Driving Better Results
Successful service, service, served, successfully served, completed serve, good service, “got em”……these are all terms used to describe a positive outcome in process serving whereby the process server (Seller) was able to deliver the documents to the intended recipient. Everyone likes positive outcomes but process servers (Sellers) especially enjoy them. A sense of accomplishment and a sense of duty is huge!
What drives success?
Many things influence success in the field but they can be loosely summarized into preparation, execution and rules, civil procedure and otherwise.
Preparation begins with the person who needs the process served, the Buyer. At this step the Buyer can influence outcomes by providing the best possible address to deliver to as well as by providing additional information surrounding the person being served. These questions are good answers to prepare:
Where (address) is the best chance to deliver to the recipient?
Do you expect the recipient to be willing to receive the delivery or difficult?
What does the recipient look like? Do you have a photo you can provide?
What does the recipient drive?
Do you know when they are most likely to be at home or at work?
If it is a gated community of some kind do you have any advice on gaining access?
If it is a rural property of some kind do you have any advice?
Preparation then transfers to the process server (Seller). Are there questions you have that the Buyer didn’t clarify, if so ask them. What do you know about the demographics and geographics of the area you are going to be attempting to deliver in? Do people in this area generally work 8-5 type jobs or do they frequently work night shift type jobs? Is the area considered dangerous or crime prone and if so should you try to only attempt during daylight hours to improve your chances of an answer at the door? What have been your personal experiences in this area recently, can you leverage those experiences?
Execution aka Diligence
You can only prepare so much, eventually it comes time for the process server (Seller) to knock on the door. Are you dressed appropriately for this part of town and this time of day? Are you attempting a place of business during hours that it would normally be open? These questions are a little late, you are exiting your car and it’s game time. Great process servers are intuitively aware of their surroundings and a chameleon around people. These traits make them excellent at executing in the moment. Are people peeking through blinds? Are cars present? Is the grass mowed? Dogs barking? Is the receptionist fidgety at the place of business? All of these things come into play even before you ask the question “Is John Doe available?”. Much of the information a process server will collect will happen BEFORE they pop the question, afterwards it’s either success or the environment is now alerted to their presence.
If the process server was provided good information and did their prep there’s about a 25-40% chance they will be successful on their first attempt, some types of cases have higher first attempt success and some much lower. If they weren’t successful on the first attempt the execution continues and good notes and communication with the Buyer is critical.
Rules, Civil Procedure and Otherwise
An often overlooked influencer of success are the rules imparted on the process server. These rules can come from several sources, rules of civil procedure, rules imparted by the Buyer and rules inherited by the process server in the form of moral or ethical standards.
Rules of civil procedure can vary greatly by jurisdiction and generally follow from where the legal documents originate(court, etc). Most drastically, some courts allow for substitute service which is a term often associated with leaving the documents with someone of suitable age at the recipients usual place of abode(home). In some states substitute service can be made on a resident 14 years of age or older, others the limit is 16 and others may not allow substitute service on the first attempt or at all. These nuances add to the difficulty of obtaining success. Another rule that can affect outcomes with difficult recipients(evaders) is the interpretation of “drop service”. Drop service is when a recipient refuses service and documents are “dropped” for them.
Rules imparted by the Buyer can also be counter productive to success. For example, it is not uncommon in the accounts receivable(aka collections) world for Buyers to limit the times of day an attempt can be made, limiting the process server to what is generally perceived to be “normal” or “acceptable”. Unfortunately, many recipients may not conform to the general definition, they may work night shifts and sleep during the day for example. Furthermore, some Buyers may impart their own interpretations of the rules of civil procedure by furthering restricting who or when documents can be left with someone other than the named recipient. This is very common as it relates to drop service.
Rules inherited by the process server in the form of moral or ethical standards can also play a part in success. As humans process servers(sellers) have to live with their decisions, they are the ones actually in the field experiencing the outcomes. Sometimes a process server (Seller) may be confronted with a choice that doesn’t seem right in the moment. Whether it’s a safety concern or a moral concern it’s important to understand that only the process server (Seller) can make the call when it’s time to complete service.
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