“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 Certainly manila file folders, excel spreadsheets, homemade software, and outdated methods were right at one time and got the job done.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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At least once a month, an investigative managers, operations manager or other investigators in a supervisory role contact us with a similar question.
How do I get my employees to embrace the use of the case management system?
Technology and software are extremely useful in the investigative industry. Now, lets identify exactly who we are talking about here. Typically, the supervisor is referring to older investigators that have 20 plus years of experience and can remember when video cameras weighed over 10 pounds and used 8mm video tapes . These investigators have tons of experience, are very good at what they do and have certain habits, processes, and are set in their ways. And why shouldn’t they. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with the investigators in this scenario. Those processes have worked well and yielded positive results throughout their career. What a lot of them fail to realize is this type of change is no different than the change they experienced when using 8mm tapes was no longer a viable option and MiniDV and digital video cameras became the norm. Why? Better options, better video, easier to use, more compact and the list of benefits goes on and on.
Case management and technology are no different. Manilla file folders, spreadsheets, and homemade case management methods were good at one time, but now there are better and more efficient ways to do things.
Human beings in general do not care for change, even when that change has positive aspects. Take a PI that has been in the game for 30 years who says I have been doing investigations just fine without using “some computer software”, there may not be much a manager can do to change their mind. The way a manager approaches and implements the change is important. Managers will have a hard time telling investigators the benefits of change. The key is to show them the benefits, features, and outline exactly how the system will help them individually and the company as well. After some period of time, the previously reluctant investigators will hopefully say “Man, John was right, this makes my job a lot easier, makes my job this or really helps me save time on this task.
The key is to develop processes and be prepared when approaching employees with new technology. Telling them is not going to be enough. Showing them and being clear how this helps everyone is the catalyst for success.
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.
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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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