“Clients drive my business and we need to be the best we can with everything we are doing,” said Chris Schumacher, president and CEO of Optio Solutions, about PPMS certification. Schumacher and four other experts from the collection industry took part in a webinar about the process on Dec. 12. The webinar focused on explaining the benefits of PPMS certification as well as tips and tactics for preparing a first-time application.
ACA International’s Professional Practice Management System (PPMS) works to enhance debt collection agencies by providing a framework that emphasizes accountability and improvement to meet the high standards of the financial services industry.
The panelists were made up of PPMS experts who have worked on various levels of collection operations. These panelists include:
- Chris Schumacher – president and CEO of Optio Solutions in Petaluma, Calif.
- Brian Watkins – president of Southern Oregon Credit Service in Medford, Ore.
- Tina Hanson – executive VP/chief strategy officer at State Collection Service in Madison, Wis.
- Sarah Headly – president of Peacock Consulting in Monona, Wis.
- Beth Conklin – account executive at State Collection Service in Madison, Wis.
Benefits of PPMS Certification
Questions were asked pertaining to the benefits of PPMS certification.
Schumacher was quick to share his experience about how his company has evolved since he first implemented the system in 2013. He spoke about the many standards and regulations that need to be met in the financial services industry.
PPMS ensures that his company meets client expectations by providing a framework for improvement to meet their standards. He addressed other areas, including the way PPMS has saved money through efficient processes.
“Having the documentation allows our training to be quicker. Rather than tying up people to do full-on training, it allows us to direct them to areas where they can do self-training and learning,” Schumacher said.
Watkins spoke about how PPMS became integrated into his company as part of routine operations. He said PPMS can be intimidating, but needs to be seen as a tool rather than your boss. “It allows you to look at your company in terms of improvement.”
He also said PPMS certification will bring accountability to everything you say you’re supposed to be doing as a company. “It allows you to track consumer complaints and address them, and it sets a framework for accurate documentation to add accountability to your company.”
Headly added a perspective from her time as an employee.
“PPMS is across all aspects of your company. It isn’t just in compliance or just in quality assurance. The idea is that it touches over everything such as IT, customer service, collectors, janitorial, accounting, everything.” She also said PPMS certification helps open up communication throughout the organization by providing consistency for solving issues and writing policy.
First Time Implementation Tips
Another popular subject for the Q&A was how to implement first-time PPMS certification. The Hub on the ACA website was frequently mentioned as a great resource for learning about the program and getting questions answered.
Watkins spoke about the importance of having a project manager in charge of setting up a time table for the certification process.
“If possible, check to see if you have a budget available to hire people to do all of the technical writing,” he said. “If not, try to form a team to help with the documentation progress.”
Schumacher underlined the importance of picking auditors with “exceptional attention to detail.”
All members of the panel heavily stressed the importance of staggering the auditing process throughout the year so it is not overwhelming.
There are 18 elements in the auditing process, so it is best to attack each one individually throughout the year. Watkins suggests tackling two elements a month over nine months, giving the team a three-month break period before the next audit.
Hanson suggests picking a date for submission that is convenient for your company as it will become the date for annual renewal. It is best to pick a time of the year when things are slower and it is okay to pull people from their desks to prepare for submission. She gave an example of how her company chose the month of June because it was a time when phone traffic was slower. This also enabled her company to be PPMS certified prior to any conferences they were going to attend in July.
Strategy for Smaller Businesses
Conklin shared a strategy for smaller companies that don’t have as many resources. At both companies where she worked, they did not have a budget to hire auditors, so they assigned department managers to oversee the auditing process for different departments. For example, the IT manager audited the training department and so on. This allowed for people unfamiliar with a department’s operations to find areas of improvement that those within the department might not realize.
What Not to Do
All members of the panel shared their past mistakes of what not to do. These included:
- Don’t get bogged down over preparing the initial documentation. People are often ready to audit before they realize it.
- Avoid waiting after the initial certification submission to start the following year’s audit. PPMS certification is an ongoing process that never really ends.
- Do not combine the implementation and auditing processes as this negates the effectiveness of the audit.
- Do not write your documentation to the “lowest common denominator.” This leaves room for interpretation relaying inaccurate information. Instead, write them in a higher education level.
Overall the Q&A proved to be very educational about the PPMS certification process.
PPMS and Optio Solutions
Visit the ACA website to learn more about PPMS certification.
PPMS certified since 2013, Optio Solutions has seen solid internal operations become even greater. Optio was founded on framework of compliance, certification, data security and collections technology that engenders a favorable ROI, brand protection and customer retention for its clients.
Contact us today to learn more about an individualized collections strategy for your organization.