Visa's new Claims Resolution Initiative (VCRI)

A few months ago, Visa published a brief on their new Claims Resolution Initiative.  It outlines their process with dealing with disputes and fraud, because of the rapid increase in both (in terms of relative and absolute frequency).  Here is their brief.

https://usa.visa.com/dam/VCOM/download/merchants/visa-claims-resolution-efficient-dispute-processing-for-merchants-VBS-14.APR.16.pdf

 

 

    

Interview with Doug Bend

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Jonathan: I recently spoke to Doug Bend of the Bend Law Group about how to best create layers of defense for a retail business

Jonathan: Before getting to how a business should create layers of defense, what exactly are we defending against?

Doug: Our firm has counseled hundreds of business owners, including many retail businesses. The owners who sleep the best at night are those who have made strategic legal and insurance investments to protect their business and personal assets. That's why we recommend four layers of defense for small business owners.

Jonathan.  Ok.  What’s the first layer of defense?

Doug:  It's hard to overstate the amount of litigation that could be avoided by great customer service. The saying "penny wise and pound foolish" is never more true than when it comes to a customer potentially suing you for negligence. All it takes is for an unhappy customer to complain to an attorney at a cocktail mixer who responds, “You should sue!”.  The least expensive legal defense you will ever pay is apologizing and comping the customer product or providing them with a discount. If a customer was harmed at your business, apologize and be quick to fix whatever might have caused the injury, and err on the side of reimbursing the customer's reasonable, documented expenses. 

Jonathan:  And if you are able to nip this problem in the bud, not only might you prevent potential lawsuits, but you might turn what could have been a 1-star review into a 5-star review. 

Doug:  Yes, you might gain new customers and not lose any potential customers because of the bad PR.

Jonathan:  I’m sure that sometimes the apology and offers to reimburse the cost of products does not insulate a retail business from unhappy customers who want a pound of flesh.  So what’s the next layer of protection for retailers?

Doug:  Yes, even with great customer service there may still be a lawsuit. A solid insurance policy can help cover the costs of the litigation, and if you lose the lawsuit, the damages.  Be sure to know what the insurance policy covers and what it doesn't. Many mistakes occur when a business believes they have coverage when they actually don't. They're only left to find out after a potential claim has been brought to their attention.

Jonathan:  What’s the final layer of protection?

Doug:  A properly formed and maintained legal entity can serve as a crucial last line of defense to help protect your personal assets from your business activities. If a customer isn't satisfied with your apology and your insurance don't cover the claim, a legal entity can serve as a final backstop to prevent the customer from going after your personal assets. Consult with a business attorney and your CPA about the best type of legal entity for your business, as there isn't a one-size-fits-all legal entity choice.

Jonathan:  This last layer of protection sounds like the very first thing a business owner should do.

Doug: A legal entity certainly provides the most bang for the legal buck for most retail businesses

Jonathan:  I know there is also a bit of pushing between the attorneys and the accountants over the ‘best’ legal structure for a business.  The attorneys are looking for protection and the accountants are looking at tax efficiency, and they may not come up with the same answer.  Do you have a feeling which should prevail?

Doug: Many of our retail clients form an LLC, but there is not a one size fits all answer. It depends on each client’s goals, sources of financing and other factors to make sure we select the best legal entity for their business.

Jonathan:  Many thanks for your time as I know how precise your time is and this is not a billable event.

Doug:  Thank you for this opportunity to talk, and if anyone would like to discuss business formation, I’m reachable.

Jonathan: Doug Bend can best be reached at the Bend Law Group, 555 California Street, Suite #4925, San Francisco, CA. 94104, (415)-633-6841, Doug@bendlawoffice.com.

Interview with Jan Roos

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Jan Roos

CaseFuel

Jonathan: I recently spoke to Jan Roos of CaseFuel with the goal of learning the key factors to creating a seven figure law firm.  Below is an edited version of our conversation.

Jonathan: What does it take to build a multimillion dollar (law) practice?

Jan: At CaseFuel, we’ve spoken to literally hundreds of law firm owners ranging from solo practitioners who are just starting out to massively successful firms.  Fortunately, success leaves clues, and after speaking to many practice owners we’ve uncovered the four commonalities among practice owners that reached 7 figure annual revenues.

Jonathan: What’s the first factor?

 

Jan: Know your numbers. Focusing on objective measures for your business is one of those truisms that’s trotted out by many but implemented by few. Sure, we all check bank account balances and see a profit and loss sheet at least once a year when we file taxes, but the firms that grow know a lot more than that.  They set goals.  For example, if you take $1,000,000 and divide it into 12 months, it’s $83,333.33 per month.  If your goal is to hit seven figures you need to average $83,333.33 per month.  Going deeper, fast growing firms are able to easily convert this into case files required to hit that number by knowing their average case value. Let’s say you run a family law practice and made $30,000 last month on 6 new cases. Doing some quick math, the average case value is $5,000.  If 7 figures is your goal, you now have the much more tangible figure of 17 cases ($83,333.33/5000, rounded up) to hit for that seven figure monthly run rate.  Now you can take this further along and think about how many of these 17 cases can you expect from referrals, your website, networking, etc. 

 

Jonathan:  So the goal is to know what you need, and how you can get there, by breaking the entire practice into smaller, more manageable parts?

 

Jan: Yes, by breaking things down into manageable chunks, you’re setting yourself up for incremental gains that will result in real money in your checking account regardless of whether you make seven figures this year or not. And that’s worth investing time into.

 

Jonathan: What’s the second factor?

 

Jan: Practices need to focus their energy on predictable and scalable channels.  We all want to get referrals, but it’s not possible to know with certainty how many referrals you are going to get next month.  In our world of search engine marketing, we can easily look up the number of people searching for ‘divorce lawyer + CITY’ in a given month, usually numbering in the thousands.  It’s knowable.  You could also host workshops, doing “lunch and learns” with captive audiences, and you’ll get real good knowing how many will attend.  Once you get a scalable channel locked in, it’s just a matter of how much you want to keep investing to keep the leads coming in.  One more point about knowing what your predictable and scalable channels will yield for your practice, you should know what the cost per case file for any predictable channel you have, so that when you get a windfall you can choose where to invest that money to get the highest return if growth is your goal.

 

Jonathan: How many different channels would you suggest a firm pursue?

 

Jan: I definitely recommend having multiple channels established so as not to become dependent on any one, but how you get there is a different question.  If you don't have a lot of time I don't recommend pursuing more than one channel at a time without the help of a professional.  The learning curve can be steep, and the old adage of chase two rabbits and get zero will apply more often than not.  If you have the resources (time/money/manpower) to pursue multiple channels, especially with the help of a specialist, you can go up to two or three at a time. 

 

Jonathan: Excellent.  What’s the third factor?

 

Jan: Owning the intake process.  I recently interviewed someone on our podcast who concluded that firms are leaving millions of dollars of cases on the table by not focusing on intake.

In one instance, his company was able to help a firm post 200 new case files from leads that hadn’t been contacted in over 9 months. To think that this was accomplished on the coldest of cold cases paints a frightening picture of what could be possible by following up on people that are not on your radar.  An interesting fact from the business world at large is that the top compensated person aside from the CEO in most cases is the person handling sales. In law firms, the person handling sales is typically the lowest compensated person working at the front desk. 

 

Jonathan: Yikes. The lowest person on the totem pole is determining so much of firm’s success.

 

Jan:  Yes.  There are certainly firms out there that are losing out on potential case files due to manners on the phone, slow to call back, missed calls, or lack of follow up on ‘maybes’ and appointment setting.  Putting this into numbers, we’ve seen firms with the best intake booking 20% of inbound leads from the internet into case files.  This is double the 10% industry average, and the best part is that you don’t have to change your existing spend or marketing activity.  We like to ask (practices) if you have 20 minutes a day to pick up another case file per week.  If you’re committed to growing a practice, the answer is probably yes.

 

Jonathan: What’s the final factor that multimillion dollar practices have?

 

Jan: All of them are committed to success.  For example, calling back someone who said ‘not right now’ is going to be a less pleasant conversation than calling back a hot referral. This is one of the major reasons firms trying out new marketing channels slide back to networking after a few months.  If you’re committed to growing, you need to commit to ownership of the results you’re getting from all of your channels. In almost every city and practice area in the country, there are people posting case files from the same opportunities you have.  The onus falls on you if they’re getting results and you’re not.  Commitment is the difference between the client of ours that has been posting multiple high value personal injury cases per month for the last 3 years and the one the next town over that insisted that online marketing was impossible to build a business on after 2 months.  Both of them were getting similar lead volumes and levels of qualification.

The first was focusing on the 20% that closed, treated every case as a potential opportunity and did their best to follow up; the second was focused on the 80% that didn’t, took their negative expectations into their calls and it affected the entire business. 

 

Jonathan: I suspect that once these four factors are in place, the practice will operate at a higher level, even if it does not become a seven figure practice.  Jan thank you for your time

 

Jan: Thank you.  If anyone would like to speak to me about the process we use to generate case files for growing practices all over the country, feel free to drop a line over at casefuel.com.  You can also listen to the Casefuel podcast and hear what some experts have to say about marketing your practice. 

 

Jonathan: Jan Roos can best be reached at CaseFuel, 166 W 4th St Ste. 5, New York, NY 10014, (917) 855-8940, E-mail jan@casefuel.com

 

Interview with Alex Miller

Jonathan: I had the pleasure of sitting down with Alex Miller of Millennium Medical Solutions with the goal of figuring out the key questions restaurant owners should be asking with regard to health insurance which then lead to a larger HR picture.  Below is an edited version of our conversation.

Jonathan: Alex, everyone knows healthcare laws have been going through lots of changes.  What should restaurants owners ask their healthcare broker?

Alex: The first questions is “what is their method for controlling healthcare costs”?  Using data and benchmarking they should be able to show you where your premium falls in comparison to restaurants similar to yours.  They will also negotiate with carriers to get you the best rate and suggest alternative options for funding your benefits.

Jonathan: I often say rate or cost does not mean much unless you consider value.  So what should they expect for the best rate?

 

Alex: “Best” refers to the best brokers and the best carriers.  The best brokers will be able to provide you with references in similar industries and demographics to yours. This guarantees your benefits broker is focused on the specific types of products your employees need.  The best brokers are the ones who are invested in your employees and want them to completely understand their benefit options. They will host informational sessions and schedule employee meetings so everyone can understand what they are getting.  Lastly, you want your broker to be accessible in case you ever need them.  Someone needs to always be available to help you if you have a question about your plan or are having trouble making a claim.  This dedicated contact person can help you resolve any issues and answer questions.

 

Jonathan:  And what about best carriers?

 

Alex: The best (carriers’) insurance programs can directly impact employee turnover, retention numbers, workplace productivity, job offer acceptance rates, and candidate quality. With the ability to affect your organization at a very large scale, it is important to have a broker and carrier who really outperforms.  A good broker knows the pros and cons of the carriers and can steer you in the right direction.  You might not be able to tell the right decision immediately, but the wrong choice can really impact you and you don’t want to experience those shock waves.  

 

Jonathan: Health insurance is often thought of as a retention tool because employees or potential employees want to know that they have good coverage.  When framed this way it sounds more like HR than just health insurance.

 

Alex:  It is part of the HR sphere.  A good broker takes compliance to the next level. They will supply you with all of the tools and information you need in order to make informed decisions.  They will act as a trusted partner who works strategically with HR, supplying the vital tools for success; tools such as online enrollment and outsourcing services. You want your broker to be a total solution provider for your organization.

 

Jonathan:  Talk to me about PEOs (Professional Employer Organization)?

 

Alex:  A PEO may very well be the answer to the common question, “How do we get into a large buying group for healthcare?  We have young employees and likely rated as a low risk (profile)”.  A restaurant may be part of a buyer group for everything else but for healthcare they cannot combine with other businesses.  With a PEO a small business can underwrite and indeed get large group rates and yield a 15-40% medical insurance savings alone.  For example, for New York businesses, the rates are the same whether the group is 28 or 58. Additionally, for Restaurant Execs there are unique benefits no longer offered on New York SMB Market.  The biggest compliment we hear is that you have empowered our restaurant with simplicity, choice and a sustainable solution needed to attract and retain our greatest asset - our people. 

 

Jonathan: OK I understand that PEO or large buying group using payroll and benefits has taken off. Is this appropriate for restaurants?

 

Alex:  So the PEO can get pricey depending on the number of participants enrolled on a health plan. I would not say this is an automatic for all restaurants.  That said, if the PEO can save enough on the medical to offset admin costs and the company can save valuable time then it could work.  The average man hours saved is 10 hours per month.  There is empirical evidence that companies using a PEO grow faster and stay in business longer.  I would simply say why keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  At renewal, you should be kicking the tires with an experienced PEO expert.  Borrowing on 20 years of industry experience and coming from Blue Cross (from years ago) we are in a unique position to help our clients. 

 

Jonathan:  If the PEO does not make sense do you then advise they simply go back to their state market? 

 

Alex:  Clients today are sophisticated and demand simplicity and value.  As an alternative to the PEO we offer a technologies exclusive via Private Exchange.  This tech emulates the defined contribution cafeteria style multiple plan offering with, a Benefits/Payroll/Tech convergence if you will.  The admin costs are a fraction of a PEO but there are no large group medical discounts.  This is a great affordable fall back option to gain competitive advantage for our restaurant groups.  

 

Jonathan: Alex, thank you for your time

 

Alex: Thank you, and everyone should feel free to reach out to me.  I’m happy to help restaurant owners or other business owners get the best answers so that they can make the most informed decisions.

Jonathan: Alex can best be reached at Millennium Medical Solutions,
200 Business Park Drive, Suite 204, Armonk, NY 10504, (914) 207-6161, 
email: AlexM@medicalsolutionscorp.com

 

No more signing

Customers no longer need to sign receipts to complete transactions.  This can make operations easier for many merchants.  We have some concerns that even though signing is not required, the mere act of signing a receipt might act as a deterrent to fraud and chargebacks.  Just something to think about.