Use of Technology in the Bail Industry
Taking advantage of technology to directly affect your bottom line. With Matthew Phillips, CTO of Captira Analytical
In the near decade since I helped start Captira, we’ve worked with many thousands of bail agents and more than a dozen insurance companies to help improve their bottom line. The simple fact is that is why Captira exists—to help the players in the bail industry make faster, more informed decisions, streamline operations and exploit new and evolving technologies—ultimately improving the bottom line.
Technology is all around us—smartphones, tablets, social media, cars, the internet—it is everywhere. So much so that we almost assuredly take it for granted. We more or less ignore it until it really becomes important for us. In fact, we must be very tuned in to how technology is changing around us (and particularly among our customers) in order to gain competitive advantage. There are two general ways in which we can harness technology: gaining knowledge and gaining efficiency. Of course, we can also seek to exploit new technology to gain a unique advantage.
Why Take Advantage of Technology?
Properly recognizing and harnessing technology can gain you competitive advantage. But just as easily, ignoring technological changes can land you in a situation where you are at a disadvantage to your competition. Consider the case of Blockbuster.
Blockbuster had a very strong business model. For many years, they were a dominant force in the video rental business. But they failed to recognize how shifting technology (vis-à-vis the internet) would affect their model. An opportunistic startup called Netflix put together a highly efficient (and therefore inexpensive) mail order business in 2000 that was driven by consumer’s growing access to the internet. Even yet, Blockbuster had time to act. But they failed to do so, and it caused their downfall.
While the bail industry is not under any such threat, this example serves to prove that players who fail to recognize and take advantage of shifts in technology may be left at a disadvantage. For the past 9 years, Captira has been helping bail agents, whether technically savvy or a layperson to leverage new, evolving and existing technology. Captira is the only technology company that is fully poised to help guide your bail business into the digital future of the industry.
Knowledge is Power
In order to make faster and more informed decisions, knowledge is key. But what is knowledge and where to find it? In its most basic form, knowledge comes from data. Raw data is useless to humans until it is compiled into reports. These reports could be from public data sources, it could be from protected data sources, or it could be from your own, private data. Captira can help you gain access to and leverage all these types of data sources through our DataMart and our powerful analytical engine. Once you’ve got the reports, it is up to your experience as a bail agent to turn that information into knowledge and apply that knowledge to your business.
Public Data Sources
There’s a ton of data publicly available on all of your defendants and indemnitors out there. The problem is how to get it all together and formatted so that it is usable? This is where Captira’s DataMart comes in. We can get you quick access to many public data providers.
- LexisNexis - Captira’s General Background reports are driven by Accurint data from LexisNexis. Available reports are dialed in to give just the information needed for the bail industry, including criminal history, known associates, 3 degrees of relatives, DMV history and more.
- Netwise Social Media - Using your defendant or indemnitors’ email address, find their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. Even though a defendant isn’t checking in with you, it doesn’t mean he isn’t checking in with his social circles.
- MasterFiles – Probe360 Contact Report provides a quick and easy relatives and associates search with contact phone numbers. A great place to start a search for a defendant.
- Real Estate – Detailed property information including a full transaction history with previous sales, title transfers and foreclosures. Also includes tax information with delinquent taxes and the legal description for the property.
- Advanced Criminal – Includes not just historic, but also pending cases nationwide.
- Incarceration History – A full listing of nationwide bookings history. Not a criminal history, but a full incarceration history. Any time a defendant was booked into a reporting facility, a history entry will be shown on this report.
Protected/Non-Public Data Sources
- TransUnion – A full, hard hit on the credit includes a comprehensive account breakdown, payment history, and includes the FICO score.
- License Plate Search – By entering a license plate number and state, we can search a database of geo-tagged images of license plates. We have access to millions of new license plate photos a day, and you can too. Coming soon, we will be adding a monitoring.
- Instant ID – Quickly, easily and cheaply determine if the information you’ve collected on your defendant matches existing data sources. Receive a Risk Score of 0 to 50. If information collected all matches existing records, you’ll receive a lower Risk Score. If some information is suspect, a higher score will be returned.
Private Data Sources
Within your database, you already have a treasure trove of information just waiting to be exploited—your data. Captira can harness your data with our powerful analytical engine. Want to know how effective your forms of advertising are? Want to know which county gets you the highest percentage of premium down payments? These things all directly affect your bottom line and are at your fingertips with Captira.
Making the Most of Your Insight
So now that you know some of the places where you can get data and information to gain you some knowledge, how exactly do you use that knowledge to gain a competitive edge for your business?
- Decision Making – It’s easy to say yes to do a bond when a cosigner has cash in hand. Sometimes, it’s your ability to say no to that bad bond that is going to add to your bottom line. We get the data that you need to say no to a bad risk and yes to a good risk.
- Collateralizing – Don’t get stuck in a situation where a bond has gone bad and your collateral has also gone bad. Protect yourself by doing the research up front. Be sure that the car title you are taking actually belongs to the cosigner. Be sure that the home is actually not under foreclosure.
- Recovery – When a bond goes bad, you need to have as much information available as you possibly can. Using some of the mentioned tools, you can get phone numbers for relatives and associates, build patterns using reports generated during the decision making process and comparing those to newly generated reports. This is effective whether you do your recovery in house, or if you work with contractors.
- Business Intelligence – The analytics that you can retrieve from your own private data treasure trove is where you often stand to gain the greatest competitive advantage. You can easily determine where to invest your advertising dollars. If you find that only 10% of your business is driven by the yellow pages, but it’s 40% of your advertising budget, you will know you need to make a change.
Gaining efficiency means making technology work for you. Why do something manually that takes an hour when you can use technology to accomplish the same task in 5 minutes? There are 3 main areas that you can target to make your operations more efficient: reducing overhead, streamlining and automating.
What is overhead? It’s all those things that you need to run your business but do not directly contribute to your bottom line. Things like office space and utilities, staffing/wages, computer hardware and software, printer ink and so on. There are several different ways to use technology to reduce the amount of overhead you’re carrying.
- Buying paper, printing paper, storing paper files—all of these things contribute to your costs, but are not helping you write more business more efficiently. With Captira’s ability to scan and store files in the cloud, you reduce your need for storing paper files, reducing your overhead and increasing your bottom line.
- While being truly paperless may not yet be possible in the bail industry, we can certainly approach this goal. One day, the bail industry will become paperless and Captira is the only technology provider that can help you be prepared for the inevitable digital future.
Prepopulated Forms Printing
- We have most insurance company forms already integrated into the system. If we don’t have yours or if you have custom forms, those can be easily integrated. With prepopulated forms from Captira, you enter your information a single time and it will appear on all your forms automatically. You can generate and store forms digitally, which can help prevent storing blank forms and paper files.
- Captira’s Electronic Signature system allows you to have your defendants sign paperwork digitally, not only saving you travel expenses and time, but also reducing your overhead in ink, paper and storage.
Streamlining means getting help from technology to assist in manual tasks. These are things that still absolutely require your attention, but with the help of technology, can be accomplished in much less time.
Reporting and Integration with Surety
- Captira’s reporting framework allows you to generate a sales report to your surety in a few seconds—something that could take hours if compiling by hand.
- Most of the sureties in the industry are using Captira for their operations. If yours is one then you will have the additional convenience of integration with them. Allowing for electronic reporting and for receiving your inventory electronically will save you and your surety precious time.
- Captira is partnered with multiple credit card processing companies. With this integrated system, you can input swiped or keyed entries. This can also be integrated with our ADI Phone System and Online Bonding, making it easier for your clients to pay you.
Streamlined data entry and powerful analytical engine
- After nearly a decade of working with bail agents all across the country, Captira has streamlined every feature of the system to allow for flexibility but also quick and efficient interactions with the database. Functions that might take hours manually or with other systems take mere seconds or minutes. Reports that may not be possible to build with your existing system can be designed to your specifications and generated instantly.
Technology can empower you to not only streamline your operations, but in some cases to completely automate tasks. This is the pinnacle of technological efficiency and the best return on investment.
- A completely integrated and automated incoming and outgoing phone system. This highly configurable system will accept incoming calls for check-ins, court date and account requests. It can accept credit card payments as well. The completely automated outgoing system will notify your clients of upcoming court dates and payments, missed payments and check-ins—all without you having to lift a finger.
- Automated phone system also includes access to our Spoofing technology. If a defendant will not answer your call, you can get him or her to answer the phone by making it appear his or her mother or place of work is calling.
- Sometimes, it is easier for your clients to read an SMS than it is to receive a phone call. Our automated SMS system will serve most of the same functions as the ADI Phone System and may fit better into your budget.
Exploiting New and Evolving Technologies
In the bail industry, it is critically important to recognize shifts in technology and emerging technologies. You must understand the implications of these changes in order to gain unique competitive advantages for your business. Although it can be difficult for a small business owner to keep up on changing technology, you have a partner that you can count on to keep you up to date: Captira.
- Everyone has a cell phone now—hey aren’t all smartphones (yet), but nearly all of them will accept text messages. With Captira’s Integrated SMS, you can reach out to current or past clients for court date or payment reminders, or to simply keep your phone number available to them.
Smartphone usage is on the rise, big time. Far more Android and iPhone devices are activated each day than any other type of device. Captira can help you harness this trend in a couple of ways:
- Our Bail Assist Defendant mobile app will allow your defendants to receive real time notifications of court dates and upcoming payments, as well as allow them to check in with GPS and picture. This application will also allow you to keep tabs on your defendant by storing their location every few hours, which is then accessible to you at a moment’s notice.
- With Captira, you have the option of access to our database and software with a dedicated mobile application. Unlike other applications, you have access to the complete system from your iPhone or iPad or Android phone or tablet.
Everyone and everything is connected to the internet today. There are several technologies available from Captira that are made possible by the connected nature of today’s world.
- Captira’s Caller ID Spoofing will help you ensure that your defendants answer your call. If a client is not answering your calls, but you believe he or she is available, you have the power to appear as though you are calling from his/her place of work or girlfriend/boyfriend’s house, etc.
- Defendant Watch is an extremely powerful new tool available from Captira that will monitor nationwide for bookings activity on your clients. This completely automated system will send you a notification if your client shows up in the system anywhere in the country.
- With the Netwise Social Media search from the Captira DataMart, you can easily find your client’s social profile pages. Although they may not show up to court, they may still be keeping up with their social circles online.
- Online Bonding – let your clients do the work of data entry for you. This fully integrated website will allow your clients to sign in and see court date and payment information, enter information related to a bond, and sign form digitally without leaving their home.
Hearing from Existing Clients
Captira has thousands of satisfied agents – here are the things that some of them are saying.