4 tips for improving your collections strategy this tax season

By on January 23rd, 2020 in Industry Insights

The 2020 tax season is getting started early this year! The IRS will begin accepting returns for the 2019 tax year as soon as January 27th, but what does this mean for your business? According to the National Retail Federation, in 2018 and 2019, 34% of consumers intended to use their tax refund to pay off debts. With over $142 billion distributed through refunds last year, that leaves us with somewhere around $48 billion dollars directed toward debt payments across the country.

With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that tax season is to debt repayment rates what the winter holiday season is to massive retail sales. Let’s take a look at how you can make good on collecting while it’s on your customers’ minds this season!

Provide flexible payment options

US consumers have racked up over $4 trillion in debt, and that total has been steadily increasing for years. For many consumers, paying off a debt in full or even in the amounts offered can seem insurmountable. This is especially true of consumers that have multiple debts to pay off. 

With a surplus of tax return money burning a hole in their pockets, they have an opportunity to begin to relieve some of their debt pressure. By providing consumers with more flexible payment options, they feel comfortable knowing that they are taking steps toward financial well-being without having to commit their entire refund to a single payment.

In fact, we’ve seen that 60% of consumers that start on a payment plan will pay in full, settle in full, or remain active on that plan once they’ve started it! Getting your foot in the door can make all the difference.

Make yourself accessible

Being able to offer new payment options to consumers is one thing, but getting a hold of them to discuss those options is an entirely different challenge. Traditional collections agencies continue to work on a call and collect system, and they are reaching fewer and fewer consumers. As the number of consumers interested in answering their phones continues to decline, businesses have to consider new contact channels.

Effectively contacting consumers in debt starts with meeting them where they are: online. Your consumers are filing their W-2s, adding up their assets, and managing their incoming returns through tax software and banking apps. By reaching consumers by email, SMS, or even push notifications, you can introduce your payment plan options where they can see it without the pressure of a call from an agent.

Personalize (and humanize) your communication

Great payment options that consumers can afford? Check.

Reaching consumers when and where they are? Check.

Now how do you work to get consumers to follow through if you don’t have an agent on the phone? When a company is selling a product or service, there is a clear distinction between sales and branding. As you ramp up your tax time collection strategy, consider the impact of building trust in your brand rather than pressing consumers to pay right then and there. 

Even the most compelling payment options on the market and the most stellar team of collectors in the industry can’t solve for the fact that your customers may have other debts that they are making a priority. But if they recognize your brand as the one they can communicate with, as the team that understands their struggle, as the team that’s willing to work with them, they’re more likely to pay. Not only that, they’re more likely to work with you again in the future!

Partner with the right team

Many businesses, especially smaller businesses, take responsibility for collecting outstanding balances on their own, but collections is a complex industry from both a tactical and legal perspective. Compliance can be a massive, tangled hurdle for even the most diligent teams to clear. By finding the right debt collection agency to partner with, you can save you and your team the time and resources that would be invested in recovering lost revenue (and navigating the 538 new pages of the CFPB’s collections rules) and focus on what you do best.

Tax season is on its way, and customers want to clean up their debts as much as you want to recover on their delinquent accounts. Providing a compassionate and accessible collections strategy can offer great results for both your company and the consumers you serve, and if you need some back up, make sure you find the right agency for you.

Still looking for a new collection strategy for tax season 2020? You can reach out to our team to get started today!

Tips for hiring a debt collection agency for your small business

By on January 16th, 2020 in Industry Insights

In any industry where money is exchanged, debt is an inevitability. For small businesses, even small transactions can add up quickly and late payments, delinquent accounts, and chargebacks can start to bury an otherwise thriving business. This is where a debt collection agency can help your business succeed. 

Recovering payments on otherwise lost accounts probably sounds great, but let’s do some research before you get started! Here are a few things to consider when you begin looking for a collection agency for your small business.

1. Where can they collect?

Collections agencies can provide financial services to businesses ranging from those in their local area to companies across the country, but it’s important to validate that they can operate in your state! Local collectors may not have the licensing authority to collect across state lines. 

Larger collection agencies may also work across the country and even specialize in collecting certain types of debt for a given industry, such as point of sale transactions, credit card, rent to own products, loans, etc.

2. What industries do they serve?

The needs of B2C (business-to-consumer) businesses are dramatically different than those of primarily B2B (business-to-business) business lenders or tech start-ups. Collectors that specialize in specific verticals can ramp up and start collecting effectively, faster because of their familiarity with consumers in that space. Don’t be afraid to ask a collector for their experience working with other businesses like yours!

3. Are they legally compliant?

Beyond the local and state level access, federal regulations play a large part in a collector’s operational ability. Keep your business safe and verify that the company you’re interested in working with has a comprehensive compliance management system.

A proper system will be designed to be in compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as other state and federal regulations.  Also, ask what preparations the company has made for compliance with the upcoming Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s newly proposed rules.

When you begin your research into new agencies, consider visiting their Better Business Bureau page or looking through their Google Reviews. Consumers that have had particularly negative or even legally questionable experiences with the business may help you to recognize red flags before they become an issue for you and your team.

4. What is their pricing structure?

The price on any purchase for your business can make or break the decision to invest in a new product or service, and finding a debt collection agency at the right cost is no different. Most debt collection agencies will be priced in one of three ways: flat fee, contingency, or a hybrid model. 

  • A flat fee is a one-time service payment that coincides with signing a contract and will vary depending on the volume of accounts that are being collected on.
  • A contingency payment plan is a performance-based payment model where the collector only profits from the accounts they are able to collect on. Signing a contingency contract will typically outline the percentage that they will collect per account and may change from portfolio to portfolio. 
  • A hybrid model is often a custom solution that begins with a flat fee contract and expands out to accomodate more accounts if the collector is exceeding expectations. 

5. What communication channels are they using?

The debt collection industry is undergoing a massive change, and many collections agencies are struggling to adapt. Call-based collections has been the norm for decades, and a large percentage of debt collection agencies still rely on sending letters (91%) or making phone calls (89%) as their preferred contact channels. 

Unfortunately, these channels are no longer the ideal channels for consumers. Collection agencies that embrace digital channels (email, SMS messaging, etc.) are more likely to reach consumers when and where they like to communicate, and help to humanize the collections experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of communication strategies in collections, you can read here!

Working with a debt collection agency may seem like a risk, but finding the right solution for your business can mean recovering revenue that would have otherwise been entirely lost. Just make sure that your new partner is the right one for your business. What other questions do you have about what it means to work with a collection agency? Let us know!

How do you effectively contact consumers in debt?

By on January 14th, 2020 in User Experience

According to the State of Collection 2019 report published by TransUnion and the Aite Group, “the challenge at the top of thought leaders’ minds [is] the increasing difficulty of connecting with consumers in a world where robocalls and scams run rampant.”

Consumers today are less and less likely to answer a call from a phone number that they do not recognize (only about 47% of calls are answered if the number isn’t saved), and the industry has to adjust if it wants to keep its head above water. 

One industry leader included in the survey said that “right-party contact has fallen off a cliff,” and for many debt collectors, the future feels bleak. In fact, three-quarters of those surveyed by TransUnion believe that upcoming regulatory changes from the CFPB will be difficult for them to implement into their business. 

This can all feel like a death knell for collections and recovery, but there is hope! Industry thought leaders believe that new communication channels and methods hold the future for the industry, and companies that are beginning the adoption process have already seen promising results!

A collection revolution

To get ahead of the curve, collection firms “are trying to understand people better and get the right data,” reports a third-party collections leader. Revolutions begin when the people rise up, or in this case, when they stop picking up. Looking at customer communication preferences, the world has largely gone digital, but “few [collections industry] respondents report their initial contact is attempted via email (3%).” 

So what are the new channels driving collections forward? How do you communicate with consumers more effectively as the age of call and collect fades? The importance of digital forms of communication can’t be overstated. 61% of agencies surveyed are already using email to communicate in some form with another 22% looking to add it to their strategy in the next two years. SMS & text messaging only has a 16% adoption rate with another 53% interested in further expanding. 

While there is power in alternative forms of communication, at the end of the day whether you’re using email, text, direct drop voicemails, or messages tucked inside candy wrappers to communicate with customers, the tool is only as effective as its ability to reach the consumer at the right place and the right time.

Moving into a digital future

With the start of a new decade, it makes more sense than ever before to shift toward a digital collection strategy to properly contact consumers in debt. One of the most difficult hurdles of integrating a digital approach for collections isn’t simply starting to send emails or text messages, it is integrating these digital channels at scale for hundreds to thousands of consumers.

This means that the solution to effectively contacting consumers as collections continues to evolve comes from a combination of understanding performance data, navigating the complexities of email deliverability, and learning to recognize and adapt to consumer preferences.

It’s no wonder that so many companies feel unprepared for the coming changes at a systemic level. Getting started and preparing for change with the right collector today can mean your collections strategy continues to grow for years to come.

Ready to go digital? Let our team know!

A new decade for debt collection

By on January 8th, 2020 in Industry Insights

A new year often marks the time for resolutions and major change. Goals are set. Budgets are ready to go. Product roadmaps start to unfold. For us, change and growth don’t just start and stop in January. TrueAccord is working to be better every day, and this year is no different.

We know that the collections industry is changing quickly, and we’re ready to ride the wave. Check out what TrueAccord’s leadership has to say about the future of collections and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond!

Ohad Samet, CEO

We’ve seen a recent growth of digital debt collections strategies for to the benefit of both collectors and consumers. As the industry jumps forward, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing teams in the collections space?

The collection industry has been fighting a losing battle against the demise of phone calls as a valid contact channel. Rule changes and consumer behavior are rendering phone calls obsolete, and we’ve started to see the result in consolidation and closures. This trend will accelerate in 2020, and the realization will come, whether in 2020 or subsequent years, that companies will need to adapt.

And what makes this change such a significant challenge to existing collectors? Could a traditional call-based agency simply start sending emails to consumers in debt?

This shift isn’t only a conceptual one; it has deep technological and operational implications. Operating digital channels at scale is a new challenge, completely different than calling using a dialer, and traditional providers will find it increasingly difficult to catch up at scale. 

Emails and text messages aren’t simply cheaper alternatives to letters—they are two-sided, complex media that require data and inference infrastructure that’s difficult to build and maintain, especially with thin margins. Clients will need to re-evaluate how they work with a narrowing landscape of skilled, at-scale providers who can handle this new world.

Sheila Monroe, COO

As Ohad mentioned, the collections industry has largely remained unchanged for years and relied heavily on call-based collecting as its primary contact channel, what will make the 2020s different?

Technology is advancing exponentially. When combined with the lightning speed of adapting consumer expectations and a regulatory landscape driven largely by consumer advocacy, leaders in this industry will anticipate and create the way forward. Those playing catch up, or missing the cues, will inevitably struggle to survive. 

Those that lead the charge in the 2020s will drive a focus on machine learning, AI, advanced analytics, and automation as the entire industry finds itself at a tipping point in this new decade.  

New technologies are often developed to address a specific problem. What is the main issue you feel these new technologies are working to solve? 

The digital revolution has already started. Much of the technology exists, and many creditors and collectors are experimenting with digital channels such as SMS and email. That said, being able to close the gap between consumer expectations and creditor or collector offerings represents a high hurdle for many in this space that more complex machine learning and AI can help to address.

Kelly Knepper-Stephens, VP of Legal & Compliance

Rapidly advancing technology is complex in and of itself, but collections is also a carefully regulated industry. The last major update to collections law was in 1977, long before most of today’s technology was even a possibility.

We’ve spoken before about how the CFPB’s NPRM has set out to make major changes to existing laws in order to incorporate new technologies into collections regulation. How will those updates shape the industry going forward into 2020?

The NPRM, which should have a final rule sometime this year, makes clear that “modern” forms of communication (email, text, and others) are methods by which agencies can use to communicate with consumers. Those agencies who haven’t invested in these technologies yet are all starting to broaden their communication tools now in order to prepare.

As we move into the new decade, innovative agencies will continue to build out ways to reach consumers based on their preferences, using tools we don’t even know about today. We might even see the reputation of the industry shift as these friendlier collection methods allow consumers the freedom to choose how best to communicate and resolve their debt.

Looking ahead

Consumer communication preferences are evolving, new channels are becoming available to collectors, and merging these shifts together will be the key to successful collections through the 2020s.

TrueAccord launches redesigned website

By on November 12th, 2019 in Company News

TrueAccord is redefining the collections experience. In order to grow as a company and continue to revolutionize the industry, we’ve redesigned our website to better reflect our dedication to a positive user experience!

Designing for the user

Being a leading modern debt collection solution means striving to provide a better experience for consumers in debt and creditors alike. The first step in this design process was revamping the website architecture to reflect our business growth, with industry and role-specific pages, as well as more details around our unique product and superior performance. 

Fig. 1: The new homepage (left) provides an immediate look into who we are, what we do, and (literally) illustrates our value propositions for everyone to see! 

If a user arrives on the site without any knowledge of AI or machine-learning, we still have to be able to explain what we’re capable of! This is why we’ve also included our awesome product showcase video below and directly on the homepage!

Designing for the future

We recognize that the collections industry is often cast in a negative light, and TrueAccord is here to create an empathy-driven collections experience. Right now, not everyone fully understands what that means. Having a platform for our brand’s voice and mission means we can more accurately and effectively reach creditors looking for a collections solution. 

With this improved website redesign, we can ensure that when a creditor is looking for a new collections strategy, they recognize that today’s customers expect a service that considers their experience. We know that the future is digital, and now we can share evidence of that with everyone! By proving that we’re worth listening to and making TrueAccord a collections authority, we will redefine the industry.

The impact of change

I had the chance to sit down and speak with Shannon Brown, TrueAccord’s Head of Design and lead designer on the website rebranding, and Vivian Chau, Senior Manager of Brand and Content Strategy, to discuss the intent behind the redesign, the power of future-proofing our strategy, and what’s next for TrueAccord’s image. 

How do you feel the new site will help us better serve our audiences?

Brown: The first thing, I think, is that we’re a digital-first, technology-driven company in an industry that isn’t always fluent in the language of technology.

Chau: Right, we knew that the website had to showcase what makes us a leading tech and customer-focused collections service, and the next step in drawing attention to that is having a website that helps potential clients learn about how collections fits into their revenue cycle management.

We still want to be able to showcase our modern collections approach and how we leverage machine-learning, but the heart of that is driven by customer empathy.

With dedicated sections on industry-specific information and more details highlighting our product performance, I’m excited to share and build upon TrueAccord’s new digital storefront.

Brown: We also worked closely with our sales and client services teams to understand questions our clients have and included a Solutions section to better address how TrueAccord can help businesses across different industries and roles. 

That leads to the next question, then: are there any features of the new site that you’re especially excited about?

Chau: Yes! I’m particularly excited to have our new website on a standalone Content Management System. Our content team will be able to add and optimize the website without having to ask for Engineering help which gives us a lot of flexibility. I see this project as a jumping off point for our marketing and brand initiatives, as our website, as should our brand, needs to continually evolve and change with the company as it grows. 

Brown: Speaking of growth: we’re working to attract top talent here, so I’m excited about our revamped careers page. It truly reflects the experience of working at TrueAccord and gives prospective employees more information about what it’s like here. Part of that TrueAccord experience is that we’re working to stand out in the industry.

Our new About Us section really highlights our commitment to empowering consumers and delivering great user experiences, and that our mission and company values tie everything together.

You both touched a bit on the impact that a clearly stated mission has on a company’s brand reputation. How did you go about the design process knowing with TrueAccord’s consumer-driven mission in mind?

Brown: We wanted to give consumers a space on the site. A lot of consumers receive an email from us and come to TrueAccord.com to see what we’re all about. The previous website spoke to our partners, but didn’t really give consumers information about how the TrueAccord experience can benefit them!

A big part of that was redirecting our focus to how our technology increases recovery rates and creates great consumer experiences instead of explaining the technology itself.

Chau: It was important too that we created something that was easy for everyone to understand. We still want to be able to showcase our modern collections approach and how we leverage machine-learning, but the heart of that is driven by customer empathy. The redesign articulates that and the hope is that it excites prospective clients and potential job candidates. 

TrueAccord is on a mission to change debt collection for good. With powerful tools in place, we continue to expand and grow and better showcase our product, highlight our performance, and demonstrate our values to clearly illustrate what sets us apart in the collections space.

Want to learn more about TrueAccord? Connect with our team!

How to Build Your Business’ Reputation Using Digital Collections

By on November 6th, 2019 in Industry Insights
five people putting their hands in for a deal

The age of the internet has brought about an age of transparency and exposure. News can travel around the globe in seconds thanks to the power of social media, and this visibility means that a company’s business practices, day to day operations, and mission are just as clear and present in the market as their products and services. Brand matters, and nothing helps to build or break a brand’s reputation faster than social proof

Today, companies don’t win just because they have the best products and services, they win when they provide the best customer experience and allow their customers to share that with the world. Companies that do this well are experience disruptors. Creditors looking for collections solutions can struggle to provide a positive collections experience (no customer wants to be in debt after all), but we know that it’s possible to build your brand and still collect on debts at the same time.

Stay ahead of compliance

This should go without saying, but collections teams that stay up-to-date and even ahead of federal and state compliance meet with fewer customer complaints and lawsuits. In an industry where not using (or even over-using) the right language can lead to a lawsuit, ensuring compliance must be the first step in providing a consistent, secure, and positive brand experience. 

Creditors and customers alike benefit from collections systems that keep compliance at the forefront. New regulations like the CFPB’s proposed rules can add new layers of complexity to the collections process. Thankfully, digital collections strategies can aid in coding compliance directly into outreach and minimizing human error!

Be transparent

Speaking of using the right language at the right time, using clearcut language that helps consumers understand their debt is essential to building a brand that is seen as reliable and trustworthy.

Building your brand with a modern, digital collections strategy is essential because today it isn’t just about reaching consumers and requesting payment.

While compliant language is a large part of transparency, making it easy for customers to understand the exact steps they have to take to get out of debt and how they can work with a team to pay off that debt helps smooth the process. When steps to get back on track are clearly outlined and presented in a way that is digestible to the least sophisticated consumer, the debt payment experience is better for everyone.

Adapt to changing customer expectations

Customers expect their financial services to be exactly that—services; they want their tools to work for them. If someone can do all of their day-to-day banking through an app, they shouldn’t have to wade through stacks of paper mail and phone calls in order to resolve a debt.

Traditional collections models have made some technological advancements, but are still largely bound to call-based collections practices. Financial technology experience disruptors like Rocket Mortgage have simplified and digitized their services to meet consumer expectations. NerdWallet says that their “document and asset retrieval capabilities alone can save you a bunch of time and hassle.”

Make a change

Digital debt collection agencies are dedicated to saving consumers time and hassle by reaching them via email and push notifications instead of calling in the middle of dinner. Customers can respond to outreach and utilize payment systems at their own pace. 

Building your brand with a modern, digital collections strategy is essential because today it isn’t just about reaching consumers and requesting payment. Companies build reputation by providing a proper experience. How they collect is why they win. 

TrueAccord is redefining the collections experience for creditors and customers alike. Click here if you’re interested in learning more!

How to Ensure Your Safe Harbor Language is Actually Safe

By on October 24th, 2019 in Compliance

It has been nineteen years since the Seventh Circuit held that a debt collector must include a notice to consumers if the balance in a collection communication would change from day to day due to interest, fees, or other changes accruing on a debt.

However, we still see balance-related issues today under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as some debt collectors struggle to provide consumers with the amount of debt owed in a simple, clear manner.  

Since Miller, other courts agree that a consumer must be told if the balance will increase adopting Miller’s safe harbor language. In September 2019, a court in the Eastern District of New York dismissed a case, finding the collection letter adequately set forth the amount owed because the letter included the safe harbor language.

“Additionally, debt collectors should not put the safe harbor language on an account where the balance will not increase.”

In Paracha v. MRS BPO, the fact that the balance on a second letter (mailed six months after the first letter) increased by thousands of dollars did not make the original letter deceptive or inaccurate. This decision was made because the first letter advised the consumer, through the safe harbor language, that the balance may increase over time.

Using (and not using) the right language

Debt collectors must be careful with the safe harbor language and cannot simply add it to a communication when a balance on a collection letter will increase. The safe harbor language must be accurate for the particular account in question. The safe harbor language will only be safe to the extent that it states what may cause the balance to change. 

For example, according to Boucher v. Finance System of Green Bay, Inc., if the debt will increase due to interest—not due to fees or other charges—then the safe harbor language should only advise that the balance may increase from day to day due to interest and not mention fees or other charges. 

Additionally, debt collectors should not put the safe harbor language on an account where the balance will not increase. Doing so could create a false sense of urgency, and a consumer may think that they need to pay the balance immediately or it will increase when in fact it will not increase. Debt collectors are not required to tell a consumer that a balance will not increase. 

Courts have made clear that a debt collector has no obligation to state that the balance will not increase when the balance on a collection communication is static. But, even when a debt is static, a debt collection agency must choose their words carefully when describing the amount of the debt owed.

In Koehn v. Delta Outsource Group, Inc., a consumer sued a debt collector, arguing that the words “current balance” materially mislead and confused the consumer into thinking that the balance would change from day to day. The Seventh Circuit found that the phrase was “common and innocuous” and not a violation of the FDCPA.

Itemizing debt

Debt collectors should be wary of itemizing a debt when the debt collector does not have the right to add interest and fees. The CFPB’s proposed rulemaking does include debt itemization; however, until the rule becomes final, cases like Virden v. Client Services, Inc., suggest that listing “zero dollars” for interest and fees could mislead a consumer into thinking that interest or fees may increase. This deception would, in fact, be in violation of the FDCPA. In Virden the agency included the following itemization:

Balance Due at Charge-Off$1,658.91
Interest$0.00
Other Charges: $0.00
Payments Made:$0.00
Current Balance:$1,658.91

The court found that the least sophisticated consumer could misinterpret the “$0.00” listed for interest and other charges and that one plausible misinterpretation could be that interest and other changes would begin to accrue if the debt was not paid. Since interest and other charges would not accrue on this debt, the court ruled that the information was deceptive.

Agencies need to be careful in choosing what words they use describing the balance owed on a debt. In this context, less is more. Do not add itemizations when not required and only use safe harbor language tailored specifically to the account. 

For more discussion of current balance issues, listen to the most recent episode of Two DEBTicated Attorneys.

Tracking Performance Data With Digital Debt Collection

By on October 21st, 2019 in Data Science, Product and Technology

Call centers are notorious for reaching hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers several times per week (and even several times per day!). The debt collection industry is plagued by the perception that collectors are relentless and uncaring, which makes resolving debts even more challenging. Digital debt collection strategies aim to alleviate the stress of incessant calling for consumers, and also provide unique, powerful solutions for creditors.

Collection metrics

Digital-first debt collection strategies provide creditors the ability to track and aggregate more objective performance metrics that help strengthen their collections strategy. Qualitative metrics from traditional call centers are still subject to the endlessly variable human element of a phone call. 

When outreach is entirely automated, it becomes easy to A/B test simple changes (new subject lines, different greetings, etc.) and determine which are the most effective. But how do we define effectiveness? At the end of the process, an effective collections strategy is one that leads customers to make a payment. 

There are a few key metrics that call centers use to drive customers to this end goal that can be easily supplemented or overtaken by digital collection strategies.

Calls per account and calls per agent

Traditional collection agencies, like any other sales call center system, track the total amount of calls made to each customer and by each agent on the team. When individual agents are responsible for contacting customers, they have to hit an outreach quota. This quota reflects directly back on the calls per account, or how many times an individual customer has been contacted. 

As agents are required to call customers and collect on accounts, the calls per account may increase to a point where customers feel overwhelmed and over-contacted (which can even lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression). At the same time, if countless calls are being made, and an account is not paying, there is a clear gap in effectiveness. 

One of the advantages of a digital debt collection strategy is that agencies can reach customers with relevant messaging at times that work for them. This can include hours in which call centers are no longer legally allowed to reach a customer—before 8am or after 9pm. With these legal limitations in place and the need for agents to meet quotes, traditional collections strategies encourage an artificial inflation of outreach numbers that may not be positive.

Hit rates, percentage of outbound calls resulting in promise to pay (PTP), and call quality 

Call volume is not the end-all-be-all of call center metrics though. Simply tracking output numbers isn’t enough when engagement is the key metric. Hit rate is defined as the total number of calls divided by number of those calls that are answered by customers. While this number can be helpful in narrowing which calls were more successful than others, it cannot reach the same level of detail as a full digital strategy.

In the case of a phone call, there are limited options once the phone has been dialed:

  • The customer does not answer
  • The customer answers but ends the call before promising payment
  • The customer promises to pay

Trying to understand what leads to a successful payment on a call is then dependent on the agent’s perspective. Digital debt collection conducted through machine learning is able to communicate using personalized and consistent content. Hit rate, PTP, and call quality analysis can then be expanded on, and performance can be measured by:

  • Email Deliverability
  • Email open rates
  • Link click rates
  • Website engagement (Including clicking on further links, filling out forms, viewing specific webpages, and more)
  • Online payments

These data points can help pinpoint where in the process a customer was lost, improve the next attempt at outreach with that data in mind, and eventually guide the account to a payment. With more data and longer periods of time, machine learning processes only continue to improve.

Updating your collections strategy 

TrueAccord takes our digital strategy a step further by looking beyond simply using digital channels and focuses on the power of machine learning to continuously improve our collections performance. We’ve come to understand that creating an effective, empathetic collections experience actually comes from creating a more analytical and AI-driven process.

With better visibility into performance, more granular data points, and more accurate reporting available than ever before, digital debt collection strategies strengthen the power of any collections team.

What are accounts uncollectible?

By on October 3rd, 2019 in Industry Insights
Hands holding hundred dollar bills

Debt collection agencies work to recover money on behalf of creditors. Unfortunately, not every debt is collectible, and it’s important to recognize these edge cases before they become bigger problems.

What are accounts uncollectible?

Accounts uncollectible, also known as uncollectible debts, are accounts owed that have almost no chance of being paid off. While it is better for the customer’s credit score and overall financial health, as well as for the lending company’s growth to receive these payments, there are some debts that will simply never be paid. There are several reasons that this may be the case:

  • A customer is not reachable
  • A customer is unable to pay
  • A customer declares bankruptcy
  • A customer disputes the debt

While some debts may reach a point where they become uncollectible, there is a lot that can be done before those delinquent accounts reach the point of no return. Debt collection agencies serve to lessen the impact of accounts that become uncollectible and work to prevent them from becoming bad debts

The longer a company waits to adopt a collections solution, the more accounts they risk becoming uncollectible. We’ve already looked at some reasons why a debt may be hard to collect, but if a customer owes a debt, they have to pay it, right? Unfortunately, companies that make this assumption end up with debts on a timer.

A debt may reach its statute of limitations for collection.

Each state has distinct requirements that affect how long companies and collection agencies can legally collect on a debt. While a select few states have statutes that extend the collection window to up to 15 years, most are limited to somewhere between 3 and 6 years.

Once a debt ages out of these windows, it is considered a “time-barred debt.” Collecting a time-barred debt is possible, but the approaches are limited and creditors can no longer sue to demand collection.

Even if the debt is new enough to be collected, TrueAccord’s customer data indicates that new accounts (those in collections for fewer than 90 days) are four times more likely to begin a payment plan than those who’ve been in collections for more than six months. 

Those same new accounts are also eight times more likely to begin paying off a debt than those who have been in debt for longer than two years. This rapid decline means that creditors need to act quickly to prevent an account from slipping away.

How do you avoid accounts uncollectible?

If a customer has not paid a debt for one reason or another then companies are working against the clock to collect. The typical solution to recouping otherwise uncollectible debts is to hire a third-party debt collection agency. Many agencies operate by reaching out to customers and requesting (or demanding) payment for a debt, hoping to instill a sense of urgency in the customer.

One of the issues with this approach is that customers are forced to engage on the collector’s time rather than on their own. TrueAccord recognizes that when customers work on their own time, they are given power over their financial freedom and are more likely to commit to a payment plan. 

Another key issue with the traditional collections model is a lack of proper analytics. While call centers may reach hundreds of customers daily, each call can vary wildly due to the personal nature of a phone call. Digital-first collections strategies allow agencies to regularly send consistent messages and accurately test which of those messages prompt the most engagement and, ultimately, lead to payments. 

Any amount of uncollectible debt directly translates to a loss for creditors. The best option available to companies that wish to avoid losing out on delinquent accounts entirely is to embrace a digital-driven debt collection strategy. Uncollectible accounts will only get more difficult to recover over time, and if teams wait too long those accounts will truly be untouchable. 

What do debt collection agencies do?

By on September 25th, 2019 in Industry Insights
Coins spilling out of jar

Whether you’re trying to collect on small accounts or massive debts, working with an agency can help to improve your business’ bottom line. There are different approaches to the collections process and understanding those differences, the role of agencies, and the industry as a whole can help you make the right decision for your business.

What is a debt collection agency?

A debt collection agency, or debt collector, is a company, team, or individual that works to recover money on delinquent accounts. While some large companies opt to dedicate internal teams to the collections process, smaller and mid-sized companies opt to work with 3rd party debt collection agencies.

How do debt collection agencies work?

Collections agencies function as a financial service for companies that seek to outsource their collection needs and provide consumers a point of contact for paying off their debts. Agencies can work with a variety of companies and collect one or several types of debt, including:

  • Credit card debt
  • Medical debt
  • Car loan debt
  • Home loan debt
  • Personal loan debt
  • Business debt
  • Student loan debt

Delinquent balances that would otherwise sit unpaid are compiled into a portfolio for the debt collection agency to manage. These debts are still owned by the crediting company, and the collection agency functions as a liaison between the creditor and consumer. This relationship does not come without a cost. 

Debt collection agencies are paid based on a percentage of the debts that they are able to collect. This traditional collections model often extends to individual collectors whose earnings are paid out on a commission structure. Traditional debt collection agencies and their agents, therefore, are incentivized to reach customers however they can.

It’s important to recognize when a debt (or portfolio of debts) may no longer be collectible and what you can do to engage customers before their accounts reach that point.

Debt often can be tied to feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression, and when these feelings are met with persistent contact, rather than understanding, they can worsen. It is for this reason that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working to make changes to existing debt collection laws and better protect consumers from predatory practices.

Debt Buyers

While typical agencies work with creditors that own the debt, debt buyers will outright purchase hard-to-collect debts. A debt may be considered hard to collect if it is nearing its statute of limitations for collection, a particularly small debt, or if other agencies have been otherwise unsuccessful in collecting it. Accounts with similar features (amount owed, age of the debt, amount of communication) will be grouped together, sold, and managed as a single portfolio.

If, for example, thirty customers owed Creditor A $100, but their debts went unpaid and ignored for a long period of time, Creditor A may no longer feel it is worth the time or resources required to pursue them. A debt buyer would purchase these debts from the creditor, and assisting the creditor in recouping the loss and reinvest that capital. Creditor A would recover a small portion of money they were not able to recover, and the debt buyer would then be able to freely pursue the debts for their own profit.

It’s important to recognize when a debt (or portfolio of debts) may no longer be collectible and what you can do to engage customers before their accounts reach that point. Using customers’ preferred communication channels and engaging with customers empathetically can help them recognize collections for what it is: a financial service.

The future of debt collection agencies

Expanding laws and developing technologies are gradually reshaping the collections industry. While the market itself may not change substantially (there will always be creditors, customers, and collectors), the ways in which collection agencies conduct their business will change drastically. 

Updates to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s regulations, along with evolving digital debt collection tools are driving a new era of collections practices. TrueAccord is dedicated to seeing these changes made real with our customer-focused, digital first collections strategy. Selecting the proper strategy for your business can make an enormous impact, but a proper collections strategy takes time to build, so get planning!