11LEGAL MEDICOMAGAZINESponsored by:procedures in place and are regularly audited on the services they provide.Drawing up a shortlist of agenciesRemember 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 provide 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 agenciesDraw 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 conditionsBuilding good relationships with agenciesIt 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, report 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.