Boosting the Client Experience Through Efficient Operations With Venus Tahmasebi
To deliver a great client experience, you need the right people on your team — but you also need the right processes to help your team thrive. So how do you decide what needs a process? And how should you go about developing these processes?
According to Venus Tahmasebi, running a business is all operational. There are other components to it, but without systems in place, you can’t operate.
Early in Venus’ career, she wore many hats and was involved in everything. She was answering the phones, locking up the office, signing up the cases, handling the cases, hiring, firing, and undertaking the firm’s finances. She was involved at every level. However, as the firm started to evolve, Venus realized she couldn’t do it all on her own. So, they started to develop internal policies and protocols to figure out the best way to manage operations.
After discovering what worked (and what didn’t work) in the firm, Venus has some advice for other businesses looking to develop systems and ultimately improve the client experience. To determine if something needs a process, you should analyze each issue: is it a case-specific challenge? Is it a people issue? Or, is it a process issue that you see reappearing again and again?
Once you figure out the areas that need processes, you need to get the team involved. Systems and processes naturally start with leadership and culture, but it’s also important to train your team, get them involved, and give them the opportunity to offer up insight into what’s working operationally.
Listen to this episode of The Judd Shaw Way Podcast with Judd Shaw featuring Venus Tahmasebi, Owner of VTT Consulting. Together, they discuss the best ways to develop your systems and processes to enhance the client experience, how to get your team involved, and how to test out processes to foster long-term growth.
In this episode:
- [0:46] Judd Shaw introduces his guest, Venus Tahmasebi, and the topic of the day: how efficient operations, systems, and processes can improve the overall client experience
- [4:09] Where to start when developing your systems and processes
- [6:25] What’s the best way to onboard your team?
- [8:25] Why it’s important to have your team help create processes and procedures
- [12:29] Venus breaks down process timeframes and how long you should stick with a procedure before measuring its success
- [15:47] Why does something need a process?
- [19:53] How processes can help you scale and de
Hi, everyone. I’m Judd Shaw, host of The Judd Shaw Way Podcast. This season’s podcast focuses on the client, or customer experience, first-class service. Today’s topic, how efficient operations, systems, and processes can improve the overall client experience. Study after study has shown that to be successful at delivering client experience, you have to have both the people to do it, but the processes for the people to follow. I’ve asked Venus Tahmasebi to help me understand it all. She’s the Chief Operating Officer of Parrish DeVaughn, Oklahoma’s best personal injury law firm. She’s been at operations and systems for a really long time. That firm just gets it right, they continue to grow. And that team, you walk in that firm and you could tell that that firm is built on process and systems because of the way they deliver a first-class client experience each and every time they’re representing a new client. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
I’m here with Venus. Hi, Venus.
How are you?
I’m doing well. How are you?
I’m great. Thanks for joining me today.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah, of course. Can you tell just the listeners a little about Parrish DeVaughn and your position there?
Yeah, of course. We are a personal injury law firm in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, right smack dab in the middle of the United States. We have two partners at our firm, Murry Parrish and Pepper DeVaughn. They’re obviously Parrish DeVaughn of Parrish DeVaughn. And we practice personal injury law. Our main practice area would really be motor vehicle accidents. Of course, we handle slip and falls, premises cases, animal bites, some products liability cases, workers compensation is one area that we practice in as well. And we have been in business for eight years now, June was our eight year anniversary and it’s been one hell of a ride. It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had the privilege, and honestly, the biggest honor to be there since day one, so I’ve seen it grow and I’ve taken on the role as COO there. So anything operational runs through me and it’s been a good experience. So we have a team of about 45 to 50 team members all across the board. We have a really strong executive team, which makes myself, our CFO, and then the two partners. And we have multiple attorneys, multiple departments, and that’s basically how the cookie crumbles.
I had the pleasure of visiting your law for it is just run so well. It’s a great place to visit. I’d love to be out there. Being there from the start, it’s sort of like at some point you had to be sweeping floors, and then you go on and you can’t sweep the floors anymore because now somebody needs you to go over there and paint the wall. And so as you’re painting the wall, somebody else has to sweep the floor, so what you’d like them to do is the way you do it, or the way Parrish or DeVaughn have done it, because that’s what you’re trying to carry on. And as you grow, it’s hard because you can’t do it all anymore. So now you have a new sweeper and you’re over there painting. And how does that sweeper know the way you are supposed to do it or the way you want them to do it. And it think that comes operationally with systems and processes. Where do you start in looking at what needs a process or what needs a system?
Yeah, I kind of follow the rule if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So you’re right. There definitely was a position in my time where I was wearing many hats and I was doing everything. I was answering the phones. I was locking up the office. I was signing up the cases. I was handling the cases. I was doing our finances. I was hiring, I was firing, every piece of it was me. And as we started to evolve, I just started to realize that, hey, I can’t do it all on my own. We started to develop some internal policies and some internal protocols and what is the best way for us to handle what we’re doing.
One, we always want to put the best interest of the client first. That’s our number one core value is client first. And so everything that we do and everything that we implement, we always consider is this in the interest of the client. So we think a lot about that, and when we started to evolve into a place where we kind of outgrew what we were doing, at first, when you’re starting a firm, you just don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t even know what you’re doing half the time we were. I remember standing there in front of the white board where we would sign up our cases, and back then we didn’t have a dashboard or any reporting software. So we would go ahead and write a case up when we signed it and we’d clap and cheer. And now we don’t do that, of course, because our business has evolved.
When we got to a point where we started to realize hey, we need to develop these departments, a lot of it did come into what’s the most efficient way we could do things. We started to realize that we had some bottlenecks that we needed to take care of and we had team members who were saturated. And there were things left and right that were coming up that weren’t necessarily the best way to handle them. So we started to develop these processes and these protocols, and then a lot of it after that was just training, getting people on board, hiring the right people, finding the right people. That’s really hard, by the way, finding the right people and bringing them in. And what we’ve recently found out, we’ve done a lot of things right, but we’ve done a lot of things wrong too, and that just comes with every business.
And what we recently found is the best way that we can get people to get on board with our team and know what we’re doing is training and teaching them the why behind why they’re doing it, not just throwing them in to the sharks and saying, hey, here’s your case load. This is how you do it by starting at the beginning and telling them, this is why we do it. This is why we help our clients. This is why this is the most important way to do things. This is why it’s more efficient if you do it a certain way. So yeah, it’s a process for sure. It’s evolving. Growth is not linear. Training is not linear. Getting people on board to do things how you want them to do things is not linear.
And then now we’re at a point where we have really strong middle management that I trust, that carries our team and carries their departments. So as long as I can trust them in their role, I know that they’re going to make decisions day in and day out that will ultimately determine how the firm moves forward. But I will say that day to day, they’re making those small decisions when it’s the big things that change, that’s where we really sit down and round table, is this the best way we can do things operationally?
Wow, there’s so much there, so much great stuff there, Venus, and I love how you’re talking about linear, but we’re also looking at it that the process and systems can be developed from both sides. Oftentimes, it naturally will start with leadership and the tone and the culture, but I’m also trying hard to train my team that they can also help develop and come up with processes and systems. They’re the one who are always on the front line doing it. And so you want to create the culture, the environment where people feel safe and encouraged and empowered to come forward with great ideas. But how do you best go around involving a team when rolling out a new system or process and having them understand not only why, but getting engagement, getting them to help create those processes?
No, for sure. So, I mean, buy-in’s really important. You want your team members to obviously be bought into what you’re doing or be bought into the product in order to clearly execute it. A lot of times it’s just back to the basics, getting them to test it out. Hey, we’re thinking about this. Can you tell us this out? Can you see if this works? We have facilitated a really strong culture now, like you’ve mentioned, where they do feel comfortable in coming forth to say, I’m doing this every single day and I don’t think it’s the right way of doing it. A lot of it does have to do with getting them involved, like you mentioned, giving them the opportunity to sit face to face with us and to give us their insight on the pros and cons of what it is that they’re doing.
Once they know the product and they know the system and they know what they’re doing, it gives them the opportunity to take ownership and really develop a system that can improve efficiency and improve productivity in their department. But I will say that when we bring them in, we get their input. And a lot of times it’s like, hey, can you test this out? Sometimes they lead CLEs or training sessions with their team members. And departmentally, we’ve involved them in on training for new hires as well. And so a lot of times we just try to get their input as much as we can. And then before we get something out to the whole firm and kind of say like, hey, this is it, this is how we’re doing it. We have them tested on it and look at it.
I will say that’s a really pivotal point in a business because sometimes when you’re smaller, you think you can do it all on your own and you will, you won’t need their buy-in, you get it taken of if you knock it out. But as you grow, you start to realize I’m not in the weeds every day, doing what they’re doing, so it’s hard for me to make a decision on a process and case management if I’m not the one that is actually doing that day in and day out. I have one perspective or one insight, one outlook on how something should be done, and they’re going to come back to me and they’re going to say, Hey, Venus, I absolutely respect what your endgame is here and what you’re wanting to do, but I’m also running into these issues, so have you thought about these things that are coming up throughout this process that we need to also identify? So involvement is key, communication is key. Testing it out before you launching, I think, is really big as well.
I love that. I love that because oftentimes, there’s a rollout and, one, the team gets surprised by rollout. They didn’t even know we’re changing a process, where there’s a negative there. And then they haven’t been told why we’re changing the process, is it not working, or we’re growing in and we see it in a different way, is your different vision. Are we trying to go in a different direction? We’re trying to move with another product? And so I really love the idea that testing, but just as much as sort of really having the team be a part of it so that when it is rolled out, you’ve gotten that buy-in because they’re supporting it. They know about it, they’re ready for it, and they understand it. Yeah. Love that. So here here’s where I’m the worst.
So I go to your law firm and I see something and I come back. I’m like, everybody, we’re changing everything we’re doing. I loved what I just saw. And then I go to another law firm. I’m like, guys, everybody, changing it again. We’re doing it this way. But also remember what I saw in a Oklahoma, we’re going to do it that way, and we’re going to do these. And it’s like heat. And I realized it takes time for these processes to play out. You put them in and I want to know, I went to Oklahoma, I came back on Tuesday. On Thursday, why isn’t it better? I thought on Wednesday, we rolled it out. It just doesn’t happen like that.
How often do you really are sticking with a process or system then looking to measure whether that’s in the right direction? And for all those, what really talking about is not only the buy-in from the front line, but that every process and system has its own time frame that there there’s a goal. And if we’re going to do a process or we’re going to do a system, it’s going to come out, we’re going to stick with it for this long. We’re going to measure it this way. And we’re going to know whether it’s working. What’s your experience, Venus?
Okay. So going back to your question, timeframe, I can relate to your conferences. We went to a lot of them, obviously pre-COVID. COVID kind of threw a little wrench in the timing of conferences and when we get to see each other, which is sad. But pre-COVID, we were at somewhere probably every month, every other month. At least once a quarter, we were visiting a firm or at a conference learning all this information. I remember very early on, it was like drinking from a fire hose. There was so much that we learned and so much I wanted to do. And just not enough time, honestly, not enough hands, not enough time, not enough people and everything was such a great idea. Everything to me was like, this is great. We should do it. I know Chad has used this term R and D, which is rip off and duplicate. We should R and D everything.
And honestly, a lot of what we built our practice on was were those things. I would say for myself, I’d give it a couple quarters. It obviously is going to take time to get a new process implemented or a change implemented. And then it’s going to take time to get people used to that new process and adapted to it. Then it’s going to take a little bit of time for them to remember that’s the process they need to use. And so I tend to look at it each quarter as a whole. It’s hard to look at new things or new measurements weekly, obviously. And even monthly, sometimes it’s not adequate data that you can use to really determine how to move forward. So quarterly for me is big. I do quarterly reviews within each department, look at their metrics and look back on how they did and forward looking to where we need to be.
But sometimes things kind of fall off the table, and I don’t really look at it. I implement something. I don’t really look at it. And then something comes up where I’m just like, man, that worked or it didn’t work. And if it didn’t work, then we’ll kind of go in and we’ll assess and find out why. So there are things where we have put into place impulsively. And a lot of it worked and a lot of it didn’t. And we started to find out that when it didn’t work, it’s because we didn’t have buy-in from our team. We didn’t get their input, they didn’t see the light. They didn’t know the why behind it. They just think that we go to these conferences, we have fun. We get to see everybody. We come back with 17 pages of notes. And then here we are ram, ram, ram ramming through everything to get something implemented.
So I give it at least a couple quarters. I review it quarterly, and a lot of times just following up with the team members, is it working, following up with the supervisors. How is this process working? Remember, we talked about this a month ago. Do you think that it’s going to stick with this long-term or not? And I mean, just like every other firm, Judd, I’m sure we have a ton of reports that we just don’t use. I remember, even now looking at our dashboard, we’re in the middle of migrating over to a new case management software. So of course, I’m analyzing everything process-wise and there’s just so many reports on there. I’m like, oh, I remember report. We created it for this reason, but we just haven’t touched it in years.
A lot of it is just like sticking to it and reminding them like, hey, this is the why we do this and why we need this to work and why it’s important for us to get this information or to stick with this process.
Tell us in general, Venus, what’s the overall purpose for a process? Why does something need a process?
I will tell you, if you ask me, you might get a different answer than someone else. I’m very type A, OCD. Everything needs to be in order, principle driven. So for me, it’s consistency, really. The other side of it too, a lot of it does have to do with efficiency, with what you discussed. Time on desk, for one, that is a huge concept that we talk about at our firm. And not only do we say, what can we do in the best interest of the client, but we also ask ourselves day in and day out, what can I do on this case that’s going to shed down the number of days that this cases on my desk without sacrificing quality? And everything that they do, every touch that they make is so vital and so important to the outcome of that case that we do tell them, hey, the processes are so important because they’re going to guide you through the phases of your case to get you to the finish line.
Without them, you’re kind of just doing whatever you want. And so if you don’t have a process it’s really hard for you to hold people accountable. It’s really hard for you to have key performance indicators. It’s really hard for you to examine their performance, to sit down and do evaluations with them. A lot of that is just all process-driven. And then at the end of the day, they really do deserve something to look back to or refer to when they need help. So if they have a question or they don’t know how to do something, there needs to be some type of structure within that department or within the firm so they know what their next step is.
Well, It’s so true about consistent. And one of my favorite parts about designing a process, looking at an issue, it usually starts with a bottleneck and say, okay, well, we can anticipate it’s going to be a problem all the time. So how can we deal with that? How do we make it more efficient? How do we recover? And also how do we do it in a way that if I do it really well with, A, I can do it well with B and I can do it well with, again with C, so all the clients benefit from the way that I’m doing it really well with one person. So if I can take a process and say, for instance, when we receive a lead, a call that wants to hire us as an attorney, we are going to look at that and we know that’s always how to start the case, to convert a case.
And so we’re going to look at all the parts of that conversation, so that that phone call can be most efficient and also deliver, ultimately, what we’re talking about is a better client experience. And so when you develop the process on anything, you design it, you can also look at it and say, then parts, you can then start to look at the sub-parts of it and go, how can we make this part better? And how can we make it this part better? And so you can continue to tweak the process because you can build on it, you have a starting block to say, and then you can look at it and say, what parts are working really well, what parts need to be improved? And so the overall process gets better and ultimately what we’re talking about is a better client experience.
Absolutely. I totally agree with you. And I mean, it’s your building block, like you mentioned, it’s your foundation. And chances are when you start small, it turns big so you look at something from one lens and you tweak it, you’re going to end up seeing thing else, and you’re going to tweak that as well. So it all goes together.
You talk about that time on desk, and so reducing the time on desk has a significant interest, both financially and stress on the client. The longer the case goes, we know that the clients are starting to get frustrated. They get drained of how long it’s lasting. And sometimes it’s taking too long treatment exhaustion, things of that. And so we try to narrow that time on desk. Well, how do you do that? Well, we’re going to do this at one month. We do this at two months. We do this at three months. And then you realize, you know what, we need something between one month and two month, we’re going to do a month and a half call or a month and a half something and trying, again, to reduce that TOD.
That’s all by process.
Absolutely. And it’s a really difficult time for our clients. You want to be there for them as much as you can, but at the same time, the best thing you can do for them is push their case along and get what they need. And ultimately at the end of the day, we want them to get back to better health. That’s our number one priority, but we absolutely also want to get them the maximum amount of value out of their case that we can. And if we don’t have processes in place to be able to do that, then we’re not doing what’s in the best interest of the client.
Yeah. And there’s one other part of that, of a process, which is really, if you have one client, you probably can get away with not having a process or a system. It’s also not to not scalable to not have processes.
For sure. Yeah. We learned that. I think a lot of times firms start up or they open up and they are very small. And we even have smaller firms here in Oklahoma, just like any other state does. And I know distinctively people who have come to our firm who have visited us and even firms local to us, we have great relationships with them. So they come in and they visit our firm just like you did, Judd. And they’re like, wow, this is like a warehouse, man. There’s a lot of manpower into this. How did you guys even think of this? Because sometimes people don’t really think of the big part of operations, like you mentioned, when thinking about a business. Running a business is all operational. There are other huge components to it, but without operations, how do you operate? And so it’s really important to be able to identify when you’re getting to that point when you business is growing, when you’re getting to that point, like, how can we get the next step? What’s our three-year goal? What’s our five-year goal? What do we need to do in the next three to five years to be able to get there?
I love that. Well, I wanted to ask you, finally, with systems and process, what makes you think that something may need a process? So you’re talking it out and your team says, oh we keep getting these letters back in the mail, or nobody’s answering a phone call when we do it, or when we get a lead and we call them back and we get our voicemail, then we forgot to call them up or follow up with that. I mean, there’s so many parts of any organization and company. And you can’t put a process to every single part of it, but where do you determine, say, you know what, this is probably a good place to have, to start to design a process.
Yeah. That’s a good question too, because I do think there are things that come up every single day, you know, things that fall on my desk or a supervisor’s desk. And one is definitely, if it’s something inconsistent, it’s creating some inconsistency within the firm. I always look at it from a perspective of is this case-specific or is this a process issue? And then to add to that, then you’re thinking, is this a people issue or is it a process issue, because sometimes you do have processes in place. Tim with Vista, he always taught me something. Well, the best thing I can do as a leader or anybody on my team can do as a leader is give people the tools, training, and expectation for their role and help them to succeed.
After that, and this is on like a little pie chart, after that is their willingness and competency. And so I really look at it from that lens too. Have we given our team members the tools, training, and expectation to be able to succeed in their role? And sometimes you look at it like that, is this an anomaly case? Is this just a one-off thing, because I’m not going to create a whole process if it’s just one case or two cases or maybe even five. But if it’s consistent and people across the board are bringing this to our attention and it is creating a stress on our team or a stress on our client and maybe even it’s increasing time on desk, then that’s really where I’ll sit down and I’ll evaluate it with the department and kind of identify what’s going on and how we can improve that process or implement a process.
But I will say that sometimes once you get to that point, it might be a little too far gone, you’ve already been doing something long enough without a process and now you’re at a crossroads where you’re like, which path do I take? I would say to definitely test it out, test out a new process, see if it works, get the buy-in from the team and then go from there. But you really have to identify if it’s something that’s a long-term growth type of process, or if you’re just doing it for a quick fix. Ultimately, like you had mentioned, the building blocks, if you’re starting out there and you think that this process that you’re putting in place is going to lead to other processes, then you’re on the right path. And that’s typically what happens. When you’re on a whiteboard session and you’re writing something up and you think of something, next thing you know, you’re not even focused on the original topic that you were talking on. You’re like five topics deep and you’re like, whoa, now I realize I need to fix this, this, this, and this.
Right. So, and I love that. It really, it’s food for thought, when you look at it and you say, what we’re talking about, is this an issue specific to this case and this case alone, yes, probably doesn’t need a process, we just need to solve it. And then you say, whoa, whoa, you know what, that’s an interesting issue you’re having on this case. I just had that same issue on these other cases. And you go, well, why are we having this issue? We had this issue in three other cases, and now this case? Maybe start to look to say what what’s going on, and do we need to look at that to develop a system to avoid something that seems to be coming up more often now?
Absolutely. And it does go hand in hand with just getting buy-in from your team, because if one person presents an issue, a lot of times that departmental supervisor will then go in and kind of poll the rest of the team, like, hey, so and so brought this to my attention is anyone else experiencing this too? And then if more people than just one or two bring it up, then we’ll take a look at it.
That’s great. I know that I’ve had you out at Judd Shaw Injury Law out in New Jersey, and you came here and talk about systems and processes, and you left and you sent me a huge homework of a to-do this and stuff like that. And you’re just such a gem and such a help. And I’m so blessed to have had your experience and your knowledge. And if others out there want to reach out and just maybe have questions for you or shout out, how can we best reach you?
Email is probably the best, I have it on my phone. Another form in my social media, of course. So my email address is Venus V-E-N-U-S, like the planet parrishdevaughn.com. That’s P-A-R-R-I-S-H-D-E-V-A-U-G-H-N.com.
And anybody who’s perhaps injured or friends or family of anybody injured out in the great state of Oklahoma and needs a personal injury lawyer. How do they best get in touch with Parrish DeVaughn?
Reach out our phone number is 405-444-4444. We’ll take all types of cases. If it’s something that we can’t handle in our office, we know a plethora of law firms that we can refer your case to, so don’t be afraid to call us and reach out to us. And we’re hoping we can help you or your family member and get you guys in the best hands that we can.
Venus, thank you so very much for-
It was great.
Being my host today. I loved it. For anybody else, obviously, if you want to reach me, you can always reach me at Judd@demandjudd.com. Always, if you do email me with any topics, concerns, feedback, positive or negative, I always learn from both. Always include any request for some swag, and I’d love to send you something from our company to you. Anyway, thanks again for a great podcast and stay well.
🎙️ Featured Guest 🎙️
Name: Venus Tahmasebi
Short Bio: Venus Tahmasebi is the former Chief Operating Officer of Parrish DeVaughn, Oklahoma’s best personal injury law firm. At the beginning of 2022, she founded VTT Consulting, where she helps law firms with operations and Salesforce implementations. Venus received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and her master’s degree from Oklahoma City University.
Company: VTT Consulting
🔑 Relevant Resources 🔑
Attorney Advertising Materials. This podcast is designed for general information purposes only. Nothing on this podcast should be taken as legal advice for an individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Those with legal questions should seek the advice of an attorney.