Our office is 10 minutes from Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but you don’t have to live in Silicon Valley to take advantage of technology that can lower your overhead, increase your productivity, and help you to meet compliance requirements. The following five solutions have made a significant impact on our practice’s operations, and stand to help producers on a budget. I encourage you to do your own research but we have included what and who we use as a starting place. If you have additional suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.
Upgrade phone systems to cloud-based technology
When our traditional phone and internet provider raised its service rates several times over the course of a few months, we sought alternative options to stabilize the budget. We signed on with an affordable Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system and cloud-based PBX that cut our price in half and offered a secure service to keep our firm compliant.
A cloud-based phone system brings powerful, fresh tools and access to the team at no added cost. Now with tools like emailed voice message files, hold music, auto-call forwarding, e-fax and custom voice mailbox messages for various lines and situations, workflow is simplified and streamlined. The new product also elevates our professional persona, as our previous provider only supplied the “dial tone” for our phone systems. We use Intermedia which I purchased through Costco online. It costs about $25 per phone line, and the phones were less than $100 each. Their set up support and service was outstanding.
Dictate case notes for compliance and efficiency
At my firm, case note dictation started out as a compliance requirement, but quickly became an essential productivity driver. We invested in CopyTalk software and leveraged its power to streamline our internal process. Conversations are recorded in real-time, often as I am sitting in a client’s parking lot. I use their iPhone app which is very easy to use. This approach keeps us compliant, plus any next steps for our staff are seamlessly put in writing to be carried out. A couple of hours after I dictate the notes we securely download them from CopyTalk. It’s important to work with a secure dictation service to meet compliance guidelines. Some services, like the iPhone’s Siri, are not secure and pose a security risk. CopyTalk costs less than $80 per month.
Invest in travel-friendly technology
Whether you’d like to upgrade to new computers, or are outfitting a new office, business-oriented tablets are a cost effective solution. I recently purchased a Windows 10, Lenovo Yoga 260 computer with a touch sensitive screen and a key board that folds under so I can use it like a tablet. It was a considerably less expensive investment than the 3 year-old lap top it replaced, and weighs next to nothing (2.8 pounds). As a business tool, it’s a powerful computer, and as a tablet, it is easy to bring along to client meetings or travel. The cost was less than $1,000 fully loaded with features.
Integrate collaborative file-sharing services
Digital file sharing services are a major convenience, especially for producers who collaborate to develop files, or are frequently “out of pocket.” Many services offer secure file viewing and editing on multiple devices like smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Our office uses Box.com, which enables the team to prepare and share files in advance of client meetings or work trips. Many services that offer secure file encryption are compliance-approved and are a savvy alternative to traditional hard-disk storage that can be expensive to set up and maintain. As the files are housed electronically, there’s no need to reserve precious office space for file storage – the extra space can be used to expand the business or size appropriately to a smaller office.
Use portable scanner to keep track of documents
Mobile applications provide a simple solution to enable secure digital file sharing. An inexpensive scanner app can turn a smartphone into hand-held scanner that securely collects documents. Mobile scanners use the phone’s camera to convert physical documents into PDFs, which can be securely uploaded to a file sharing platform, or password protected and e-mailed. This way, client documents can be transmitted instantly after signing, and copies can be made without taking the originals back to the office.
Updating technologies and software requires a small initial financial investment, but the initial investment is more than made up for with money and frustration saved over time, in addition to increased productivity and potentially lower overhead costs.
Brad is an active volunteer in the community spending the bulk of his time supporting causes serving children and adults with special needs.
Brad is a 25-year MDRT member with 15 Court and 1 Top of the Table Qualifications.
Latest posts by Brad Elman, CLU, CLTC, MDRT (see all)
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