A reader wrote to ask about good software to manage mediation cases and clients. I thought I’d share an expanded version of my reply to him.
Customer relationship management software, which may also be called contact management software and shares some similarities with case management software, is designed to help you efficiently and effectively track clients and sometimes cases from start to finish. It helps you organize and easily locate prospective, current and past clients, including contact information; track conversations, projects, and follow-up tasks; notify you when a follow-up is due or it’s time to send a thank you; and keep telephone, email, and all digital files associated with a case or client in one easy-to-find place.
It’s really essential software for any ADR practitioner to have in place, both for serving your clients well and for keeping your sanity.
There are tons of “mega-programs” out there, those intended for multi-person firms and that can do almost anything except conduct the actual mediation for you. I’ve used some of them over the years and while they’re powerful indeed, I found them t be overkill for an ADR practice. I’m not going to write about those. Instead, I’m going to mention a few that were designed for solo practitioners and small ADR, counseling or law firms; are powerful yet not ridiculously complex to master; and priced for the small business owner.
If I still used a PC, Client Compass would be at or near the top of my list. Originally designed with executive and life coaches in mind, and thus with a focus on tracking individual and case progress, the software was bought by Wiley a year or two ago. Billed as “like having your own virtual assistant,” Client Compass helps you manage client intake and records, as well as billing. It’s about $350 US and the only way to get a trial use is to be in touch with a Wiley sales representative so they can give you a personal walk-through (and sales pitch, I imagine). I wish they offered a Mac version.
Daylite turns up again and again in positive reviews of Mac OS X-based options. The software’s often described as highly intuitive, with everything just “one click away.” It can sync with a PDA for we road warriors, and apparently integrates with email quite well. It’s $189 US for a single-user license and you can test the trial version free for 30 days; multi-user licenses are also available.
If you have a reliable Internet connection, preferably broadband, then a new kid on the block may be of particular interest. 37 Signals, the company that first brought you the popular Backpack and Basecamp, recently released Highrise, an online contact manager specifically targeted at small and micro-business. Since Highrise lives online instead of on your hard drive, it’s both PC and Mac friendly. It’s free for up to two users in a single firm and 250 contacts, though with limitations that you can avoid with the $12/month and other versions. 37 Signals is a reputable company and the software has important security features.
If you use a Mac and want more of a free-form database for your client, case and practice management needs, then take a look at DevonThink Pro. It’s not client or case management software per se, but it offers features and functions that can serve those kinds of needs, and then some. The product’s tagline is “meet your second brain” and that’s pretty apt…I use DevonThink Pro and keep finding new things it can do. It’s $150 US and a trial version is available.
Ok, now it’s your turn. What client or case management software do you use? If you have one to recommend, or have used any of the above and have experiences to share, I hope you’ll leave a comment below. We’d love to learn from your experiences.