Originally Published July 14, 2016
In last week’s post, The Ultimate Guide to Plaintiff Communication: Part 1, you learned 5 essential communication tactics for every stage of the funding process. You also came away with actionable tactics to simultaneously improve plaintiff relations and become more efficient during intake and document collection. During these first 2 stages, you set the tone for your relationship with the plaintiff, stringently qualified the lead, and used your document collection cadence to gather all the information you need to assess the case.
By creating a disciplined plaintiff communication process, you will help your company get more:
1. Approvals funded
2. Attorney referrals
3. Employee satisfaction
4. Customer satisfaction
5. Professional, efficient, and profitable in your funding business
Today’s post provides you with tools and tips to help you in the final 3 stages of funding: case decision, contract execution, and payment.
While this guide is packed with tidbits for every funder, it may be most helpful for those of you who work directly with plaintiffs from the beginning of the funding process.
Combine this lesson with Part 1, and you’ll be on your way to building a funding machine!
Case Decision: Approval and Denial Communication
By this stage, your underwriter has completed their review of the plaintiff's case, and it's time to communicate your decision to the plaintiff. Regardless of whether you will be approving or denying, it's imperative that you have a plan in place ahead of time.
Approval: 4 Templates to Close More Deals, Faster
You received the greenlight from your underwriter to close the deal. Now, it’s up to you to make sure the time and effort you’ve put in doesn’t go to waste. Nothing’s more painful than seeing a deal you’re thrilled about get tanked due to errors in communication and process during the critical approval stage.
The last thing you want is for another funder to get a competing offer in at the last minute before you’re even able to present yours.
Leverage this approval protocol in order to get your deal into your client’s hands as quickly as possible.
Step 1 . Call the plaintiff. Here are the main topics to cover on the call:
i. Congratulate them on their approval.
It may seem obvious, but remember that this call will be both important and very exciting to your client. You’re about to make their week, so prep yourself to be enthusiastic and congratulatory! This will also make them more likely to feel they’re getting a solid deal from someone who cares.
We’ll leave how to celebrate with your clients to you.
ii . Explain the rest of the process so they know exactly what to expect.
Right now, all I need from you is some basic information so that we can get the agreement drawn up as quickly as possible. Once we have that, we will send it to you via [delivery method] for you to sign and send back to us. When we have your signed portion of the agreement, we will send it to your attorney’s office for his/her signature to complete the agreement. Once they send it back to us, we’ll do a final review to make sure everything is signed correctly before sending your funds.
iii. Obtain any missing pedigree information you need to draft the agreement.
I know this is urgent, and I want to get this money to you as quickly as possible. To keep moving along, we need some basic information to get the agreement drafted. What is your [date of birth, home address, etc…]?
iv. Ask that they text you a photo of their ID, preferably their driver’s license
There is one more thing you can do to speed up the process while I’m putting the agreement together. Can you take a photo of your ID with your phone and text it to [Phone number]? Thank you!
Step 2. If you can’t reach them, be sure to leave a voicemail
Hi [Plaintiff Name], this is [Name] from [Funding Company]. I’m calling with some really good news about your application for financing on your case.
Give me a call back at [your phone number]. Looking forward!
Step 3 . Send a follow-up text,
Hi [Plaintiff Name], this is [Name] from [Funding Company]. I have some really good news about your application for financing on your case.
Please text me with a good time to talk, or just give me a call at this number. Talk soon!
Step 4. Fire off an email for good measure.
Subj: Good news, you’re approved! Accept in seconds.
Hi [Client Name],
Congratulations! We think your case is a great candidate for funding, and we’d like to directly offer you an amount of <$X>. In order to accept this offer, simply respond to this email or text or call me.
<Funding Representative> will be giving you a call shortly to talk this offer over with you.
Once you’ve made the decision to approve, you can’t send too many positive messages to try to get ahold of your client. After all, you have great news they’re dying to hear.
Denial: 3 Tips for Painlessly Denying an Application
When denying a case, the key is to quickly, clearly, and decisively communicate the decision to the plaintiff.
It may be tempting to ignore applications your underwriter has denied, hoping the plaintiff will forget about the application or infer that no communication means no funding. Let’s be clear: this does not work. Your team will get buried in calls asking what’s going on, which will be both unpleasant and time-consuming.
In addition, oftentimes there’s a chance the plaintiff will be eligible for funding in the future as he or she receives more medical treatment or the case develops. You want to preserve all relationships with professionalism and courtesy for future deals with this plaintiff and their attorney.
Here are my favorite 3 tactics to painlessly deny an application.
1. Text or email the plaintiff your decision (I prefer to do both).
i. Sample text
Hi [Plaintiff Name], thanks for reaching out to [Funding Company]. We’ve reviewed your application, and are unable to provide financing on your claim. We’ve sent an email with more info. We wish you the best of luck.
ii. Sample Email
Thank you for reaching out to [Funding Company] for financing on your lawsuit. Your application was carefully reviewed and currently, we are not able to provide you with financing.
For now, we’ll go ahead and close your application, but if [Choose a reason: additional documentation becomes available/you undergo additional treatment/your attorney agrees to cooperate], we will gladly reconsider your request.
We wish you all the best. Thank you for reaching out.
2. Answer the call
If after the text and email the plaintiff still calls for more information, I always had my team take the call, but keep it short and decisive. I found that ignored calls compounded, so it was better to just take a deep breath, pick up the phone, and use a to-the-point script like this:
Hi [plaintiff], we really tried our best but the underwriter completed the review of your application and unfortunately we are not able to provide you with financing.
The decision is final, but we really wish you all the best with your case.
3. Insulate the attorney
If you have hopes of working with the attorney again, refrain from deflecting blame with statements like “your attorney told me liability is contested” or “your attorney told me you keep missing physical therapy appointments.”
Instead, leverage opportunities to show attorneys “you get it.” When an attorney explains to your underwriter that they don’t think the case has room or adequate merits for funding, be explicit in telling the attorney right then and there. Here’s language my team used constantly:
I understand, thanks for explaining that [liability/damages/collections] issue to me. With that in mind, we’ll pass on this request for funding. I also understand that your relationships with your client is more important than ours.
I want to be clear that the way I’m going to communicate this to [Plaintiff] is by telling them you were incredibly helpful, and that after review it didn’t fit our criteria. I’ll make it clear that it was 100% our decision.
Contract Execution: 4 Ways to Expedite Signature Collection
At this point, you may already know what I’m going to say here: establish a clear, repeatable process for contract execution so that nothing gets slowed down or falls through the cracks.
Here are 4 ways to make your process airtight:
1. Encourage the best methods
Minimize the number of opportunities for the contract to be completed incorrectly by advocating for the least error-prone methods.
DocuSign is the gold standard for contract execution, second only to having the plaintiff go to the attorney’s office in-person. Both put the plaintiff in a great position to execute the contract correctly on the first try.
When sending a blank contract via email or fax, you’re more likely to receive it back with key fields missing.
2. Get the plaintiff’s signature first
There are two reasons for this. First, attorneys may not want to sign documents that haven’t already been signed by their clients. Second, plaintiffs may take time to consider and understand the contract and their options.
3. Use a template with clear directions
This is especially crucial if your company sends agreements via email or fax.
To get an idea of the level of detail to go into, this is an example that my reps used and found effective:
Hello [Plaintiff], below please find instructions for properly completing your agreement for funding.
1. Every page: initial the bottom right-hand corner
2. Page 7: please sign and date
3. Page 7 and Page 9: notarization is required; please call me at [phone number] when you are at the notary
4. Page 9: complete the payment instructions so we know how to send your money.
i. Please select only one of the payment methods
ii. If you would like a wire transfer, please ensure your account can receive wires
iii. Note: unfortunately we cannot send wires to pre-paid or direct deposit accounts
5. Once you have completed the contract, please fax it to: [Fax Number].
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, I’m more than happy to help!
4. Notarize only when absolutely needed
Some funders don’t require notarization if the funding is under a certain dollar amount, say $500 or $1,000 for example, or if the plaintiff has previously received funding and had their first agreement notarized. No matter the situations in which you require notarization, this step introduces a landmine for potential errors and delays.
When a notary is needed, fast track the process by helping the plaintiff out with “where” and “how.”
1. Find a notary geographically near the plaintiff
2. Ask the plaintiff that they call you when they get to the notary so you can walk them through the process
3. Stay on the phone with them until you receive the notarized copy to ensure it was done correctly
By investing that time upfront, you’ll avoid addressing errors after the plaintiff has left and paid the notary.
Payments: 4 ways to get it done right the first time
From the plaintiff’s perspective, this is the most important step of the process, so it almost goes without saying that any measures to ensure it moves as quickly and smoothly as possible are worth the effort.
Oftentimes, plaintiffs who seek out legal funding use non-traditional financial institutions, such as check cashing services and banking services that don’t allow wires.
Here are four ways to optimize the payment process with that complexity in mind:
1. Keep a list of bad banks
Memorialize which banks you can and cannot work with so no wires bounce.
If you follow the contract execution process I laid out above, you will catch this error while you’re waiting on the attorney signature. This will give your team plenty of time to figure out an alternative payment method with the plaintiff.
2. Send payment confirmation
I’ve found that having a discrete step to communicate all necessary payment information can eliminate 1-2 extra calls from the plaintiff.
You should almost always confirm:
1. With the plaintiff that you received the completed agreement from their attorney and are now proceeding to disburse the funds
2. Any information that helps the plaintiff feel secure that the money is en-route, for example:
i. Tracking numbers for FedEx/UPS checks
ii. Wire confirmation numbers
iii. When the check was put in the mail
3. That the plaintiff indeed received the funds. Here’s an email template my team used all the time, usually after a phone call:
Congratulations, we received the completed agreement from your attorney and have processed your payment. We have shipped a paper check to your provided address via [FedEx/UPS/USPS]; the tracking number is [##].
Please be advised that the shipping time is [3-5 business days], but it may take longer for reasons outside of our control. Once you receive your check, please confirm with us by replying to this email or texting or calling us at [Your number].
3. Never provide concrete deadlines
There is often too much variability during the payments process for your team to accurately predict when the money will hit the plaintiff’s account. If you tell the plaintiff it will hit tomorrow and it doesn’t, reality won’t meet their expectations, which is a core tenet of great customer experience.
Simply put, don’t let your team fall into this trap.
4. Include your company’s contact number on checks
You no doubt know that plaintiffs often use check cashing businesses that will need to call you to verify the check.
This simple step eliminates guesswork and makes it easy for the check cashing facility to contact you quickly.
With so many moving parts in your business, it can be easy to let effective plaintiff communication fall by the wayside. However, there are big hidden costs: employee frustration, bad word of mouth, spoiled attorney relationships, and lost deals.
By putting Part 1 and 2 together, your team can now develop an end-to-end plaintiff communication strategy, and reap the benefits.
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