Originally Published July 7, 2016
Whether it's the harsh dial tone indicating an out-of-service phone number or the latest wire bounce from a no-name bank, funders must tackle a myriad of plaintiff-related challenges. You may even believe your clients are inherently disorganized, hard to reach, and excessively demanding, and there's nothing you can possibly do to alleviate the constant frustration. So you start convincing yourself: "it's just the nature of the business."
In reality, by developing a clear, structured plaintiff management process, you will get:
1. More approvals funded
2. More attorney referrals
3. Happier employees
4. Satisfied customers
5. A more professional, efficient, and profitable funding business
What You'll Learn in This 2-Part Series
This guide is designed to help funding companies improve their businesses through better plaintiff relations. While there are tidbits for every funder, this guide will be most helpful for funders who work directly with plaintiffs from the beginning of the funding process, typically by getting leads through Search Engine Marketing (Google AdWords or Bing Ads), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or Brokers.
It offers proven tips, scripts, and templates you can implement today to help streamline the 5 stages of the funding process: intake, document collection, approval/denial, contract execution, and payments.
In Part 1 of our series, you'll glean advice for streamlining your intake and document processing. Part 2, coming next week, will cover approval/denial, contract execution, and payment procedures.
5 Tips for Crystal Clear Communication with Plaintiffs
1. Develop a script for dealing with plaintiffs. We can't stress this enough, and it'll be applicable across the board for every stage of the funding process. A script provides a standardized, predictable client services experience, and ensures talks are professional, concise, and on track.
2. Establish multiple lines of communication with every plaintiff. A plaintiff in a financially dire situation might lose their internet access or phone service, so having multiple means for reaching them is always a smart idea.
3. Keep calls efficient by being assertive without being rude. There is a precarious balance here that requires tact and solid planning. Know when to cut a plaintiff off. Ask leading questions that get to the heart of the matter at hand. Keep rough timeframes for your scripts as a useful reference for staying on track. Lengthy calls don't help you or the plaintiff.
4. Use text messaging whenever possible. For important conversations (intake, deal acceptance, payments), you should still use the phone. However, when you just need to communicate a status update - waiting for documents! - texting will spare your team the 20 minute phone calls that don't add much value.
5. Be proactive with status updates- ideally via text! Don't wait for plaintiffs to ask you or, worse, harass their attorneys for funding updates. This will reduce time-wasting calls, minimize plaintiff complaints, and make the experience smoother for attorneys.
Repeating these five tips at every stage of the funding process is only the beginning.
3 Steps to Standardize and Speed Up Your Intake
Your intake procedure will set the tone for your relationship with the plaintiff. This is a crucial step because poor communication and mismanaged process can lose you a lucrative investment to another funder before you even get the plaintiff’s contact information.
The first time you speak with a plaintiff seeking funding, you want to establish baseline expectations for what you need and what you’re going to do for them.
You have two goals:
1. Standardize your process to make it easy for plaintiffs to communicate the necessary facts in an orderly manner, avoiding lengthy calls that waste both of your time.
2. Set expectations from the outset so plaintiffs understand the basic funding timeline and steps between your first conversation and them receiving funds.
Here’s an effective end-to-end intake process your team can adapt or use completely when you get a plaintiff on the phone for the first time.
Step 1: Qualify As Fast As Possible
Purpose: Use the opening stanza of your intake call to establish lines of communication and get basic information for front-line qualifying. Information like state of residence, case type, and previous funding status can help weed out bad cases and prevent your team from wasting time.
1. Can I please get your name, phone number, and email address?
2. Do you have an attorney? (yes/no)
a. If yes:
i. What is your Attorney’s name?
3. Do you have any previous funding from a legal funding company? (yes/no)
a. If yes:
i. How much?
ii. Were your injuries soft-tissue or did they required surgery/injections?
iii. Have you had additional treatment after that initial funding?
4. What state do you live in?
a. And did the accident also happen in that state?
5. What type of case is this? Is it a motor vehicle accident, premises liability, etc.?
6. What is your date of birth?
Step 2: Gather Information Needed to Evaluate
Purpose: Now that you know that you can fund the case, use the middle portion of your call to determine whether you want to fund the case.
1. Can you explain to me what happened?
a. You should have specific questions by case-type already written out to hone in on damages, liability, and collectability; but that’s the topic of a later post!
2. What date did this accident occur on?
3. In what state is your attorney based?
4. Who do you typically speak to at your attorney’s office? Is there a paralegal you talk with?
Step 3: Align Expectations
Purpose: With the baseline case and plaintiff details in hand, use the final portion of your call to set clear process and communication expectations for your plaintiff.
1. Is your attorney aware that you’re pursuing funding?
a. Tell the plaintiff that their rep will be contacting their lawyer in the next 24 hours
2. Can I text you on [plaintiff phone number]?
3. Advise plaintiff on next steps and timeline
a. Tell the plaintiff their rep will text them an update within 24 hours; then do this!
b. If there are any questions, provide a number for text or phone inquiries and an email address.
Supercharging Document Collection and Processing
Though most documents and information you will rely on will come through attorneys, ignore the plaintiff’s role at your own peril. Poor planning and communication at the document collection phase creates huge opportunities for an unhappy client.
In addition, your staff could be encumbered with countless phone calls asking, “what the hell is going on?” that will bog down your funding process. Keep in mind that the funding process will be pretty low on most attorneys’ lists of priorities, while plaintiffs will almost certainly chafe at any delays.
1. Use a set cadence for keeping plaintiffs updated on the document collection process. Proactive updates that preempt plaintiff inquiries will help keep plaintiffs’ expectations from spiraling out of control while the process is out of their hands.
2. Use plaintiffs to your advantage. Attorneys aren’t working for you, but they will be responsive to their clients. The key here is to strike the right balance between placating the plaintiff, expediting document collection, and maintaining an amicable relationship with attorneys.
Here is a plaintiff communication cadence we’ve seen work really well, although it is heavily dependent on your relationship with the plaintiff’s attorney:
Day 1 (Phone)
- Phone call for intake.
- Phone call to immediately update plaintiff on your call to the attorney/paralegal.
Day 2 (Text)
- Text update to the plaintiff that their attorney/paralegal still hasn’t sent documents, and that you are going to call the attorney/paralegal again tomorrow.
Day 3 (Phone)
- After calling the attorney/paralegal, phone call to the plaintiff to update them on the conversation and whether or not you anticipate documents being sent.
- Consider asking the plaintiff to give them a call.
Day 4 (Text)
- Text update the plaintiff that you still haven’t received their documents. Ask the plaintiff to call the attorney’s office and ask why the attorney/paralegal hasn’t sent documents.
Easier said than done? Here’s a highly effective email template you can use:
Just wanted to give you an update on your funding status. Your attorney [attorney’s name] has been incredibly helpful, and we are both working hard to get you your money as quickly as possible!
We’re still waiting on [outstanding document]; would you mind asking your attorney to get that over to us so we can move to the next steps? Once we’ve received all necessary documents, we’ll move on to approving your funding, signing all contracts, and getting payment in your hands as soon as possible.
If you are a funder working directly with plaintiffs, creating and following a clear communication strategy and process during intake and document collection not only increases the number of leads your company can process, increasing your bottom line, but also sets your team up for success in the final funding stages.
In The Ultimate Guide to Plaintiff Communication: Part 2, we cover communication strategy, tips, and scripts for approval/denial, contract execution, and payments.
Do you have any questions you’d like answered about how to set up a powerful communication strategy and process? Comment below!
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