“I’ve Always Done it This way.”
This could be the most well-known phrase to anyone who has ever tried to sell a product or service to anyone, regardless of the industry they are in. In the private investigation industry, this is heard quite often from private investigators when it comes to improving business processes.
The definition of change: “the act or instance of making or becoming different”. Doesn’t every business guru tell business owners to “stand out”, “be different”, “separate your business from competitors”?
Even if something works, or is right at the time, does that make it ok? Is that where it ends? Of course not. The business processes of private investigators should be no different. Not too long ago investigators used 8mm videotapes. They were right at the time and worked great.
What if that investigator was unwilling to change since it worked?
That investigator would be spending a lot of money on videotapes and possess a camera that records video in a lower quality. Their counterparts who prefer to advance their knowledge and change with the times are spending no money on videotapes, recording HD video, and leaving those who choose the alternative wondering why business is slow.
“The way I do it works. I do not need case management software”
The dive into the case management software pool is easily comparable. Certainly manila file folders, excel spreadsheets, homemade software, and outdated methods were right at one time and got the job done.
For today’s private investigator, case management software is advancing, readily available, and very affordable. Even for the one-man investigative agency. Try them, use them, and invest in your business. Time is money. Stop wasting it.
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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.
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
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
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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