Better customer relationship management (CRM) is becoming a goal for most businesses.
The main aim is to deliver top-line benefits such as improved business intelligence and a closer interaction with customers, but there are wins throughout the organisation as processes are streamlined to fit into the system. For GMC Mortgages, the mortgage wing of estate agent Douglas Newman Good, it was also an opportunity to cut down on paperwork.
A mortgage application is one of those processes that can consume paper at an astonishing rate. At GMC a single loan application would require a 25-page document that had to be photocopied six or seven times.
This problem had been compounded by the success of the company. In the 10 years since it was established, GMC has grown to 51 employees — trebling its workforce and turnover in the past three years. With 20 brokers in Dublin, 45 branches around Ireland and another 25 franchises all delivering new customers, keeping on top of the applications had become a logistical challenge for the head office.
“The volume of business was going up, we were expanding fast but we were increasingly bogged down in paperwork,” says Peter Gilbourne, GMC managing director. “Rather than hiring more people we decided to invest in a CRM system that could help us run our business more efficiently.”
Gilbourne had a good idea of what he wanted to achieve, as well as the suspicion that there wasn’t an off-the-shelf product that could meet GMC’s specific needs. “We wanted to overhaul our processes on a number of fronts, to improve efficiencies and keep better records. We wanted to create an environment where we would contact our database of clients on a more frequent basis and interact with the lenders more efficiently,” he says. “We were looking for competitive advantage through CRM processes that hadn’t been available to us.”
Ergo Software Solutions is the division of the services company that specialises in bespoke solutions that relieve business process pressure points. It saw off UK competition to win the tender and come up with a solution. “Off-the-shelf solutions can cause more problems than they solve,” says Marc Murphy, Ergo Software Solutions sales director. “Rather than try to make the business fit around a solution, we make the system work for the business. That was always the aim from when we first scoped the GMC project.”
Over a period of eight months it developed and deployed Ebroker, an online CRM system built on Microsoft’s .NET platform.
Scoping the project took a long time, recalls Carol Gaskin, GMC associate director, which she believes proved pivotal in making it a success. “We stripped our business right down and took Ergo through the day-to-day paper processes. It designed Ebroker from that ‘cradle-to-grave’ insight.”
The outcome is a web-based system that kicks into action from the moment a broker engages with a customer. A mortgage application starts with the customer filling in a form. At this point the data is entered into the system with details of the broker and an index reference that makes it easy to retrieve customer details from the database at any time in the process.
GMC then applies on its customer’s behalf to a number of lending institutions to get the best approval they can. Underwriters are brought in to the GMC head office where they can log on the system and evaluate the loan application. “In the old days they would have come in and been confronted by a tray full of paper. Now they can see all the information on screen including all the relevant documentation from the client that has also been scanned into the system,” says Gilbourne.
A well as providing a full mortgage-tracking system, Ebroker delivers other business benefits to the company. It records commissions due from the lenders that are payable to brokers and introducers. This will make the accountant’s job easier when wages are paid.
The system also brings new levels of business intelligence with up to 30 reports available for different types of analysis. As well as monitoring sales performance Gilbourne and his management team can monitor the effectiveness of its advertising. Customer data includes valuable information about where they heard about GMC which gives an immediate indication of the effectiveness of its radio or print campaigns over a given period.
The Ergo solution has not only taken paper out of the business processes, it has also provided an invaluable single view of the customer relationship. This has also helped the GMC Life & Pensions division. Recording and keeping track of the customers on its database is invaluable in an area of financial services where regulation is tightly controlled.
The migration to Ebroker is now complete, training has been carried out and it’s just a question of employees coming to terms with the new processes. “It is a culture change and it takes time but the feedback we’ve had has been really good,” says Gaskin. “People are already seeing the benefits.”
Going forward, the next step is better integration between GMC and the mortgage lenders. While Gilbourne says there is no good business case for changing the physical procedure of a lender coming in to their office to approve a loan, he does see opportunities after that part of the process is complete.
“In the future we’d like to build bridges with the lender IT systems and be able to shoot through applications without having to re-input them,” he said. “At the moment we still send in a paper file after the mortgage has been approved.”
An electronic transfer is the obvious way to go but only two or three lenders are ready for such a process – Ergo is already working with one of them on GMC’s behalf. The problem with deploying cutting-edge technology is that you sometimes have to wait for business partners to catch up.
Some benefits will also be fed directly through to the customer. From January they will be able to visit a redesigned GMC website and track the progress of their mortgage application.
By Ian Campbell
Pictured – Marc Murphy, sales director, Ergo Software Solutions; John Purdy, CEO, Ergo Software Solutions; Peter Gilbourne, managing director, GMC Mortgages; and Carol Gaskin, associate director, GMC Mortgages