Posts Tagged ‘service’

Customer Service 101: Connecting in an Interconnected World

Rose Rowland, Developer and Trainer for Basha Systems adds her thoughts on customer service in an interconnected world.

For several years now, I have gone to a drycleaners that is farther from my house than at least five others.  This drycleaners is not particularly cheaper or even better in any appreciable way than the ones that are nearer to my house. And still, I make the extra trip for one reason – the lady behind the counter.

Her name is Maria and she is a lovely Hispanic woman with the warmest smile imaginable.  From the first time I came into this drycleaners, she always gave me the friendliest and most concerned of service. When my children come in with me, she talks to them and sometimes gives them gum.  When I have a problem, nothing is too much trouble for her. So, I return again and again.

Now, what does my drycleaners have to do with Time Matters, client service in law firms or really anything computer related?  The point is, my drycleaner Maria has discovered something very important—the necessity of making a personal connection in an interconnected world.

Now, that last sentence sounded just a bit strange.  After all, what could be more personal than interconnectedness? Frankly, a lot.  As I sit at my desk in my office at Basha Systems, I receive many, many emails.  Amongst the ads for Viagra and Florida vacations, there are quite a few that inquire about having Basha Systems do HotDocs or Time Matters customization for their firm. Now, I could shoot back a canned email response or possibly something even more detailed, but I usually pick up a phone. I make that more personal connection.

That personal connection is critical for us.  For in that short phone call, I can determine what kind of software a client wants and really needs. Sometimes I’ll get an email from a client who THINKS he or she wants HotDocs but could really be serviced better with Time Matters merge templates.  And, sometimes, none of the products we service are right for them and then I try my best to steer them to other providers who can better suit their needs.

To have a personal connection with someone, you must remember details about them.  My drycleaner Maria remembers me, my children and different details about myself or others that I have dropped over the years.

I am not lucky enough to have Maria’s memory. We have dealt with thousands of emails over the 14 years we have been in business, and worked with hundreds of people in a substantive fashion. We have over 4,000 contacts in our Time Matters database.  The feat of remembering everything about every one of those contacts would boggle the mind.

For that, we have Time Matters, and an add-on built by Basha Systems called the Basha Systems Office Management System for Time Matters (aka “OMS”).  A couple of years ago, Basha Systems created two packages for Time Matters software to make it more powerful – EPMS (Estate Planning Management System) and OMS (Office Management System).

The most amazing part of these packages and the one that everyone is most impressed with are the Power Views created by Seth Rowland and Ian Burrows.  They seem simple (despite the thousands of dollars of development time).  They implement the 3-Click solution.  And in so doing they unlock the true power of Time Matters.

By clicking on a Contact in Time Matters and clicking on the Power View list, I can see numerous details at a glance. One of the things I really love about our power views for Time Matters is the ability in a single click to see the data entered on ALL THREE tabs of the Contact record (or the Matter record) in a single view which can be printed.  The second favorite Power View is call OMS Contact Note Phone List.  Here, in a single power view is a list of all contacts (with their name, code, phone number, cell number, and email), the full text of ALL related notes, and the full text of ALL related phone calls.

With information like that at their fingertips, lawyers/professionals can treat each of their clients (whether they have 50 or 5,000 clients, and whether they are solo or work with a team of 20 people) like EACH one was the most memorable and important client they had.  All this information, available in 3-clicks and quick perusal, gives YOU that personal connection.  It is an interesting concept and one we believe in at Basha Systems.

Lessons from SuperBowl XL – I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

SATISFACTION … 40 YEARS LATER

Superbowl XL was a tour de force, with the largest audience of any show all year.  It is the one football game I watch each year … “I watch for the commercials” and the “half-time” show.  This year, Mick Jagger of ther Rolling Stones performed the half-time show … without a “wardrobe malfunction”.  At the age of 62, Mick Jagger opened with the remark, that it took 40 years from when he burst onto the Rock ‘n Roll scene to make it to the mainstream of the Superbowl XL (“40″).  Dancing around a giant tongue (stuck out at full length, as in a “Brooklyn cheer”) he launched into a rousing rendition of “I can’t get no Satisfication …” and I tried, and I tried, and I tried.

A DECADE LATER

It has now been over a decade since I left my comfortable “New York” litigation practice to enter the area of document assembly consulting.  In the ten years, document assembly has gone from “fringe and novel” to “mainstream”.  For many attorneys it is a central part of their process, whether it be for generating high-volume pleadings, prepare probate applications, or drafting wills and complex tax-sheltering trusts.  This article is a reminsce on the past decade in document assembly.

THE JURASIC PERIOD

When I first started writing on document assembly, in the early days of the commercial internet, I was flamed as a traitor.  I took the position, which I hold now, that the billable hour is a dinosaur.  I argued that unless law firms changed their business model, they would soon find themselves priced out of the legal market by more nimble competitors.  I took the position that law firms who innovated and invested in their intellectual property, would rise to the top in terms of profitability per partner.

TRENDS TOWARD COMMODITIZATION

The response I received, to say the least, was caustic.  How could you “commoditize the law”.  Do people get legal services from “Walmart?” or “Lawyer’s ‘r Us.” The quality of legal services in this country will plummet.  Lawyers are unable to determine the “true cost” of services, and should be rewarded for the hours they labour.  Once you “fix prices”, lawyers will stop innovating and lower the quality of the services they provide.  We are serving as “advisors” to our clients – how can we put a price on that advice.  When I suggested that will value-billing and project-based billing, the effective hourly rate for service could reach into thousands of dollars per hour, I was told that lawyers who charged such fees should be brought before bar association ethics committees and disbarred.

ACTING AS AN ACCOMPLICE

Lucky for me, I was no longer practicing law, but rather “aiding and abbetting” my clients in the commission of these ethics crimes.  I was making it possible for my clients to “fix” the fee for a client for the delivery of a defined service.  The client would get a “cap” on the fee and a fixed expectation of the service to be rendered.  By defining the service with particularity, the law firm then had the incentive to invest in building intellectual property and systems to deliver that service with a minimum of time.  I spent much of my time, urging my clients to consider the R.O.I. on document assembly.  Most of the time, these projects were implemented only for “loss leaders” – services which were not profitable under the hourly model – and thus the investment would “save” the firm from having to write off hours.

TRY TRY TRY

For ten years , I got no satisfaction.  And I tried, and I tried, and I tried.  Yes, I found a number of enterprising attorneys who faced with the choice of hiring additional staff to handle a burgeoning workload, or investing in automation technology and consulting, chose the CHEAPER alternative – automation.  I would spend 30% of my time marketing and doing demos.  Ten years laters, I spend 5% of my time marketing.  These websites bring in several leads every weak … people who had already made a decision to automate.  The only question is whether the cost of our services would fit into their Return on Investment.  Many of our clients are pioneers, pushing the limits of automation.  They have played with HotDocs and Ghostfill, worked with merge fields and done simple automation.

FROM DOCUMENTS TO APPLICATIONS

And now they were ready to go to the next level, and build a custom application to handle a complete practice area.  Those are the inquiries we are now receiving.  Document assembly is no longer just for documents.  Mosts of our systems begin with a Master Information List to gather data and then a switchboard.  We invite you to look videos of our current systems.  Video Tours

DOCUMENT ASSEMBLY SOFTWARE

Over the years, I have worked with a number of Document Assembly Products. For more information on these products, click on links below:

  • HotDocs
  • GhostFill
  • DealBuilder
  • Smartwords
  • MasterDraft
  • PowerTXT
  • ThinkDocs
  • WinDraft
  • Perfectus
  • qShift
  • Microsoft Word
  • Corel WordPerfect

An Interview with the DocGuru (by himself)

No one was calling me for juicy quotes. Some of you have started visiting the blog. I was getting tired of the lack of interaction in a blog (too much lecturing). So I thought I would do something fun, I would interview myself.

Related Link: the guru’s document assembly page

The DocGuru: Where does document assembly make the most sense?
Himself: Well everywhere! Anything you write, anything you type, any form you fill is a candidate for document assembly.

The DocGuru: Be real. Coding a template takes time. Should we really do everything?
Himself: Why not. It’s fun. It challenges the mind. It beats billing time.

The DocGuru: Yes. You caught it: “billing time.” Shouldn’t we spend our time doing billable work?
Himself: Well for me, document assembly is billable work . But for you, I get the point, and the answer is NO!

The DocGuru: Who is going to pay for the office overhead? We can’t hole up in a dark corner with a laptop and code.
Himself: I don’t do it in a dark corner, I beg your pardon. I take the laptop out to the garden, and watch the Daffodils pushing up, hear the birds chirp. Spring is beautiful.

The DocGuru: You are avoiding the question
Himself: All right. Here is why you should “stop billing”. Do an hour of billable work and you make money for an hour of billable work. There is no multiple; no extra reward for the effort, no return on investment. Yes, you make more than the typical wage laborer …. (have you talk to your plumber recently?) But say you make $400 and hour … you need to work a lot of hours to get real rich. And then, you have to constantly justify your time. What is the “value” of your labor … What is the value of your “workproduct”

The DocGuru: But that is what lawyers do, they bill
Himself: I disagree. You don’t come to a lawyer for a few hours of his time …. Yes he may bill you for a few hours. You come for advice; you come for help out of a jam; but more often you come for a “document”. It is the document you want, not the time; you want to take home a piece of paper, whether it be a partnership agreement, a lease, or a will; you want to know that it is well written and will survive the test of time.

The DocGuru: What does that have to do with document assembly?
Himself: Document assembly is all about documents; it is all about the creation of quality documents; it is all about the delivery of services. It is about workproduct. Invest 100 hours in template coding, and the return is equal to a thousand hours of billing. It allows you to bill for the document; not for the time. It is all about multiples; all about service; all about competition.

The DocGuru: You seem convinced about this? You have been doing document assembly for nearly a decade. It is easy for you; but not everyone can code.
Himself: Exactly my point; but all of you can markup documents. You markup documents day in and day out. Why not mark up your documents and send them to me to code. It will take less of your billable time to get the project done; and bring you closer to your the time you can reap the multiples from your investment.

The DocGuru: Aren’t you being a little direct? This seems to be a sales pitch.
Himself: Think what you wish. Feel free to come back; I give away advice for free and tip. You will find me posting (uncompensated) on the HotDocs list and GhostFill list. Many of you have received a private email or a call when you got into sticky trouble. But I do make my money consulting and love my work. Did I mention my new document assembly and case management sections on my website?

The DocGuru: The DocuGuru: You are a hypocrite. Don’t you bill by the hour?
Himself: Have you called me? You ask me to troubleshoot a template and give you “help” writ large; of course I bill by the hour. But, if you come to me with a set of documents, all marked up, and ask what will it take to turn them into a system, I will more than likely give you a fixed fee quote or a range. The quote will be based on a combination of the value of the documents to you, the complexity, and an estimate of the time it would take a typical coder to automate the documents.

The DocGuru: Well, our readers thank you for your candid comments and this opportunity to talk with you. Keep up the good work. Keep blogging.

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