Why keep it in-house when outsourcing is a better solution?
 
In these days of cost cutting, finance chiefs will be leaving no stone unturned in their quest to find savings. However one of the best, yet perhaps least used, solutions for helping to save money can be found not here in the UK, but overseas in countries like India, where teams of highly talented individuals have made Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) their speciality.

For many organisations, there still seems to be a reticence to move routine processes offshore, even to countries where many talented graduates speak the same language. Yet significant savings can be made when compared to the costs of undertaking the same tasks here in the UK, for work that is delivered by highly-focused teams who care passionately about getting results.

One UK company to take advantage of outsourcing is High Court enforcement agency Shergroup, which was so impressed by the services they received from a team in India that they have now set up their own company, Shergroup Process, near Delhi to service not only their own requirements but those of other legal and financial service firms across the UK.

Claire Sandbrook, CEO of Shergroup, explained: “Shergroup Process is now well established and has developed the knowledge and skills to be able to provide similar services for our clients.”

Such services include administrative support, communications such as responding to customers’ letters, faxes and emails, voice operations to collect debt and offer telemarketing services, application and website design, data collation and transcription services with a new focussed reporting service supported by Blackberry. Modern data links and technologies mean the processes can be carried out quickly, whatever the time difference.

For Shergroup, the outsourced services in India support the work of enforcement officers back on the ground in the UK. The officers dictate their notes from a debtor’s doorstep using their Blackberry which they send immediately to the offshore team with digital photos – all from one device.

The notes are then transcribed and, following quality checks, are uploaded along with the photographs to Sherpa, the company’s online case management system, which clients can access via a password protected website so they can see what is happening on a daily basis. They are also sent an automated email advising them when the system has been updated, with a link through to the Sherpa website.

Shergroup’s Process team receives intensive training in how to deal with debtors in a polite yet firm manner and attempts by debtors to gain extensions to deadlines for payment, or otherwise manipulate the system, are evaluated against extensive training manuals and settled criteria. Using a mixture of emails, letters and direct phone contact, the team has a polite but firm, no-nonsense approach which results in moving the case forward in the right direction.

Results are impressive. The total amount collected by the Indian team in the past two years is now well over £13 million. The Sherpa system also allows both Shergroup and those who use the site to access important management information, which has helped the company reduce the time taken to visit on all writs (from being given the writ to standing at the door) to 4.9 days, while the time to report on all writs (from doorstep to having all the information back) is 2.3 days. Therefore, in total, the time taken from receiving a writ to reporting back has been reduced to an average of 7.2 days – an excellent result in the enforcement industry.

One client to benefit from Shergroup’s outsourcing solutions and the Sherpa system, is the Oriel Group, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, who provide outsourced financial and business services across a wide range of consumer and commercial industries, including insolvency practitioners and recruitment agencies. The company specialises in pre-court debt collection, handling overdue invoices and credit control.

Legal Supervisor Rachel Taylor says that since they started using the Sherpa system over a year ago, it has made a “whole wealth of difference” to their success rates in debt collection.

She says: “Historically, we used county court bailiffs but found them to be ineffective. If we wanted the information, we had to access it before 9am – which was a problem as shift patterns did not always make this possible. We regularly received standard notification that warrants were closed; however, rarely did we receive any real information as to why the efforts had been unsuccessful. We were left with many closed accounts and an overall poor recovery rate.”

“The Sherpa system, on the other hand, is convenient and user friendly. You can get information whenever you want, you can see when there is a positive result on a report; the email alerts are very useful; and the photos are fantastic – they give a real insight into what it looks like walking up the debtor’s path, something which we never had before. Before, we had to rely on automated non-informative paper notes, whereas Sherpa works with the customer for the customer and now we really understand what assets our debtors are likely to have. The information is second to none.”

The success of Shergroup’s outsourcing team means that further development is on the horizon. One of those initiatives is to reverse the flow: insourcing, as opposed to outsourcing. This involves importing expertise from Shergroup’s Process offshore and injecting teams into UK-based client operations. This can be an end in itself, or it can be a preliminary to offshore outsourcing, with the advantage for Shergroup in allowing the Indian team to gain local knowledge first hand and broaden their horizons outside India.

Five members of the Indian team recently completed an insourcing project for a major debt recovery law firm in the UK. As a result of this injection of offshore know-how the team dealt with approximately 20,000 pre-legal and 500 legal cases. The total amount collected was nearly £180,000.

Shergroup’s offshore team leader, Sandip Saluza, said the English experience had a significant positive impact on development of their offering: “This project helped the team develop personally and professionally. Members were able to learn at first hand about the British work ethic and discipline. It also helped them to understand British data protection laws, which was helpful, as well as gaining a wider knowledge of both legal and pre-legal collection.”

With a history spanning more than 200 years and a background as one of the oldest law firms in the UK, Shergroup has become one of the most innovative and forward-thinking providers of business solutions to more than 1,500 organisations across the world.

It has established many firsts within the enforcement industry – winning the Institute of Credit Management award last year for Innovation for the development of Shercar, its register of vehicles on the DVLA database.

But it hasn’t stopped there, or with outsourcing, instead focusing on a new set of tools to help companies prioritise which debts are worth collecting and which are not.

Said Claire: “We’ve now invested in some fabulous software, which will allow us to model the propensity of whether a debtor is likely to pay a county court judgment. Based on four years of Sherpa data, mixed with local demographic information and enforcement officer action, we can establish the percentage chance of how likely it is that a debtor will pay back any money they owe.”

“It’s a real first for the industry and another coup for Shergroup. We’ve spent the last four years working really hard at understanding what more we can do for our clients to help them generate excellent results. Now that our outsourcing team is well established, we’re ready to take that one step further and we are really excited by the opportunities that outsourcing can offer to clients direct, especially at a time when everyone is looking to save money to ensure they stay fighting fit for what could be a bruising few months ahead.”

 
 
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