to have to note down a dozen different prices and turnaround times before you’re in a position to make a reasonably informed decision? Because it is incumbent upon conveyancers to act in the best interests of their client, and best interests certainly can’t be served without having complete and independent oversight of the search market. So how does one reconcile the need for full oversight with the need to get on with your job and not get bogged down in a protracted search trawl every time you’re instructed?

Consider using an aggregator, a conveyancer’s very own ‘Compare the Market’ or ‘Moneysupermarket’. There seems little point in religiously going through dozens of individual providers’ offerings when aggregators bring everything you need to know under one roof. Compare, contrast, click and buy – that’s oversight gained in less than five minutes. As with their insurance and financial counterparts, search aggregators aren’t all the same so here’s a few tips to help you make the right supplier choice.

  • Check provider and product depth/breadth – Ensure that your aggegator is pulling in the most comprehensive selection of searches and specialist risk reports and is impartial as to the providers featured. Oversight will inevitably be compromised through limited choice
  • Examine usability – No-one wants to use clunky interfaces so look for slick, intuitive interfaces that reduce the whole process to a couple of clicks and encourage positive adoption off the back of minimal training
  • Look for genuinely useful functionality – A compound list of available searches is okay as far as it goes but how much more helpful are tools like comparison widgets, that enable users to directly compare different providers or products on key aspects such as price and turnaround? Keep an eye out too for any free add-ons or system extras such as conveyancing quotation tools
  • Consider the people behind the technology – Does the aggregator have qualified people at the end of the phone to help with the inevitable queries? Are the developers interested in feedback and responsive to client requests? Is the senior management team fully invested in the conveyancing sector and committed to it long-term? Regardless of how impressive the front-end of any solution is, it will only ever be as good as the back-end and the people powering it.
  • Compare commercial and contractual terms – Simple is best: No contract, no hidden fees, ultra-competitive pricing, complete transparency, minimal set-up time, with firms having free rein to use the aggregator alongside incumbent provider(s) if they so wish, or to use the aggregator exclusively. Free trials should be a given.
  • Talk to users – If you have your eye on a particular system, don’t rely on the product demo or the sales pitch. Get the whole picture by talking to those who have daily interactions with the platform in question and the people behind it. Searches, reports and surveys are an essential part of the conveyancing process and vital for both the law firm’s and the client’s protection – a few judicious chats will soon tell you whether your aggregator can deliver a consistently reliable, efficient and high quality service.

For more information on electronic search, visit ETSOS.