The vital role played by debt collection agencies in expediting accounts receivable is common knowledge to most business people, but very few understand the client onboarding process or the complexities needed to make a new collection campaign go live.
Directed by agencies, the implementation of a successful collection program is the result of a cooperative effort between agencies and national clients that can take four-to-six weeks to plan and test.
The timeline includes designating key team representatives, confirming expectations and requirements, scheduling meetings, planning operations strategies, programming software, training team members, coordinating reports, establishing a file transmission protocol and more. The ideal implementation begins with the assignment of a project manager, and culminates at the end of week four with final testing of all systems.
The client onboarding process hits the ground running during week one. After debt collection agencies are awarded a new contract, they designate a project manager who is responsible for coordinating communication with new clients, ensuring that all client requirements have been identified, finding solutions to problems when they arise, and more.
Project managers also help coordinate the finalization of written agreements and negotiation of redlined items requested by clients. They also work with clients and their information systems (IS) teams to obtain file layouts, report templates, contact protocols and any other client requirements.
One of a project manager’s first steps is to coordinate the scheduling of meetings between agencies and clients, establish a list of appropriate meeting attendees, and exchange contact lists. Client meetings are generally scheduled weekly during the first three weeks of onboarding, and daily or every other day toward the end of the process and after go-live. Internal agency meetings are also scheduled on an ongoing basis, including after go-live.
Next, the parties discuss operational needs to better understand expectations and requirements. Considerations include:
Defining the conditions of first- and or third-party representation
- What is the status of the debt being collected? (delinquent, default, charge off or outside the statute of limitations)
- Are agencies adding fees and or interest to the debt? (If yes, are the additions authorized by contract or law?)
- What is the basis of the debt obligation? (written or oral contract, no contract, open or revolving account)
- Are collection notices required?
- What name shall be printed on notices? (client or agency)
- Has a client received prior express consent (PEC) from individual consumers?
- What are the call recording and retention requirements?
Defining the approach to payments and settlements
- What is the expected collection rate?
- What is the remittance method and frequency, and will invoicing be gross or net?
- Are agencies permitted to charge insufficient funds or payment convenience fees?
Defining the reports required of debt collection agencies
- Is special reporting needed?
- What is the frequency of reports?
- What type of software are clients using?
- If credit reporting is being done, who is responsible?
These factors enable agencies to begin the process of programming their advanced receivables management software.
Programming on the client side is also conducted as necessary, including the secure file transfer protocol (sftp) that transmits data files between parties.
The second week generally begins with agencies creating individualized operations strategies for new clients and internal training modules that control tasks such as workflows, scrubs and compliant calling campaigns.
Debt collection agencies also discuss client expectations regarding compliance and quality assurance, and review client scorecards and measurement tools.
Next, agencies begin the approval process of any specialized client collection letters and develop call scripts for phone campaigns.
A meeting is held with clients to discuss progress, get clarification on any outstanding issues, and provide IS updates on how programming is progressing.
Agencies begin week three of the client onboarding process by finalizing any specialized collection letters, call scripts and the training module with further discussion of the operations strategy.
They also create test files and provide clients with a roster of team members, if requested.
A weekly meeting is held with clients to discuss progress, get clarification on any outstanding items, and review programming updates as well as the projected timeline based on progress to date.
In addition, agencies may test file movement and transmission protocols using sample files.
Week four of the client onboarding process generally includes a meeting to discuss implementation as well as the testing of all files. Agencies and clients also establish a “go-live” date.
Furthermore, debt collection agencies will review all processes, collection letters, call scripts, reports and training to ensure all systems are in working order for go-live date.
Glitches in any of the processes mentioned above could delay the go-live date by a week or two.
The Client Onboarding Process in Summary
Onboarding new national clients is a complex process that requires proper planning, implementation, execution and creative solutions to challenges large or small.
Best-in-class debt collection agencies such as Optio Solutions practice due diligence in all areas of implementation to establish compliant operations for national clients that generate a favorable return on investment, continued brand protection, and customer retention.
The Optio onboarding team includes a member of the Client Relations team who works in concert with the vice president of Operations, the IS team, and other key individuals to provide a smooth onboarding process for all new clients.
Contact us today to learn how our framework of financial services experience, compliance, certification, collection technology and data security can help your organization.