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Streamlining service charge management for more than 1,700 properties annually

Phillip Carroll Associates sustainably grows its business and strengthens customer relationships using the Intelastel event-driven business process management platform.

Many property tenants, including in shopping centres, industrial estates, office parks and residential developments, pay a service charge to cover communal amenities. With millions of tens of thousands of rental properties in the UK, managing these service charges and ensuring every tenant pays the correct amount is a complex business, typically handled by property management companies.

Across the industry, it’s best practice for management firms to provide tenants with independent reports that demonstrate they’re paying the correct charges. Phillip Carroll Associates provides this reporting service to a number of property management businesses, which together look after around 1,700 properties annually. Among its customers is one of the largest property management companies in the UK.

Managing a complex process

Phillip Carroll Associates was previously running its service charge reporting manually. There was a spreadsheet for every property, containing its important information. These spreadsheets would be updated and exchanged numerous times with its customers’ teams during each property’s audit. Further information was often contained in accompanying emails.

As Phillip Carroll Associates’ service charge business grew, this way of working was becoming increasingly time-consuming. Particularly challenging were maintaining an overview of each property’s progress in the audit process, and ensuring everyone in both Phillip Carroll Associates and its customers was working with the most up-to-date data for each property.

The need to enable sustainable growth

Phillip Carroll Associates knew it needed a technology solution to alleviate this challenge and enable it to grow sustainably. It wanted to manage property workflows centrally and gain a single version of the truth for property data, which could be used by its own employees and its customers’ teams.

It hoped this would streamline its ways of working and thereby enable it to offer customers a better level of service, while also taking on more work without significantly expanding its teams.

Helastel: Providing the tools and expertise

Phillip Carroll Associates went to market to find a partner to deliver this capability, and selected Helastel. David Burgess, Managing Director at Phillip Carroll Associates, explains the choice: “We chose Helastel because of their cloud-based Intelastel workflow-management platform and the confidence they gave us that they understood our needs and would be able to deliver.”

Our teams worked closely with stakeholders from Phillip Carroll Associates and its property management customers, to understand their requirements. We worked iteratively, mapping out workflows, modelling them in Intelastel and testing the system with users. This gave everyone involved the confidence that the final solution would meet their needs.

Self-service portal to enable value-add services

A key requirement was for a portal that employees from property management companies could log into. This would provide the universal single-point-of-truth capability that Phillip Carroll Associates required. It would also enable it to offer additional value-add services to its clients, including the ability to manage the end-to-end service charge review, reconciliation and certification process on a customer’s behalf.

Immediate clarity and time-savings

The new system went live on-schedule and made an instant impact. With all property data, account information and associated workflows managed through Intelastel, Phillip Carroll Associates’ employees saw an immediate reduction in their workloads.

Claire Breeze, head of the service management team at Phillip Carroll Associates, explains: “The clarity Intelastel gives us means we always know the exact status of each property. This alone has saved us enormous amounts of time: probably many weeks’ worth in the 12 months we’ve been using it.

“And because we can now work so much faster, we’re able to offer our customers better, more responsive service. This gives them more time to complete their tasks.

“The centralised workflow management system also gives us a level of control and oversight that makes it much easier for us to meet our customer service level agreements (SLAs) – and demonstrate we’re hitting all our key performance indicators (KPIs).”

Unleashing differentiators that win new business

In addition, the platform has played a significant role in enabling Phillip Carroll Associates to grow. Breeze says: “When we’re pitching for new work, we can offer prospects lots of capabilities they can’t get anywhere else. The Intelastel document and data stores mean customers are no longer keeping information in emails or unstructured file systems. Everyone who needs to find information can find it, even when properties are passed between employees. Another key differentiator it gives us is the ability to project-manage the whole service charge reporting process on behalf of our customers, which makes their jobs easier.

“Having the capabilities Intelastel gives us has definitely helped us win new clients.”

Underpinning sustainable growth

And thanks to Intelastel, Phillip Carroll Associates has been able to confidently take on this additional business, without costs rising unsustainably. Breeze adds: “We’ve significantly grown the portfolio of properties we’re reporting on since we started using Intelastel. Without the software, we’d probably have needed 50% more staff to do this.

“But now, even when a client takes on a large number of additional properties, we know we’re equipped to support them and it won’t over-stretch us.”

Managing director Burgess concludes: “It’s fair to say that Intelastel plays a vital role in our ability to consistently deliver high-quality services to our clients. It’s a key reason so many of them see us as their preferred supplier for service charge reporting.”

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