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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smartphones Are Not Smart, Process Servers Who Use Them Are!

The advantages a process server enjoys when they make full use of their smartphone are many. Aside from the obvious uses of a phone, anyone with 3G connection or better likely has access to the worldwide web at their fingertips. You can verify a business or residence address, you can verify a corporate status of an entity, you can take pictures of service attempts or locations, you can send and receive email, you can update the process serving application that tracks and manages active assignments, you can update the office or customers. All while you are on the streets doing what you do best: serve process.

There are several software vendors that cater to the private process serving industry that have developed applications that allow you to do all these things and more. Being able to provide your customers (process forwarder or law firms) real-time access to the status of any pending assignment is a good thing. A happy customer is more likely to be a repeat customer and is more likely to refer you to others.

One fairly recent development is the ability of these software applications to track a process server’s every move, attempt, routes, miles driven and other important service events by leveraging the GPS capabilities of your smartphone. Arguably the tools and benefits available to process servers have come a long way from the days of Thomas Brothers map books and pagers. As such, many tasks associated with the service of process have gotten easier, faster and cheaper. Another important and likely overlooked benefit is that these applications can create a trusted record of the efforts associated with the service events. I would argue that is a good thing, especially with all the stories of alleged sewer service in recent years.

Recently I have heard several independent process servers complain that they were not comfortable with the collection agencies, law firms and the process forwarding companies asking them and even requiring them to use a smartphone to communicate their efforts. They argued that this insistence or requirement was going too far and they were not interested in big brother tracking their every move. While I understand where they are coming from, I would suggest that these requirements are in effect no different than the requirements that existed before smartphones came on the scene. It has always been a requirement or expectation that independent process servers communicate with the process forwarders, law firms and collection agencies. Before smartphones, you called, faxed, or showed up in the customer’s office to provide a detailed account of your efforts. All a smartphone does is provide the process server a more efficient means to communicate. I submit that it actually makes the process servers more efficient. And a more efficient process server likely makes more money.

At the end of the day the process server is still his or her own boss just as they have always been. They control the manner and method by which they complete their task, just as they always have. I submit that the big brother argument is just an excuse for not wanting to embrace change.

If a process server is uncomfortable with the terms of the contractor agreement being offered then they have free will, and as such they can chose who they want to contract with. I submit that if you insist on not utilizing the most efficient tools available to you then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Rest assured someone else will gladly accept the terms and conditions that the process forwarders, law firms and collection agencies are offering.

But Jeff, aren’t you the same guy who has written articles that are critical of the new rules being imposed in New York that are intended to hold private process servers accountable by mandating GPS and other reporting requirements? I would argue that what I am suggesting in this article is different. In New York it is government that is imposing these requirements and not the free market. In New York you have two choices, comply or shut down. I would argue that it is better for government to enforce the existing laws that punish those that choose to engage in sewer service than impose new laws that take choice away for the process server and their customer. We do not need to be regulated by government to create a more accountable, trusted and transparent industry. I believe that we can do it ourselves.

The use of a smartphone will likely make you a better, faster, more efficient process server who is accountable and trusted. And isn’t that what the customer is ultimately looking for?

Smartphones are not smart, process servers who use them are!