It’s time to focus on the customer
Andrew Weston is the CTO & Co-founder of ULS Technology plc. Andrew first conceived of the DigitalMove project in 2013. It has come a long way since then but there’s still plenty more to do.
DigitalMove is – as it sounds – a technology project aiming to give home movers the best possible digitally enabled experience from start to finish.
Since 2003 we’ve been finding ever more innovative ways to put home movers in touch with solicitors to do their conveyancing.
At the heart of our proposition has been an online comparison tool enabling estate agents to compare conveyancing firms based on price, performance and location, so that they can make more informed recommendations to their clients.
It started with estate agents, but we soon realised mortgage brokers, banks, building societies, even consumer websites all have the same need. Home movers need help finding a solicitor and there used to be no convenient way to compare the different services they offered. We changed that.
We decided to call our flagship product eConveyancer. Over the years we’ve operated it under myriad other names, white-labels and brands, but the core brand eConveyancer remains strong.
The name eConveyancer conjures up images of an entirely electronic conveyancing process but it certainly didn’t start off that way. Initially it was an electronic means to compare, choose and instruct a conveyancer. Additional features were added enabling clients to sign-in to a web portal, track the progress of their cases and communicate with their solicitors.
These features were popular with many customers, and particularly with estate agents and mortgage brokers. They served to shed light on what was, behind the scenes, still a very traditional and inefficient process, desperately in need of innovation.
Our job has been to provide choice and facilitate fair comparison between different offerings. The conveyancer’s job has been to deliver the service to the best of their ability. Those who provided the best customer experience received the best feedback. Those who were the most efficient were able to offer the best prices.
Having created such an environment, we expected it to stimulate innovation; the most innovative firms would surely rise to the top of the rankings causing others to respond by upping their game. But we were disappointed by the speed with which it happened.
It would be wrong to say there was no innovation at all. Many solicitors invested in new technology in the form of back office software (case management systems) designed to make them more efficient and able to deal with more clients. The providers of those systems gradually improved their products and some larger solicitors even developed their own systems, giving them an edge over the competition.
Various industry initiatives were also trialled. The Land Registry’s Chain Matrix was designed to track the progress of a whole property a chain; the Government’s Home Information Packs were supposed to speed up the home purchases by providing more information up-front for buyers; and the Law Society’s Veyo project was intended to streamline the whole conveyancing process, leading to fewer failed transactions and a reduced risk of fraud.
All these projects failed, partly because what nobody seemed to be paying any real attention to were the customers themselves. This was curious considering the sheer pace of change across other industries. Amazon, eBay, Spotify, Netflix, Uber, TripAdviser, AirBnB, even online banking were transforming customer experiences, using a host of new digital tools.
Eventually it became clear to us that the conveyancing industry wasn’t going to digitally transform itself, and that it needed someone with an entirely different perspective to make that happen. At ULS Technology we had built up an unrivalled share of the sale and purchase conveyancing market, we were electronically introducing work to most of the top conveyancing firms and could exercise influence over how that work was conducted. All in all, we were in the ideal position to effect real change.
Thus DigitalMove was born, and the revolution had begun…