What do debt collection agencies do?

By on September 25th, 2019 in Debt Collection
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!

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