Private Investigators in the news. For the wrong reasons.

Private investigators in the news is nothing new. PI’s make headlines all the time for the great work they do for families of missing people.  The work they do in the defense of innocent people unjustly charged.  The wide variety of services private investigators conduct on behalf of the individuals and businesses.
In the past two weeks, investigators are in the news for different reasons. Here are a few of the headlines:
“Private Investigator pleads guilty to conspiracy and false imprisonment…..” Click here for full story
“Already incarcerated private investigator could face new sexual assault charge” Click here for full story
“Private investigator convicted for GPS tracking” Click here for full story
“Woman sues private investigator after finding tracking device on car” Click here for full story
“Family of missing boy sues its ex-private investigator” Click here for full story
Questions:

  • Are the lawsuits simply part of today’s litigious society?
  • Are the criminal charges warranted?
  • Are some private investigators taking unnecessary chances during their investigations?
  • Is stepping over the line due in part to pressure from the client to produce results?

We pose these questions to gain insight from private investigators.  We open this discussion and welcome constructive comments from the industry.
 
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5 Things All Private Investigators Should Know About Case Management Systems

5 Things All Private Investigators Should Know About Case Management Systems

The CROSStrax team attends Private Investigators conferences across the country. In talking with PI’s, one of the questions asked quite often was “How do I choose a case management system?” The simple answer is to try the system out. Any system worth paying for will offer a free trial period. Use the tips below to help choose a system that is right for you and your company.
1) Mobile capabilities
One of the main benefits of a case management system is having access to your case information, photos, video, report, etc. Being able to access the information anywhere at anytime on a wide variety of devices is crucial. As we all know, it is convenient to look something up on your phone or tablet without having to drag out a laptop. Having desktop based software only allows access to investigative information when seated in front a particular computer. What happens when you are in the field or at the courthouse? Look for something that is web based and can be accessed from any computer as well as your mobile devices.
2) The Cloud
Don’t be afraid of the cloud. It is the current business model of most technology based businesses, including technologically sound case management systems for investigators. Popular software products such as Microsoft 365 and Quickbooks are moving to cloud based platforms. Anyone who uses online banking systems are utilizing cloud platforms. Online shopping retailers, email programs such as Gmail and Yahoo mail are examples of cloud computing. Online backup software such as Carbonite operate in the cloud. The cloud should be viewed as a positive. If a case management system does not operate in the cloud and is desktop based, you need to ask how old the system is. Any system worth the cost should have a cloud component.
3) Affordability
Cost is an important factor for any investigator. Look for flat rate pricing. If there are a lot of “items” listed in the pricing plan or the plan is long and complicated, buyer beware. Take into consideration the restrictions. A price can be listed at $99 per month, but additional costs can be incurred if you create too many cases, have more than 1 person logged into the system, upload a large file, create an additional report template. A $59 monthly fee can turn into well above $100. Nobody is a fan of “fees”. When you see setup fees, one-time fees, case fees, be sure you are aware of how the final price could elevate quickly.
4) Features and Tools
Good systems will save you time and in turn save you money. Investigators want to be able to save a least an hour a week on administrative tasks so the system essentially pays for itself. Business owners should want to and will receive a return on any investment. Look for items that make the job easier, save time, and cut down on time spent on reports, billing, searching for information, updating the client, and keeping up with cases and assignments.
5) Customization and Personalization
Having your own subdomain is important for personalization to your company as well as for security reasons. For example, if your login page is at XYZDetective.casesystem.com, that is a unique address for you and your users. You can place that link on your website, email signature, business card, etc. Customization is important for many reasons. The main one being one PI’s business is entirely different than the next. One may focus on domestic investigations. Another investigator may do criminal defense work. What if you are doing insurance investigations and want to decide to market and pursue legal or domestic investigations? Look for systems that allow for customization to meet the needs if your business evolves or changes in the future.
Try a case management system free for 7 days.  Visit www.crosstrax.co

PI Case Management and Marketing

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.

Want to Learn More? Try CROSStrax for 7 days.  Visit www.crosstrax.co

A Business Perspective: PI Case Management Systems

Question Marks

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.

The Office

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 Field

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.

The Business

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.

The Security

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.

The Cost

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.

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