Value-Based Pricing

For almost 100 years, we have accepted the “billable hour” as the standard for what to charge in the world of legal professionals.  It is a method that has stood the test of time but has recently come under heavy scrutiny.  Many innovative law firms are recognizing that plenty of clients who seek out lawyers have serious gripes with the billable hour.  In such a competitive environment, rather then let them walk out of their office, smart lawyers are incorporating new ways to price prospective clients.  This is known as value-based pricing.  In very basic terms, value-based pricing refers to the act of charging a client a fixed rate, instead of charging by the number of hours spent on a case.

Billable Hours

Many lawyers have been against using value-based pricing for a few reasons.  The first being that the billable hour method protects the law firm and puts more risk on the client.  No matter what the outcome of the case, the client is billed in hours.  Another reason the billable hour still is largely in use is due to its simplicity.  It is a method that is easy to explain to clients and causes little confusion.

Some of the pitfalls of billable hours fall to the disadvantage of the attorney.  The lawyer who completes a project quickly is at a drawback using the billable hour method.  Some cases may not require many hours to complete.  In the same light, very experienced lawyers who have been in the field for a long time may be able to move faster through cases than inexperienced lawyers. The billable hour creates a situation where the veteran lawyer is creating less revenue by more quickly on a case.

Another problem with the billable hour lies in the uncertainty of clients.  Time estimates, in general, are difficult to give, even harder when litigation is involved.  A client may think that their case won’t require more than 10 hours of work to do, so they budget enough money for what they think.  Imagine their shock when they receive a bill for 20 hours of work that is double the price they thought they were going to spend.  You can see how this would leave a very sour taste in the mouths of consumers.  Value-based pricing eliminates this uncertainty and allows customers to budget the right amount of money for services received.

Ditching the Billable Hour

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a rise in legal companies ditching the billable hour formula in place of a value-based pricing one.  There are many advantages to using this system, the first being aligning value between the lawyer and client.

The biggest area where value-based pricing has a leg up on the traditional billable hour method is in lawyers’ schedules. The billable hour method creates situations where lawyers are working on cases but are unable to charge the client for those hours. For example, the law school at Yale University laid out a calculation of the estimated hours a lawyer would need to work in a year to reach the 1,800-hour billable minimum required to be a full-time lawyer. Using their calculation, to reach the yearly hour minimum, a lawyer would need to be working 2,420 hours total.

What to Charge

If you are new to value-based pricing, here are some tactics to figure out what to charge:

  1. Know the collective fees in your area
  2. Determine what the value is for your client. What will they get out of your services?  Highlight all areas of service they will receive.
  3. Determine the price for each task – break up each task into a deliverable.

Whatever it is you decide to charge, be sure that your clients do not undervalue your work.  It’s about creating an experience for your client in conjunction with the value of your time and energy.

Back Office Betties

Time For A Virtual Receptionist?

Answering phones is an element of business that is essential to engage with clients. Whether they are new customers calling with questions about a product, or an existing one calling with issues that need to be reconciled; the key is both groups are funneled through the phones.  As a business owner who is juggling a million tasks throughout the day, answering phones may not be a top priority.

Virtual Receptionists

Virtual receptionists can answer the phones for your business as well as to conduct tasks such as scheduling and directing calls.  To analyze what people look for most when calling an establishment, Clutch Marketing conducted a study of 468 callers who called an organization with questions.  They found that the most important characteristic of callers was the ability to converse with a human representative.

The second most important finding in this study related to the process of transferring calls. 34% of callers that were transferred from the initial point of contact felt they were talking to a call center.  This is an important finding… only 44% of callers said that their receptionist helped their situation when speaking with a call center.  Conversely, 76% of callers who did not have the perception they were speaking to a call center reported that they were helped by the time their call ended.

There are many companies out there that specialize in an area of business known as Business Process Outsourcing.  This is the area of business where virtual receptionists can be categorized in.  Virtual receptionists usually have smaller teams that focus on one specific client, learning that specific business inside and out.  This enables them to answer some of the complicated questions that get thrown at them by callers rather than simply just transferring the call or taking a message.

Attributes

Looking for the right fit for your business can seem daunting.  Here are some of the best qualities to look for in a virtual receptionist:

  • Positive
  • Intelligent
  • Organized
  • Empathy
  • Takes Initiative

In a nutshell, you want to find someone that is going to treat your clients well.  In addition, be able to elevate your quality of customer service.

Free Up Your Time & Save Money

If you are having a tough time keeping up with your business every week, then it is time to start considering a virtual receptionist. Not only will they help free up your day, but they are also significantly less expensive than hiring your own full-time receptionist for your business.  If you are on the fence and need more information on possible ways to incorporate a virtual receptionist into your business, tune in to Back Office Betties Video Blog on Monday, June 18th?  Our topic of conversation: what is the best fit for you when it comes to finding a virtual receptionist.

 

Back Office Betties

Methods To Make Your Boutique Business A Success

Are you considering making your business more specialized?  A boutique business model may be for you.   This is a type of business that doesn’t price sensitive and will not compromise the client experience that they may be receiving from you.  In other words, it’s the quality of your product or service rather than price.

There are several methods that will help to make your business successful and may require some bold moves on your part.  The first step is to be willing to take that ‘flying leap’ to take it to the next level.  Multi-tasking will be a priority to integrate many different components of running a lucrative boutique business.  Consider the mindset of being ready to multi-task and master all elements within your business to produce steady sales and stand out from the rest of your competition.

While there are many components to consider, here are 5 must-know approaches to help your business become a success:

  1. Innovative marketing strategies
  2. Local events
  3. Employ the right employees
  4. Ask for client feedback
  5. Keep your finances organized

Marketing

Marketing strategies can be trial and error for your business as some techniques will work and others will not.  Consider looking for approaches that will drive traffic to your business.  If one method does not work, go back to the drawing board on methods.  Take note of what works best for your business and understand the analytics on the return.  It is also a clever idea to keep a list of potential marketing ideas to refer to if one method does not work.

Local Events

Having a sense of community can be very important to some of your clients.  Consider showing your involvement by participating in local events.  This will give you the opportunity to meet with people in person and build relationships.  If a client feels as if they know you, they are more inclined to do repeat business with your or make a sincere referral to your business.

Employees

Hiring the right employees is a must.  When clients come to you, they should receive a personal experience from beginning to end.  To provide excellent service, you need to enlist the most qualified and knowledgeable team member.  Aside from a qualified list of attributes, they must be personable to your clients.   Strong referrals and repeat business will come from clients that feel taken care of and respected.

Client Feedback

Constructive criticism is sometimes a tough pill to swallow however this can help your business thrive.  Consider sending client feedback or satisfaction surveys.  Ask clients if they have suggestions on how your business can improve.  Evaluating client feedback will help you to continually expand your business into the next level because you are taking their ideas into observation.  This leaves your clients feeling heard and respected.

Organized Finances

As you are growing your business, consider following a strict budget.  Review your business spending to make sure you are not overspending on services and supplies.  Create a simple spreadsheet that shows how much you are spending monthly and consider what can be purged and what is a necessity to your business.  Aside from the obvious expense such as rent, utilities, etc.; here are a few other things to consider in your budget:

  • Office supplies
  • Fuel
  • Shipping and postage
  • Client lunches or dinners
  • Dues for professional associations or networking
  • Professional development

Your budget and finances should be reviewed monthly to make any necessary adjustments.

Baby Steps

When looking at all components to consider, try making a list of just a few tasks for each category at first.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the elements within your business so start small and focus on one task at a time.  Here’s to making your next BOLD move!

Back Office Betties

Quality Assurance: Running An Effective Test Call

Quality Assurance…For some, it’s an unknown term.  For others, they have specific processes in place to help keep tasks functioning properly.  Often quality assurance (QA) is ignored entirely OR once created, it’s never tested afterward.  Which leads to a potentially bigger drawback –you may have created a problem around the ‘quality’ component.

There are many ways to put QA into place but let’s focus on one of the most important processes – the phone calls with your customers!  This is a terrific way to evaluate if your team is providing great customer service.  A customer phone call is usually the initial contact a person will have with your business.

The Call Flow

If you do not have a process in place, the first step is to identify a blueprint of how you want your calls to go.  This can be broken down into various categories based on your business format, however here are a few examples:

  • Team Member Calls
  • Messages
  • New Client Calls
  • Payment
  • Solicitors

After identifying what categories your calls fall into, it is then time to pinpoint the type of information that needs to be collected.  Questions to consider asking when taking calls (be specific for each category you develop):

  • How would you like these calls addressed?
  • How should messages be delivered?
  • Will consultations be schedule for new clients? If so, what information needs to be collected?
  • Will payments be taken over the phone?

Having a checklist for your calls will make it simpler for your team members to understand the process as well as everyone following the same guidelines.

Quality Assurance Scorecard

Once a process has been put in place, a competency check is always in order.  Here are some examples of what to look for on a call:

  1. Did the team member perform the greeting well and was branding used?
  2. Did the team member use the customer’s name at least once throughout the call?
  3. Did the team member adequately address the caller’s needs?
  4. Did the team member collect the correct information to meet the requirements of the type of call?
  5. Did the team member speak clearly and in a friendly tone? Was the experience overall positive for the customer?

Consider constructing a checklist for your team members to follow to make sure they are hitting all bullet points.  Make this accessible for all new and existing team members to follow.  When questions arise, refer to your checklist to make sure they find the answer.  If necessary, make revisions based on the inquiries that are coming up.

Running a Test Call

To be sure your QA is running successfully; scheduling routine test calls is a must.  This will allow for those taking calls to further improve their process, adjusting as necessary.  It will also provide consistency for your team members and your customers calling.  This will also ensure good customer service always, as you are creating a culture of excellence in the workplace.

 

Back Office Betties

The Awkward Conversation: Creating Open Communication In The Workplace

Have you ever heard the phrase: ‘Eat the frog’?  All too often when it comes to addressing sensitive issues in the workplace, we may tend to procrastinate.  While that may be the natural tendency, its important to recognize that if we wait to have those conversations it may negatively shift the morale of the workplace.  Not only can it change the mood, but it can also begin to affect the productivity of your team.

To create a positive work environment, it starts with you and how you decide to handle those awkward conversations.  Let’s be real – nobody likes conflict in the workplace!

Do Your Homework

Ignoring the issue will not help you or anyone in the workplace.  If you allow an issue to go idle, you are potentially encouraging office hearsay to take place.  Before you address the problem, take the time to do your homework on the situation.  Be sure you have all the information in front of you before presenting the problem.  This will help you to stick to the facts.

 

Emotional Intelligence

Try to empathize with your employees and think from the perspective – if it’s awkward for you then it must be awkward for them too!  Your tone should be serious yet showing care and concern for the employee.  This will bring comfort to the situation.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Stay open-minded – try to be non-judgmental and stick to the facts.
  • Listen more than talking – use the opportunity to understand more about your employees.
  • Be professional – even if you may not agree with the person you are having the awkward conversation with, you should be professional always.
  • Offer Help – work towards a resolution and offer solutions to help with the problem.

Documentation

Keeping a log of uncomfortable conversations will help you in the long run if it ever re-surfaces.  When an incident occurs, it is important to note the date, time, location, witnesses, and details.  Details such as specific conversations and/or inappropriate behaviors should all be documented.   General complaints will be more difficult to carry validity versus claims with clear documentation.

 

Eat the Frog

So, what does “Eat the frog?” really mean?   In the wise words of Mark Twain, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.  And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Bottom line…don’t put off your awkward conversations in the workplace.  Once you tackle the situation head-on, it will make the rest of your day easier.   You will feel better and find a sense of accomplishment.

An Organized Process: Is Your Workplace In Order?

When we become business owners, no one tells us about the number of details that we need to keep organized in regards to work flow and processes.   We start with a vision of what we want our business to be like, however, sometimes conveying that to your employees can be difficult.  So, how can you create an organized process in your workplace?

Organize Yourself

The first step is to organize yourself.  Let’s face it, if your organization is like a scattered squirrel then you will ultimately create a team of scattered squirrels!  Organizing your thought process is essential to creating methods in the workplace.

Chris Ronzio, Founder and CEO of Organize Chaos and Trainual, published 100 Hacks To Improve Your Business.  This is a quick and easy read.  It offers a multitude of resources for entrepreneurs to organize chaos and get tasks done efficiently.  Ultimately saving you time, which is a precious resource.  As he has perfected finding many resources to help business owners, he has also mastered creating a system to help you streamline workflow processes.

Trainual

As we are fully present in the digital age, Chris Ronzio has also created an application to automate your onboarding and employee training.  Trainual is an interactive system that allows you to group all your content.  It allows you to assign a task by role or department within a company.  You can also eliminate using several interfaces to house documents, like Google docs or Dropbox.

Here are some of the amazing features Trainual offers:

  • Track progress on projects from start to finish
  • Automate onboarding
  • Improve training for employees with each process laid out, creating a step by step process for every role and every process
  • Eliminate confusion if someone leaves your company
  • Fully customizable to meet your needs and add company branding
  • Create discussion boards within projects
  • Create tests and accountability
  • Watch your team’s progress on tasks

To learn more about Trainual, click here!

It’s Up To You

Getting started with an organized process is truly up to you.  While the process, in the beginning, may seem grueling, the long-term vision is the focus.  If you can spend the time on the front end of creating a solid workflow organization, you will thank yourself later that you are now saving time and money with resourceful methods in place.

Advance Your Practice To The Next Level Using A CRM

Is your law firm currently looking for a Client Relationship Management (CRM) software?  If so, are you ready to advance your practice to the next level?

There are many things to look for when trying to find a CRM that works for you.  Aside from the obvious safety and security issues, here are some main bullet points of what you want to look for:

  • Improve the organization
  • Maximize efficiency
  • Drive more revenue into the practice

Lexicata 3.0 CRM

Lexicata is one of the leading CRM’s for law firms.  Its design and user interface have been streamlined for easy use and functionality.  Released earlier this year, the newest version of its cloud-based application, Lexicata 3.0.   Most of the recent updates were implemented after receiving feedback from current users.  Lexicata has incorporated many new features, one of the beings to reduce the number of clicks needed to navigate.  They have also made significant improvements on its mobile devices interface, making this system easier to carry with you on the go.

New Features

Lexicata 3.0 has added on powerful new features to make your management even easier.  Here’s a list from Lexicata of what some of their new features can do for you:

 

Quick Form – the Quick Form feature enables you to create a task/matter and send or fill out an intake form simultaneously. This means you don’t have to create the task first and then send the form afterward.

Quick Appointment – like Quick Form, but the difference is that you can simultaneously schedule a consultation and automatic reminder email while creating the matter.

Filterable Agenda –The Agenda includes tasks, appointments, due dates for intake forms and e-signatures, and scheduled emails. It is filterable by time (e.g. today vs. upcoming), assigned user, or item type.  It also has useful filters to help you with your daily ‘to-do list’.

Robust Activity Timelines – the matter and contact pages now have an activity timeline that tracks each important event.  It also includes any notes and sent emails inline, so you can easily see the what, when, and who that has happened. Examples of content pages include:

  • Submissions of forms or signed documents
  • Matter status changes
  • Upcoming appointments
  • Task due dates

User Signer Role – perhaps the most substantial new feature, is the addition of the user signer role. Now, you can create “user signers” and Lexicata will automatically notify them via email when it’s their turn to sign a document.

Learn More

Ultimately the focus of all improvements is to make the processes flow more efficiently and to cut down on the number of steps needed.  This will save you time, money and a headache!  To learn more, visit Lexicata.com

Back Office Betties

 

Need An Honest Website Developer?

Currently, there is so much competition for website development.  You can run a simple Google search and countless resources emerge.  So how can you find a good website developer?

Perhaps a different approach other than technical skills is what we should be looking for.  After all, chances are we would not even know what questions to ask or where to begin when it comes to technical jargon of a website platform.

Previous Work Experience

 

A first step in looking for a developer is to consider their previous work experience with clients.  Finding out the perspective from past clients is a great way to gauge their work history.  Pay attention to testimonies that might be listed on the developer’s page.  In addition, a good developer will also list the webpages they have worked on to show their craftsmanship.  Look at other pages they have created and look for qualities you wish to see in your website.  Ask for references if you are unable to determine their work experience with clients.

Bringing out the Passion

How passionate are they about what they do?   Look at it this way, if they aren’t enthusiastic about what they do, then how can creativity flow into your website?  Find a developer that has a true passion for what they do.  When they excited to be working with you, it will show in their work and disposition.  Trust your instincts if you aren’t feeling ‘good vibes’.

Creating a Partnership

Finding trust in website developer is an essential component as you are creating a partnership with this person.  This person isn’t just another ‘outsource’ you are hiring.  They are going to assist you with bringing your idea to life through your website.  You are entrusting them with your vision and a synergy must take place.  If you are questioning your trust factor with your developer, then chances are you will never be on the same page.  This will lead to slower deadlines and second-guessing the developer’s decisions on content.  With a lack of trust in the partnership, this will slow down the process.

Can they communicate?

A good website developer should be in constant communication with you about your website.  If email is the main form of communication, they should be able to be clear and concise.  They should also be able to convey to you in layman’s terms of progress and content, without using technical jargon that may confuse you.  By communicating clearly, you should have a clear vision of the direction of your website.

These are four important attributes to look for in an honest website developer.  Using this as a starting point when looking for a developer will save you time and money, minus the headache.

 

Are You Considered a Business Associate?

Does your law firm handle work that involves Protected Health Information (PHI)?  If so, your law firm may fall under the category of ‘Business Associate’ and requires a list of compliance measures….one of them being your technology.

The HITECH Act requires any business partners who use, store or process PHI to meet HIPPA compliance requirements. That means attorneys are on the hook for upholding the same security and privacy standards.  In 2013, the HIPPA Omnibus Rule was released to extend to business associates using PHI information.  The rule gives providers and health plan companies permission to share PHI with business associates.  This is under the condition that the information used is for the purposes intended and will safeguard any information.  Business associates must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) to ensure compliance.

Technology & Acuity ELM

Technical safeguards must be addressed before entering a BAA. Encryption and security protocol are some of the best ways to keep your data secure.  Cloud-based vendors are very helpful in this area.  Not only is your information more protected, but it is also easier to manage.

Working with an entrusted technology partner is crucial for a law firm to stay out of trouble with HIPPA compliance.  Acuity ELM (Enterprise Legal Management) is an application service provider that helps to manage private web-based networks for subscriber lawyers and their clients.  The application can help with the basic tracking of cases and claims, billing, collaboration, and reporting analytics.  This cloud-based provider follows HIPPA compliance, in addition to an extra added layer of cybersecurity known as the SSAE 16 SOC 1 Type II.   This certification means that Acuity ELM has been through an in-depth examination of their controls over information technology and other related processes.

Additional features of Acuity ELM to note are its affordability, it’s rapid turn on delivering system, and consistent updates improving its functionality.  To learn more about Acuity ELM, visit their website at www.acuityelm.com for a free demonstration.   Cloud-based applications such as Acuity ELM will help you to improve your administrative safeguards in your firm, giving you peace of mind that you are encrypting your PHI and other sensitive information.