Process Server Software: Benefits and Options
A number of feature-rich applications exist for the management of your process serving business. Make sure you choose the one that is right for you.
As a process server, embracing the benefits that technology affords can be bittersweet. With initiatives such as eFiling, which is attempting to bring process serving into the digital domain, technological advancements threaten the process server’s role in civil procedure. However, few can argue the benefits of using software to help manage a process serving business.
In a field as specialized as process serving, there are a surprisingly high number of software applications to choose from (eight software companies are referenced in this article). Some of these applications were custom tools developed by process servers and others were written by software developers who saw an opportunity in a niche market.
Despite their histories, all these applications have a common objective – to save you time and money by automating your business processes and to help you keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Depending on the application, process serving software has the ability to manage contacts, generate affidavits, automate billing, provide clients with job status and give you instant access to job history. Time saved performing administrative tasks can be applied to improving your business or paring down your work week while maintaining current revenue levels.
That being said, how do you choose which software to use? The first step is to identify what is most valuable to you and your company. Do you spend a lot of time traveling or out of the office? Then you would benefit from an application that is web-based which allows you to access your data remotely from a PDA or laptop. What is your volume? If your volume is low, the number of serves you perform may not justify the costs associated with acquiring and learning a new application.
Michelle Duvall, of Great Lakes Civil Process Service in Detroit, Michigan, does not currently use an off-the-shelf process serving software. She uses Microsoft Office applications for database administration and QuickBooks to manage the company’s finances and billing.
“I would like to have one application that covers all of the company’s needs for civil process plus the financial aspects,” says Duvall. “It has to be affordable. Right now my costs are minimal.”
Others value what the future holds for the applications they choose.
“I want to be able to use (a handheld PDA or phone) to complete jobs,” said Matthew Uthe of Uthe & Uthe Inc. in Plainfield Illinois. “My clients want to be able to check status of jobs in real time. Being able to update job status and generate affidavits immediately upon completion of the serve will be key for my business moving forward.”
Features, cost and longevity are all key criteria to consider when choosing your software application, but many agree that the company behind the software is a critical concern.
“The most important feature of any software should be support,” says Will Hanke of PSS / Lighthouse Technologies (developer of PSS). “We realize that there is no one ‘perfect solution’ and therefore support for any product is an absolute must.”
Robert Dayton of LoyalDog Software adds: “You should choose your software provider the way you would choose your accountant or doctor. Running your business is very personal and important to you. It’s vital to work with a company and product you trust.”
Choosing your software is an investment in both time and money. Aside from costs, you may want to get answers to the following:
- How long has this company been in business? Do I feel confident they will be around next year or five years from now?
- Is the set-up and usability intuitive and user-friendly?
- What kind of training do they offer?
- What kind of support do they offer?
- If I am not satisfied and want to use a different software application down the road, how do I get my data?
- If you are looking at web-based applications: How are they insuring that my data does not get compromised or lost?
- Is this company forward-thinking? How are they changing as the business landscape changes? Are they addressing eFiling and eService?
Whether you are a one-man-show or legal service provider that serves thousands of papers per month, the benefits are clear. If you are seeking a solution to manage your process serving business, we encourage you to perform your due diligence.
Begin by reading the company/software profile carefully (listed below). Contact these companies to get your questions answered. Ask your fellow process servers (by posting to the ServeNow.com Group) what their experiences have been.
Company/Software Profiles – Learn More
ServeNow.com distributed a questionnaire to a number of process serving software providers. The following companies provided responses. You can view their complete profile, including explanation of pricing and responses to the questionnaire by clicking on the company name or ‘View Profile’ next to their name. Some profiles have been edited for brevity.
Market Summary – What are others using?
The Process Servers Toolbox (PST) by Database Services is the oldest application and the clear leader in a market that is very fragmented. PSTwas first released in 1988 and boasts over 570 current users.
A recent poll posted to the ServeNow.com Process Servers Group asked process servers which software program they use to manage their serves and their business. At the time of publishing, 19% of respondents stated they used PST, significantly higher than other applications that were listed. Click here to view the current poll results.
This poll also elicited the following results: 13% of respondents have a custom application and 20% use a combination of applications not listed as options on the poll.
Surprisingly, 35% of process servers who responded do not use software to manage their business. This represents a clear opportunity for a market leader to emerge in this space.
As mobile computing becomes more viable, and prevalent, web-based applications may have the greatest chance of gaining new customers and claiming a significant stake in the market. Another poll relating to web-based process serving software found that 57% of respondents have a specific need for such an application, while 42% still do not feel comfortable using a web based application.
Got Feedback? Share your thoughts.
If you are a process server, software provider or just want to share your feedback, please do so at the ServeNow.com process servers group, located at: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/servenow-process-servers/.
The purpose of this article and its data is not intended to promote or endorse any of the third party companies mentioned within. ServeNow.com does not necessarily share the same beliefs, nor support the claims, of these companies.