Making ends meet

Since the current economic recovery is slower than any in recent history, court reporting agencies are facing the need to make do with less: Less staff, less overhead, less margin for error.

I don’t believe this is necessarily a bad thing if you focus on automation and clear communications with staff, resources and clients to minimize mistakes and misunderstandings. Fewer mistakes and less waste can help your bottom line in both good times and bad.

To help you focus, we are streamlining the RB system. But these improvements won’t help if you don’t take advantage of them, so in this article I am explaining one of the latest improvements I think is most important for transforming your business.

Easy online turn-in

We heard from many of you that online turn-in was too difficult for your reporters, and you were encountering a lot of resistance when you tried to implement it. So we made some big changes to the process in the latest RB Web update.

We created two options for your reporters to use: one that’s so easy they can turn in jobs without additional training, and the other for your more tech-savvy reporters that makes the process much quicker.

Why online turn-in

If reporters don’t want to do online turn-in, why bother? The reasons why we think it is worthwhile for reporters — and your network agencies — to turn in jobs online are:

  • To speed up transcript turn-around and increase client satisfaction. Reporters usually know the most about what happened at a job, so they are more likely not to miss information, such as services requested or who made an appearance.
  • To change your production department from key entry to quality control. It is not enough to delegate turn-in to those closest to the job, your office must monitor and correct to provide the highest level of service to your clients.

And we have some new tools in RB to help you do just that too. But first:

Give reporters more control over how they work

With the added responsibility of turning in online, reporters will need to feel they can accomplish this new task successfully. To help them feel comfortable, RB Web turn-in now has two modes: Wizard and Advanced.

Wizard mode is for reporters who:

  • You don’t have time to train.
  • Won’t read the manuals.
  • Have no desire to learn about RB Web turn-in.
  • Hate it, don’t want to do it, feel forced to do it.

I’m sure you already have a list in mind of which of your reporters could benefit from a turn-in wizard.

Advanced mode, on the other hand, is for your technically-oriented reporters — your “best & brightest” — who love online turn-in, but find a wizard too slow. They don’t need hand-holding, they want to get to the point quickly and move on.

When reporters go to turn-in, the first thing they see is their list of outstanding jobs and the choice of Wizard or Advanced. Whichever mode they select will be their default.

When reporters need a guiding hand

If reporters select the wizard, it takes them step-by-step through the turn-in process, with a series of screens dedicated to one area each to help the reporters focus. It anticipates what they need. For example, in step 2, RB Web automatically opens with the new witness screen if no witness has been previously turned in. And the same screen automatically open fields for attaching job files as a gentle reminder to the reporter to not overlook any relevant files.

For the next step, you have the option to allow reporters to pre-fill parties, i.e., select parties from the list you attached to the job when you created it. You can turn this option off to make the form simpler, but why make this step tedious? Without this option, reporters have to enter all parties one at a time. I recommend that you keep this option turned on to save reporters time and reduce the chance of errors.

In the same vein are billing sets, which are group of commonly-related services that reporters can select at once for a job, saving time over entering service items one at a time. You can choose not to have any billing sets available for reporters if you want to keep things simple, but this is a flexible option: Reporters can decide on their own to use it or not, then they can add services requested and delete services not requested on individual jobs.

I recommend that you give reporters enough billing set options to cover the most likely combinations of requests, such as O&1/Standard/Half-Day (original, one copy, exhibits and half-day per diem) and Copy (one copy and exhibits).

The wizard breaks turn-in into five steps, which minimizes the amount of information the reporter has to deal with onscreen at any one time. This makes turn-in simple enough that even a new reporter can complete it without training. However, if clicking through this series of screens is too slow for some reporters, they can use the Advanced mode instead.

Advancing to the next level

Advanced mode puts all of the turn-in fields and options on one screen. This condensation requires more of the reporters: They have to know what the different icons on the screen mean, and there are fewer instructions explaining what to do. But for your more tech-savvy reporters, this is a real time-saver. Other reporters can start with the wizard, and once they get comfortable, switch to advanced mode and save time too.

Maintaining quality

Of course, delegating tasks to the most logical person doesn’t mean you can shirk your responsibility for the finished product. Instead, with reporters doing most of the data entry for turn-in, your production department can focus on quality control, such as checking the turned-in billing sheet and attached files.

And you can further delegate by allowing reporters to enter new firms and contacts during turn-in. In both modes, RB8 notifies your office when reporters do this, so you can review for errors and duplicates. You designate in RB8 who receives these notices.

While this might seem like a new level of hassle for your reporters and in-house staff, I recommend that you make it your policy and have reporters enter all attorneys in attendance, even those who don’t order copies at the job. You can offer them on-demand copies of the transcript via RB Web if they should decide later that they want a copy: Good for marketing your services in a non-pushy manner.

Finally, you can use the new Turn-Around Analysis report to monitor reporters’ turn-around time by month, quarter or year, even compare it year-to-year. And you can share this information as Excel spreadsheets with reporters to help them improve their performance.

Make it happen

Depending on your reporters’ and staff’s comfort level with RB Web, these new options could be very easy to implement. But even with change that will benefit them, people are often anxious and resistant at first. In any case, it is very important that your company leadership is on board with online turn-in, and your production staff is ready to help reporters transition to doing more themselves.

With management and in-house staff prepared, you are ready to make the switch. Give your reporters as much information as you think they need and a realistic schedule for moving all of their turn-in online. Maybe offer incentives if you think it would encourage your reporters to switch. Be sure they can turn to your office staff for support in this transition. Monitor the transition and make adjustments as needed.

Online turn-in can be a way to provide more service with less staff, and even provide your staff and reporters with more job satisfaction through the experience of successfully fulfilling new roles with your organization. Two very different ends you can achieve with one solution.

And I promise OMTI will continue to work on solutions for making ends meet and other common business problems your industry encounters.

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