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The SMS and e-mail business revolution

11 June 2003

The costs
It costs to communicate. The cost of producing a fax (dictating, typing, printing, mailing/faxing) could be as high as R25, while a letter could cost a lot more - what with printing, postage, stationery, and labour costs. Reflect on how many faxes and letters your conveyancing practice produces in a month and it soon becomes significant money!

The cost of telephone calls, and in particular cell phone calls, can also be substantial. This is not about out-going calls only, but the time spent by your conveyancing secretaries as they field disruptive queries from your firm's clients wanting to know how their matter is progressing.

The promise of technology
For many years now, legal productivity consultants have been advising law firms to make better use of technology. Unfortunately many firms have been burned by unscrupulous vendors who make rash promises about how their products will "revolutionise" law practices. Also, law firms are generally "technology averse", and to some conveyancing partners the phrase "technology is one of the only remaining ways to reduce costs" translates to "spend more money on computers"!

However, progressive conveyancing practices have realised that they can save themselves a lot of money if they apply technology intelligently. Using e-mail for correspondence instead of faxing is an example. While many of the traditional firms insist on a hard-copy for every single action in a matter, other firms have realised that they can eliminate most of the paper trail. Using e-mail is not only much cheaper, it is also much faster and it provides a better service to the firm's clients.

The client's perspective
From a client's perspective, customer service is now the number one differentiator as to which firm they choose to do business with. Communication is a major component of service because keeping all of ones clients updated on the progress of a matter equates to offering good service, while non-communication equates to poor service. Here lies the rub then: how to improve communication, while reducing costs.

SMS
Short Message Service (SMS) is a technology that has been around for some time. With SMS, short text messages are sent from cell phone to cell phone, or from computer to cell phone. It has become a universal medium by which attorneys, buyers, sellers, estate agents, developers and mortgage originators can communicate at a fraction of the price of faxes, letters and phone calls.

A feature of conveyancing software
Even more importantly, at least 70% of all conveyancing practices in South Africa already have access to this technology in their conveyancing software. They simply have to begin using it! Your clients will be extremely impressed when they receive an SMS advising them that their transfer is registered, or that the bond instruction has been received; so much so that they will invariably tell someone about it. In the case of "repeat" clients of the firm, such as estate agents or developers, SMS progress updates can be the glue that "sticks" them to a firm.

Flexibility of use
In a system such as GhostConvey, you can edit the SMS text that will be sent to clients. And once the text has been edited, it will be set for all future SMS texts. Firms can also decide which clients they want to inform automatically, and for which progress milestones a notification should be sent. For example, firms may choose to SMS or e-mail the mortgagor on receipt of the bond instruction, requesting them to contact the firm to arrange a signature - saving a (cell) phone call. The banks love this since the client is contacted as soon as the instruction is received.

Firms may choose to inform the estate agent (if a cell-phone number is captured for the estate agent in the particular matter) that they have been instructed to attend to the bond. A similar notification can be sent once suspensive conditions have been fulfilled, and also on lodgement and registration. The mortgagor and/or the seller can also be SMS'd to tell them that registration has occurred. There are a number of other notifications that can be set - and the beauty of it all is that they only have to be set once. Thereafter, the messages are sent automatically. Once an SMS message has been sent, the full text of the message is recorded with the matter in the audit history, so firms can refer back to what was sent, and when.

Here to stay
Is your firm using SMS messaging to keep clients informed? If not, you could be saving a lot of money, and offering your clients an even better service. And if your firm is using SMS messaging, are you exploiting it to its fullest extent? SMS messaging is here to stay. It is not a passing fad, or a plaything. Think of it in the same way as a fax machine, which has revolutionised the way we correspond. Remember that if you use GhostConvey, SMS messaging is already available to you - just switch it on!

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