Always research your client, and ensure you are actually dealing with the right person. Establish in your mind that your client has good and lawful reasons for conducting the investigation.
Many potential private clients are first timers, nervous and unsure what is available to them, they just know they have a problem. You are the solution.
In certain cases it is easier said than done, but do try to remain sympathetic and patient. Private clients are going through a dreadful time and they’re looking for your help. Some clients need to be told forcefully what they need and how to address their issue and will appreciate firm guidance …this applies to both genders ! Others will tell you what they want with no argument. Judge your response by the client’s demeanour.
Ensure that you are happy that your are not breaking the law with any promises you make to your client with regards to what you can achieve for them.
Reassure your potential client that you are members of a worldwide trade body – W.A.P.I
Dealing with commercial enquiries
Apart from standard surveillance information, always stress that you carry out operations with the highest levels of integrity in the realisation that you act on behalf of the instructing company which must be shown to be acting ‘reasonably’ in relation to employment and disciplinary matters.
Stress the importance of close client liaison, control of the budget by the client through progress reports which allow them to have control of the operation.
Give an opinion on the value of the evidence you have/will gather and don’t be afraid to make recommendations. Remember you should know more about evidence than the average HR Director or MD. You are the professional, offer professional advice and guidance. If you don’t know, find somewhere to ask.
Give an opinion on whether or not sufficient evidence has been gathered. Play Devil’s Advocate and identify actual or potential flaws in the evidence and recommend means by which they can be rectified. Do you need more surveillance to show that the incident of working while sick was a one-off?
Always be abreast of latest developments in Employment Law and advise on potential financial penalties at Industrial Tribunal if finding is against your client. Even if evidence is good, Tribunal’s may find flaws in discipline process so be aware of what these are and how the client should proceed. Offer to assist in disciplinary interviews if the matter is complex, you are a professional interviewer.
Legal Clients (Solicitors)
It could have been said in years gone by that your solicitor client was your best source of income, stability to work flow, and a great way to achieve referral business. Whilst some of this remains true, in the UK, with the recent restrictions placed on LSC work, and the fee limit restrictions, you need to be as cost effective as possible.
Process serving has a long been the main stay of solicitor work, both in the UK and in the Americas.
A separate article can be found on International process serving here ; XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
For a comprehensive guide into UK process serving why not download the UK process servers guide (LINK) available here at a W.A.P.I members discount price.
If you are asked for specialist services…. forensics, graphology, DNA, polygraph and don’t know the answers, consult one of the specialists. Try and offer the widest range of services available.
Asset tracing from within the UK
UK law permits examination of public records (expand on Land Registry, historical entries, assessment of property values, UpmyStreet etc) and observation. Get pictures of the property and of obvious assets. Consider surveillance to establish workplace/position, style of clothing/jewellery, lifestyle/spending habits, vehicle in use (HPI). You can make an assessment of likely equity in a property from the purchase price, the date of purchase and the dates of charges against it.
International asset tracing is quite a specialist subject and as a general investigator
You should possibly require outside assistance with this.
Keep good file notes of conversations with clients, particularly when they’re instructing on additional instructions. Attention to detail becomes more important in direct correlation to the number of files you are running. Keep a note of what you told the client, so that other people know in your absence.
Attention to Detail
In all administrative matters, if you miss something out now it will take you 10 times as long to find it at a later date.
Many systems rely on information being inputted and recorded accurately. You can only build a good client base and case history with the use of good records and company infrastructure.
Having an efficient case management system even be it bespoke by you will save you
Invaluable time in the future as your agency grows.
Don’t criticise your competitors – it’s unprofessional, but make sure your client is aware of the pitfalls of using a non-WAPI member.
Clients will expect you to have a working knowledge of all aspects of the law. If you don’t know, find out. Use downtime for research into: –
Human Rights Act
DPA / Freedom of Information Act
CCTV Codes of Practice
Forensic Science / Fingerprints / Graphology / DNA profiling / Parental DNA
How does the law apply to you outside your jurisdiction?
Data Protection Act
Make sure that you are registered and that you read and conform with it. It must be one of the most disabling and restricting piece of law in recent UK history, to an investigator. Be sure you know it, if you fall foul of this law, be sure that your UK license will not be granted when it comes into effect.
Don’t start a job without one of:-
Retainers (an advance of payment for work) in cleared funds (cash, credit card, cleared cheque) OR
Letter of authority to proceed, agreeing the fee (Solicitors) OR
Purchase Order or letter-headed authority to proceed from senior personnel specifying the fee limit.
Don’t take credit card payments for balances unless agreed.
When it all goes Wrong !
Some jobs are destined to go badly but as an investigator in control of the investigation, you should be able to prevent most of these through:-
Good information gathering from the client – ask the right questions, don’t expect them to tell you
Good planning – research the information given to you, to check it’s correct, if not conducting the investigation yourself, select the agent with the right skills for the job and balance against cost and geographical convenience.
Good reporting – prompt and comprehensive reporting to client, verbal and written where required. Remember recommendations and advice.
If you are new to the professional always consider training. Our approved training provider’s The Academy of Professional Investigations (LINK) are there to help. WAPI members received a 5% discount.