In the past, when I gave a presentation to groups of attorneys about ways to reduce costs and increase productivity, I always mentioned email as the number one tool for law firms. That was ten years ago.
Since then, email has become the preferred method of communication for all attorneys - even if some technically challenged practitioners still get their secretaries to send email messages on their behalf! Before I get to the point of this article, I would like to suggest that all attorneys should take an hour out of their busy schedules to learn how to use email. That's all it will take. And it will change your life forever! Now back to the point...
Now that all firms are using email (at last), it is time to look at the next technology that will transform productivity at your firm - SMS messaging. Sure, it is marginally more expensive than email, but whereas not everyone has email, everyone in South Africa has an average of one and a half cell phones! Despite the savings (and earnings) from SMS messaging, relatively few firms make use of it outside of their conveyancing departments where messages are sent automatically. This just doesn't make sense, because the most suited department for SMS messaging is actually Collections.
For example, SMS messages can be sent as friendly (or not so friendly) reminders to pay, threats of a lawsuit for non-payment, etc. What's more, these SMS messages can be sent automatically from your Collections software, allowing mass communication without wasting a staff member's time. A number of our clients have reported much better collection statistics as a result of reminder SMS' being sent just before payment is due. SMS' aren't just useful for mass messaging though - they can also be used to communicate with all clients of the firm. For example "Please call us to arrange signature of your bond docs". This avoids the costs of telephone tag, and is much cheaper than a phone call to the client's cell phone! You can also use SMS messages to keep client up to date on the progress of their matter.
There is a concern from many firms that their staff will abuse the facility. That is why each SMS sent is linked to a matter - ensuring that only business SMS messages are sent. So what does an SMS cost? Firstly, in most cases a disbursement cost is raised automatically in a matter when the SMS is sent from the accounting system. As to pricing, SMS prices vary based on volume and supplier. On a cellphone, SMS messages cost 80 cents per 160 letters or characters. One conveyancing vendor charges 67 cents per SMS. AJS charges 30 cents per SMS. For very high volume, I understand that you can purchase SMS bundles at 17 cents per SMS. So SMS'ing is inexpensive when compared to the value it adds!
It's not just about the cost though. Firstly, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, some firms disburse the cost of sending an SMS. (AJS can do this automatically for you each time an SMS is sent.) Also, as mentioned earlier, SMS messaging is a lot cheaper than a phone call. But most of all, it is much quicker to do which means that it saves time. And we all know that time - in the form of salaries - is the biggest expensive for any firm. In closing, bear in mind that good communication is closely linked to a perception of good service. And if you want repeat business from your clients, you need to offer good service.
from the AJS Update December 2010 Newsletter