Should you outsource?

Take back your Sundays without compromising customer service and quality

Should you outsource?

Take back your Sundays without compromising customer service and quality

MPA Top 100 mortgage broker Deanna Ezzy first started working with a team offshore about four years ago, through her previous employer.

“As brokers know, there are many more t’s to cross and i’s to dot than ever before,” Ezzy says. “An offshore team is a fraction of the cost; they honestly love doing the work and will work hard for you.” 

When she started her own brokerage, More Than Mortgages, in November 2017, Ezzy decided to continue with the same set-up, as it had worked so well. She now has one loan processor in the Philippines who assists with a number of tasks, including filing, data entry, valuations, pricing, commission tracking and following up with banks for updates.

Outsourcing and offshoring is no longer reserved for big businesses like Qantas and the major banks. The practice has become much more familiar to small business owners, including many Australian mortgage brokers who are looking for ways to cut costs while still providing excellent and efficient service to customers.

According to an AFR article from 2013, the outsourcing industry in the Philippines at the time was estimated to be worth more than $13bn per year and employed more than 750,000 people. Those numbers have most likely only risen since then. 

Garry Driscoll, president of Boutique Outsource Solutions, a company that sets up and supports outsourcing offices in the Philippines for Australian businesses – including the hiring of staff, IT infrastructure, payroll and government reporting – says he’s seen a spike in enquiries from SMEs over the last six months. Many have begun to recognise the advantages and excellent customer service that can be provided from abroad.

“I have had a broker client say that they are now accepting a greater variety of business because they are comfortable that they can process these deals without impacting their service proposition” - Garry Driscoll, Boutique Outsource Solutions

“Offshoring is the same as having one of your staff work remotely from home, except you have far more control when they are located in an office like Boutique Outsource Solutions,” says Driscoll, who works in Manila 80% of the time to provide direct on-site assistance.

Customers don’t care so much where the employee is located as long as they can get something done quickly, efficiently and accurately when asked, Driscoll says. The economic benefits of outsourcing, coupled with better quality of service and greater customer satisfaction, leads to an improved bottom line for brokers.

“I have had a broker client say that they are now accepting a greater variety of business because they are comfortable that they can process these deals without impacting their service proposition on their core business, and the additional business has more than paid for the staff member,” Driscoll says.

Andrew Duerden, director of business services at Loanworks Technologies, a company that has been providing outsourced back-office support and specialist loan processing services from Manila for more than nine years, has also seen an increase in interest from aggregators and broker groups. They see outsourcing as an effective way to grow their businesses while maintaining a high level of compliance, he says.

“We have been able to achieve a preferred supplier status with a number of aggregators and broker groups. We have already had more than 100 enquiries this year and onboarded dozens of brokers,” Duerden says.

Outsourcing can help brokerages handle all of the tasks associated with the basic transaction-based process, such as loan processing, general administration and customer service, freeing up time for brokers and their in-house staff to work directly on adding value to their face-to-face relationships with customers.

“In these activities, personalised customer contact adds value, helps manage customer expectations and identify customer priorities,” Duerden says.

When is the right time to outsource?

Do you work on Sundays? Are you sending emails and answering calls well after business hours? Are menial tasks distracting you and cutting into your productivity? How much face time are you getting with clients? These are all common triggers for why brokers turn to outsourcing.

The writing is on the wall when basic repetitive tasks start to interfere with a broker’s ability to focus time and energy on more productive and important activities, Driscoll says. However, he cautions brokers not to wait until they’re completely snowed under to make the transition, or they’ll have little time to train their offshore staff member on their way of doing business.

“As brokers know, there are many more t’s to cross and i’s to dot than ever before. An offshore team is a fraction of the cost; they honestly love doing the work and will work hard for you” - Deanna Ezzy, More Than Mortgages

It’s also worth considering how outsourcing can assist in different ways throughout the business life cycle, Duerden says. For instance, at the beginning, when brokers are trying to grow their customer and referral base and commission comes in ebbs and flows, they can leverage outsourced loan processing services to reduce the time spent on data entry, loan tracking and administrative tasks.

As the business grows, they can extend their use of outsource services, which could include establishing their own dedicated outsource team, including personal assistants and post-settlement customer service. Once the business stabilises, the brokerage will have achieved a strong relationship with their outsource provider and can work towards future transformations and innovations for the business as a team.

“In all cases, brokers are looking for an outsource provider who understands their particular business needs and has experience in their core activities,” Duerden says.

Finding the right balance

Ezzy’s staff member in Manila is a valued part of her business, but she admits that working with employees overseas did take some time to get used to. 

At first she thought she had to treat outsourced employees differently than she would have treated an Australian employee to account for different social and cultural norms. She made an effort to tread lightly and be overly nice so as not to offend anyone, an approach she later realised was detrimental to their professional development. It made staff feel like they had no ownership over their work, so she adjusted her approach.

“In all cases, brokers are looking for an outsource provider who understands their particular business needs and has experience in their core activities” - Andrew Duerden, Loanworks Technologies

“They will grow and add the most value to your team if you give them honest feedback about their work performance and hold them accountable, at the same time encouraging them to contribute to team meetings, systems and processes, and saying good morning and goodbye,” Ezzy says. “Basically, they want to belong to the team, so treat them as you would all your other team members, and you’ll get the best result.”

When she officially opened More Than Mortgages, Ezzy brought her staff member, Glaiza Miguel, from Manila for a week to be part of the launch. Miguel’s photo and bio are also posted on the ‘meet the team’ portion of Ezzy’s website.

“Doing this has had so many benefits for the whole team,” Ezzy says. “Not only did she get to see the office where we work from each day, but we got to know each other well, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we both want the best for each other, professionally and personally.”

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