Congratulations, you have a growing Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA)! Your digital presence is up to date, you’re bringing on more salespeople, and those new salespeople are bringing in more business.
Where do you go from here?
We’re not going to dwell on the positives of having a growing business. After all, that’s what it’s all about; more growth, ideally, leads to greater profit.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way in the background screening industry.
Ordinarily, so much of what CRAs do is reliant on manual processes. You have researchers visiting the websites of courts and law enforcement agencies, running searches, pulling down data, adding the data to a report, formatting it, and so on. For the few counties that still refuse to put their information online, you need to send researchers physically to court to access information on special terminals.
How can you scale your business as a CRA without drowning in labor costs? The answer is automation.
How Automation Works for CRAs
Automated background checks work by “scraping” court websites for conviction and sentencing information, compiling the data, and formatting it into whatever fields you require for reporting. Essentially, automated “agents” take the place of human researchers.
Automation has obvious benefits for background screening firms. First among them is the cost.
Automated systems do not entirely eliminate the need for paid human researchers (some court records are not online and others do not meet individual quality standards), but they significantly reduce the need. With an automated system handling the bulk of your information gathering, your human team can focus on the trickier cases that require manual effort. This allows you to grow the volume of your searches without increasing your company’s headcount.
Another advantage of automation is accuracy. Human researchers are fallible. They might type in the wrong name, misspell a name, skip over a name by accident, misplace files, or make any of the other mistakes we typically chalk up to “human error.” Machines perform flawlessly every time.
Automation can help your CRA grow while keeping your staffing costs low, but it is not a solution to everything. For one thing (as we pointed out above), not all background screening information is available online. Older cases, for example, may require human researchers to uncover.
And if you build your automated system to output in a particular format, you may lack the flexibility to format data to meet the specific needs of a customer. However, this problem can usually be avoided by working with an automation vendor that provides data in whatever format you require.
Two Ways to Add Automation to Your CRA
There are two basic approaches to automating your criminal background screening:
- Build your own automation platform.
- Partner with an automation vendor.
A few of the larger CRAs choose to build their own systems. The advantages of doing so include getting complete control over reporting and a lower price (or no price) per search. Plus, you never have to worry about a vendor going out of business and leaving you high and dry. (And even in this scenario, you may want to partner with a provider for backup, redundancy, and additional expertise.)
But building your own automated system requires technical know-how most smaller or medium-sized CRAs lack. Then there are maintenance costs to consider. And when your self-built system fails, you need to have a backup in place. Otherwise, your only option will be to default to a manual process.
A reliable vendor for background screening automation, on the other hand, will cost you a bit more on a per search basis than a self-built system, but vendor costs are consistent and predictable.
With the right vendor, you will not have to dedicate resources to building or maintaining software. Nor will you have to update your system to stay on top of changes in the way courts provide data. If something goes wrong, a high-quality vendor will have built-in redundancy, so on your end, the information keeps flowing.
Considering Automation for Your CRA?
If you feel the time is right to take your growing CRA to the next level with automation, your first step should be to assess what can be automated in terms of jurisdiction,search type and reporting flexibility. Then compare that to your internal volume. This process will help you determine whether automation can be a smart investment for your company.
If you have any questions about the ROI of automation, we would be happy to answer them.
Do you have more questions about how background check automation works? Check out our new ebook - CRA's Guide to Background Automation.