Some of the benefits of a web based case management system for Private Investigators are often overlooked. When you think of case management software do you think of marketing, maintaining a professional image, staying up to date on industry trends, and ensuring your business has the technological capabilities of your competitors? If you don’t, you should.
All of these aspects are extremely important. Investigators that do not take the time to learn about and embrace new technology can find themselves in a difficult position. The technology advancements of the last 15 years has hit some PI’s very hard. Some have been forced to close their businesses after having very successful runs in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The question is why? Some would say the failure to adapt to new lines of business, failure to learn about and offer new services and embrace the latest technology was the final straw for some PI businesses. Due to the competitive market that all PI’s are in, investigators must separate themselves from competitors and stand out from the hundreds of other PI’s out there.
What do the big nationwide firms such as G4S, ICS Merrill, and Global Options have in common? They have in-house teams of programmers and software developers working on a daily basis to improve their technology, specifically case handling, vendor management and enhancing client experiences.
During a recent webinar, Jimmie Mesis with PI Magazine asked us about a PI that gets 1 case a month. Should they have a case management system? My answer was a resounding YES! If that one case is all the investigator has, that is, and should be their most important case. That case could lead to 10 cases. How is that PI going to keep track of case notes, client instructions, documents, and a laundry list of other crucial tasks. They could manage the case using outdated methods and spend 10 hours let’s say, or they could manage the case with a case management system and spend 5 hours. The PI could then use the 5 hours they saved and call prospective clients or market their services to others.
The affect technology capabilities have on marketing is easy to demonstrate. Let’s say PI-A and PI-B are trying to get work from ABC Company. PI-A meets with them in the morning. They tell ABC about their investigative services, great turnaround times, show them a sample report, and finish the pitch by showing them their case management system. PI-A shows the client the time saving benefits, how their instructions are placed into the case notes, and how the data and information they are trusting the PI with is handled.
Later that afternoon, PI-B comes in for their scheduled meeting. They tell ABC Company about their services, great turn around times, show them a sample report and tell the client all of the reasons they should use PI-B for their investigative needs. The client asks PI-B about how they handle and manage cases. The supervisor at ABC asks: Do you have a case management system that can ensure my instructions will be visible to the investigator working the case? Some of the data I will send you guys is confidential, what security measures are in place? Can I go online and assign you a case? PI-B has to answer NO to those questions because they do not have a case management system. At that point, the meeting is over. There is not a chance PI-B will get business from ABC Company.
The simple fact is PI-A has more to offer the client. PI-A is more advanced and up to date with the latest technology. The client will recognize and appreciate that.
When thinking about implementing a case management system, look at the big picture. Not only will the system help you manage your cases, it could also help you get more business and increase your client base.
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Via various Investigator posts and Snopes.com
You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. When checking in, you give the front desk your credit card information (for all the charges for your room).
You get to your room and settle in. Someone calls the front desk and asks, for example, for room 620 (which just happens to be your room). Your phone rings in your room. You answer, and the person on the other end says the following, ‘This is the front desk. When checking in, we came cross a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers on the reverse side of your charge card.’
Not thinking anything unusual, you might give this person your information, since the call seems to come from the front desk. But actually, it is a scam. Someone is calling from someplace other than the hotel front desk. They ask for a random room number, then, sounding very professional, ask you for credit card information and address information. They are so smooth, you will think you are talking to the front desk.
If you ever encounter this problem in your travels, tell the caller that you will come down to the front desk to clear up any problems. Then, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone acting like a front desk employee called to scam you of your credit card information.
What’s in a name? Nothing really, except the perception of the individual who sees it. How is your “information” perceived? Let’s define what we mean by information. You have a company name, an address, an e-mail address, a website address, a website and your e-mail signature line. Very often, this is how people first see you. Whether it is a post on an industry message board, an introductory e-mail to a potential client, or an e-mail to a colleague, the importance does not change.
Does your company name say I am a professional? Ask yourself these questions: Does my company name roll off the tongue? Is it too long? Does it sound good? Does it contain any topics or words that could be considered controversial? Did you name your company after your favorite sports team (see our previous marketing blog)? You may want to consider changing it.
Does your address say you are a professional? Let’s be honest, it is very easy to spot a company that uses their home address as their office address. While that is perfectly ok and very cost effective, it gives the perception of being “small time” and some would go as far as saying unprofessional. Get a PO Box. They are inexpensive, can boost your company image, and are extremely convenient if you decide to get traditional office space or move to a new office in the future. There is no need to worry about mail being lost in transition, as it is already going to the PO Box.
The e-mail address is where most of the unprofessional offenders can be found. What does the recipient of your e-mail think when they get an e-mail from JohnLovesSuzy@yeahoo.com, PI45816@gomail.com, or BadBoyBikeRider@bellysouth.net? I will let you answer that one. What is odd here is that companies have a website address, but they are not using the e-mail associated with the domain name. Your best bet is to purchase a domain name for ten dollars, let’s say www.abcdinvestigations.com. You can set up an e-mail account or multiple e-mail accounts for that domain for little to no cost. Some domain name companies give you a 5-10 e-mail accounts for free, with a domain purchase. Now your e-mail can be JohnSmith@abcdinvestigations.com or JohnLovesSuzy@yeahoo.com. You have the option? Which one looks more professional to you?
Think of your e-mail signature line as a billboard. It should tell the whole story. Who are you? What do you do? Where are you? How do I contact you? Why should I contact you? This can be a great advertising avenue for a PI and some people do not take advantage of the opportunity with incomplete signature lines or just their name and phone number. Follow this format:
Tagline or Phrase (Example: Specializing in Skip Tracing and Surveillance since 1999)
In order to achieve the above goals, you may have to go out and spend a little money. Think about this: How much money are you leaving on the table as a result of being perceived as unprofessional?
Be Safe Out There
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Does my company need a case management system? Which case management system is right for me? What should I pay for a case management system? What features do I need? Which is better software based or web based? How secure is my data? In our latest blog we offer answers to these questions as well as advice on the relatively new industry of Private Investigation Case Management Systems (CMS).
We have reviewed five aspects of a PI business and how they relate to a CMS.
A CMS should help the user save time and stay organized. If you spend any amount of time looking for information, searching through files, entering data in Excel spreadsheets or writing notes on a dry erase board, it may be time to explore your options. The cost of a CMS can be offset by you being able to bill out additional hours that will be saved as a result of implementing a CMS. Most systems have a free trial period. Try them and see which one meets the needs of your business. Consider these valuable tips. Determine if the system is compatible on all potential platforms that you, your staff and clients may use, including PC, Mac and mobile devices. The system is worthless to you if your users are unable to access it because they prefer using a Mac or an Android tablet for example. See what customizations are available. You should be able to brand the system so your logo appears throughout. Look for features such as case scheduling, calendars, and automatic e-mails that allow you to save time and in turn make more money.
The ability for investigators and vendors to access case information in the field is one of the most important features. The time saved by not having to constantly e-mail reports, information, photos, videos and other information to investigators and vendors working a case for you is a very important time saving feature. Be sure the system can be viewed easily and efficiently on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. This feature is critical when a subject needs to be identified or a piece of information is needed while in the field. Be cautious of a CMS that in order for you to use the system requires the “Download” of a program to your computer or is described as “Stand Alone”. Some portion of your data may not be accessible from the field or on a mobile device.
Most systems provide unlimited client access which is a big advantage for some companies. Your clients may have the ability to log in, assign cases, review case data, and keep track of cases they have assigned. If you decide to implement a CMS it opens up a huge marketing opportunity for your business. First you can “announce” the new system to prospects as well as conducting a “roll out” to existing clients. Now you have the opportunity for some face time by setting an appointment to give them a quick overview on the use and benefits of the system. Explain how it will benefit the business relationship. . If you conduct domestic investigation, you may not want your clients to access the system. Simply create a “dummy” client in the system which is very easy and simple solution.
Ask questions. Go one step further and read the CMS security policy. Talk to the company representative about the security measures in place. The security of your data is of the utmost importance and needs to be secure. What happens if you decide to stop using the system? What happens if the company goes out of business? Who has access to the data? All of these are valid questions. Do not be afraid to ask them, they are extremely important. Look for a security “seal” or “certificate” on the login page. Once you are signed up for a trial, if there is not a “lock” icon and “https” in the address bar, the system is not secure.
Now to the most important part: What is a CMS going to cost? The pricing, as with most software, depends on how many users will have access to the system. The more users a company has, the higher the price. Most systems bill their users on a monthly basis. There are often add-on costs for additional users and storage. Our advice is to find a plan and price you are comfortable with. Be cautious and identify any fees beyond the monthly fee. Some of the fees to be concerned about are: Per Case Fees, Access Fees, Report Fees, Sync Fees, File Upload Fees, Client Access Fees and E-Mail Fees. If the pricing grid is long and complicated, be careful. There are systems and plans out there to meet the needs of any investigative agency. The lowest price available is currently $19 per month.