Since many insurance companies and large law firms are requiring investigators to work on a Flat Rate basis more today than in the past, it occurred to me that there must be a way for investigators to work Flat Rate assignments and make a better profit.
The concept of keeping control of costs is not new. Your clients want a baseline to work with and thus, the Flat Rate seems the most reasonable course of action to them; this is understood.
Hopefully, what you find out in your investigation will give you the power to use your, “Stop Limit Flat Rate” and continue (if appropriate), the investigation while billing at your standard rate(s)! You’ve heard the expression, “take it one day at a time.” You can apply that concept by remembering to, “Take each Flat Rate assignment one step at a time.”
When you receive that first contact from a prospective client who requests that you to work on a Flat rate basis, at some point in your conversation explain that although you can handle their assignment(s) on a Flat Rate basis, your office does have a Stop Limit Flat Rate Policy. You can phrase it any way you want. Keep that amount open because it will fluctuate with every case. Let your prospective client know what your standard rate is at this time, so there are no billing surprises later. Everything is above-board … (very important)!
If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this one thought: “Know when to stop working your Flat Rate case(s) even if additional investigation needs to be undertaken.” During that same conversation, reassure your prospective client(s) that you will keep them apprised of the status of their investigation and will contact them should you reach a Stop Limit situation. It is up to you to communicate why your client should consider approving additional work on any given case. Suggestion: (You might want to write out or type a list of reasons and the case details before contacting the client(s), so you are prepared to answer any impromptu questions.
Because you already advised your client that you have a Stop Limit on Flat Rate cases, there is an excellent chance that your new client(s) will agree to allow you to conduct additional work on a case if appropriate, at your standard rate(s). You have already set the rules of engagement; this is where the TRUST begins. You want your client(s) to know they can use your services because you have shown them you are an ethical businessperson. They TRUST that you not to go wild, cost-wise on a case.
Question: You have completed your investigation to a point where you can go no further without losing money, what do you do?
Answer: Again, contact your client(s) by telephone, fax, or email. Telephone is still “the best way – to get your way” and discuss where the case is at currently. The ball is now in their court.
#1. As an adjunct, keep in mind that it is important for all business owners to keep a very close eye on the status of every Flat Rate case. Be keenly aware of when that flat rate case is coming close to the client’s maximum cost, and consider where the case stands at the time. … (Keep reading) …
#2. Do not allow the words, “Flat Rate” to whirl negatively around in your thoughts; it is destructive and serves no useful purpose.
#3. If the client(s) agree to additional work on a case at your standard rate(s) you can either ask them to send you authorization for additional work “at your standard rate.” There is a chance the client may leave off mention of, at your standard rate. I would think seriously about creating a standard template and call it something like, “Additional Assignment Sheet Request” to send directly to your client(s) for their signature and file. Name the document anything you want but once approved, make sure it says what you want and you have it in-house with the file. This will stop any potential disputes over costs. The “Additional Assignment Request” should have the date of the request; confirmation or permission for additional work, the case name, case number or claim number, any specific case comments, and a specific date that you will begin charging your standard fee.
#4. Disclaimer … All of this information is for suggestion purposes only. Anything can happen when dealing with a prospective client, or working a case, so re-word or change anything you want. By choosing to draw a line in the sand, so to speak, there is the added benefit of taking the burden off your shoulders while allowing the client to maintain cost control by making the decision! Below is a suggestion of what you could write at the end of a report that requires additional work:
COMMENTS: (SAMPLE ONLY)
We suggest that additional investigation be conducted however, we have exhausted our Flat Rate fee limit at this time. We are holding our file in abeyance pending notification from your office. Should you require that additional work be conducted, our standard rate(s) will apply.
Note: Investigators, if you have not heard back from your client(s) after several days, contact them to see if they have decided to close the case out or continue. This is also the perfect time to Ask For Additional Cases!
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