When choosing and negotiating with medico legal agencies, you need to consider a number of different factors. How you weigh up the importance of these different factors will depend on your business priorities and strategy.
There are a number of key characteristics that you should look for when identifying and short listing possible agencies as suppliers.
Quality and reliability
The quality of your reports needs to be consistent – your customers associate poor quality with you, not your agencies. Equally, if your agency lets you down with a late delivery or sub-standard report, you may let your customer down.
Number of experts and specialisms covered
Get the agency to identify the specialisms they cover and the number of experts they are contracted with. Also ask if they can supply redacted reports from any expert prior to you instructing them.
Speed and flexibility
Flexible agencies help you respond quickly to changing customer demands and sudden emergencies.
Value for money
The lowest price is not always the best value for money. If you want reliability and quality from your agencies, you’ll have to decide how much you’re willing to pay for your reports and the balance you want to strike between cost, reliability, quality and service.
Strong service and clear communication
You need your agencies to deliver on time, or to be honest and give you plenty of warning if they can’t. The best agencies will want to talk with you regularly to find out what needs you have now and how they can serve you better in the future.
It’s always worth making sure your supplier has sufficiently strong cashflow to deliver what you want, when you need it. A simple check on the companies house website will help reassure you that they won’t go out of business when you need them most.
Does the agency hold any certifications such as ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 2014? If they do this would indicate an agency that has detailed processes and procedures in place and are regularly audited on the services they provide.
Drawing up a shortlist of agencies
Remember biggest does not always mean best!
Once you have got a clear idea of what you need and you have identified some potential agencies, you can build a shortlist of agencies that meet your needs. Ask yourself:
– Can these agencies deliver what you want, when you want it?
– Do they have an extensive database of cross discipline medico legal experts?
– Can they add experts that are not on their panel that you have used before?
– Are they financially secure? Are there any CCJ’S registered against them, have they posted accounts, what are the capital reserves?
– How long have they been established?
– Can they provided contact details of anyone who has used and can recommend them?
Once you have a manageable shortlist, approach the potential agencies.
Provide a clear brief, summarising what your requirements are and giving an idea of the level of business you hope to place. When you have got the responses, compare the agencies in terms of what matters most to you.
Wherever possible, meet potential agencies face to face at their offices and see how their businesses operate.
Before signing a contract with any agency, you should carry out due diligence to check it can fulfil the agreement. You should credit check potential agencies to ensure they have the cashflow to deliver what you want, when you need it.
Drawing up service level agreements with agencies
Draw up a service level agreement that defines the services they must provide and the level of services to be delivered, and which also sets out responsibilities and priorities.
SLAs themselves are contractual obligations and are often built into a contract in the form of one or more clauses or as an entire section. Typical SLAs should set out:
– the service being provided
– the standards of service
– the timetable for delivery
– respective responsibilities of supplier and customer
– provisions for legal and regulatory compliance
– service monitoring and reporting mechanisms
– payment terms
– how disputes will be resolved
– confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions
– termination conditionsa
Building good relationships with agencies
It pays to invest time in building good relationships with your key agencies. Consider doing the following:
– Meet your contacts face-to-face and see how their business operates. Understanding how your agency works gives you a better sense of how it can benefit your business.
– Keep in regular contact and update them on strategic changes or new products early on. This helps them adapt to meet those changes.
– Ask about their plans for development or expansion. Will this affect the goods or services they’re providing to you?
– Help your agencies by placing orders in good time, being clear about deadlines and paying on time.
– Make sure you have efficient purchasing, stock control and payment systems.
– Keep an eye open for any opportunities you can pass their way – in a good customer-agency relationship they’ll do the same for you.
– Make your business important to your agencies and they will work harder for you. Some agencies may offer better deals if you promise to use them exclusively.