The financial crisis of 2007-2012 left the housing market in a very fragile state, but thankfully there are now definite signs of improvement, rather than just optimism, to give us all something to feel positive about. Those of us who managed to weather the storm will no doubt have learned a great deal about our businesses and how we operate them. Some of us have survived more through luck, rather than judgement, whilst others have not been as fortunate even though they may have had strong business models and loyal, talented and hard-working staff supporting them.
During these difficult times we have seen a number of quality standards flying the flag and we have all been forced to look at them seriously — whether we have been convinced by them or not — in the interests putting our own business models ahead of our competitors.
I sometimes wonder how many scoffed when the Law Society first introduced the Conveyancing Quality Scheme. Did we think it would still be here today, with almost all reputable Conveyancing practices having at least attempted to sign up? Whilst I concede that I know of some firms who have only signed up because they fear being left off panels, I am warmed by the increasing number of firms I know of that are not only giving such quality schemes lip service, but are actually going a step further and promoting the benefits of them, and tightening up their own systems and procedures to minimise risk and enhance the reputation of property professionals generally.
Search companies are in an unusual position because we cannot subscribe to such standards as CQS or Lexcel, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t learned some tough lessons during the economic downturn and adopted our own quality standards which we promote rigorously.
At Searches UK we have a dedicated Risk & Compliance team who carry out quarterly internal audits to ensure that we are both supervising and assessing the quality, accuracy and standard of the work we provide to our clients. Our Risk & Compliance team is on hand to help our clients with their own systems and procedures, and offer informative and useful advice and assistance. We have also put ourselves up for, and been awarded for the second year running, the Legal Eye Quality Standard, which is the first assessment scheme to address those rules and regulations which are over and above the traditional quality standards.
Furthermore, we are proud members of Checkaprofessional, the UK’s only public reputation directory for professionals, where our overall score sits at 9.9 out of 10 based on feedback from our clients.
We have also looked at our business to see what more we can provide to our clients in addition to the full range of quality Conveyancing searches available and to this end we are now CPD accredited by both the SRA and the CLC, meaning we can provide useful, relevant and up to date training for free to our clients whilst they build up their CPD points for the year.
We remain members of and continue to support CoPSO (the Council of Property Search Organisations), IPSA (the Association of Independent Personal Search Agents) and the Search Code to help drive forward quality standards within the search sector.
The most valuable lesson which we have learned from the changes we have put in place is that promoting “quality” within our business doesn’t mean hours of tedious form filling and ticking boxes. We are actually enjoying promoting the quality aspect of our business and we are rewarded by retaining happy clients who have confidence in the service and standards which we provide.
Whilst the “property industry” is made up of a number of professional groups, at the end of the day we represent one industry and at Searches UK we are proud to fly the flag for quality.