Past due receivables are a huge problem for 74 percent of companies in Europe, no matter their size. For businesses, who are not capable of recovering debts from their trading partners, a reasonable choice would be to use services of specialized collection agency. How to choose the right company? What to look for, in order to recover money quickly and effectively?
Professional agents have accurate internet resources that allow an easy online case referral. Case management platforms allow to start collection procedure fast and without unnecessary formality, within few hours. Excessive formalism, absence of online tools, may be indicative of technological backwardness, slower pace of work and weaker results.
Debt collection industry in Central Europe is a subject to narrow specializations. Companies recovering money from consumers (B2C), usually do that on a mass scale, focusing on, so called, portfolios, rather than individual receivables. Agents handling debts of companies (B2B), look into each referred case profoundly. Within the specialization, there is a further division into companies assisting specific industries, e.g. transportation, agriculture, installation, construction etc. The bigger degree of specialization of the agent, the better chances for successful collection. The knowledge of serviced market, practices, main “players” of the industry, distribution channels, adequate procedures and tools – these are the factors determining effectiveness of the agency. Recovering debts from a farmer in Germany is immeasurably different than the procedure of handling a claim against electrotechnical wholesaler from France.
Time. How long does it take?
It is worth to remember that as time goes by, the chances for successful recovery get drastically lower, therefore amicable actions should be performed fast and efficiently, for maximum 60-90 days. If debtor does not pay within this period, case should be referred to legal procedure almost automatically.
Who will pay for collection and how?
We need to remember, that we can claim not only the main amount, but also interests and incurred collection costs, accordingly to local and European regulations. We should verify whether selected company recovers the, so called, additional costs, because executing those from debtor may eventually result in cost-neutral procedure for creditor, which means, that debtor would cover costs incurred during the procedure. Collection agencies work on a “success fee” basis, which is a percentage of recovered amounts. The level of commission in case of collection at the expense of debtor is rather irrelevant, as debtor is the one who covers reasonable collection costs. The average amount of commission is about 15% and the precise calculation depends on the amount of debt and its age. The higher the amount and younger debt, the lower the commission.
Site collection and detective services
The visits of on-site negotiators and direct negotiations are actions that put the most pressure and motivate to make payments most effectively. Moreover, they allow to gather important information regarding debtor’s assets, which is useful during further stages of collection activities. Debtor’s details provided by creditor are often out of date or incomplete. In order to carry out activities efficiently, collection agent has to establish current contact details and information about assets (i.e. skip and asset tracing). The agency that we submit our claim to, should employ people who have detective licenses.
Access to current information
As the client, you should have a possibility to contact the agent handling your case directly and access information regarding taken actions and progress easily. Currently, internet platforms that provide on-line access to all information about the case, taken steps and their effects are a standard.
Advising on continuing collection in court
If amicable collection proves to be unsuccessful, you can usually pursue your claim in court. The agency having their own law office, specialized in handling claims in court, will be much more effective than the one that outsources cases to a third party. “Collection from A to Z under the same roof” is a feature of a good company. Professional agent always advises what and when it should be done in a specific case. The agent may recommend to stop amicable collection immediately and refer the file to the court in order to secure the claim. Sometimes, during the collection, specific circumstances are revealed, that make in-court recovery unfounded, only generating costs for creditor – this is why an agency operating comprehensively is the most reasonable choice.
Professional agent will also counsel on how to build contract with business partners, in order to secure receivables from loss, or how to secure risky operations.
Debt collection is a field that requires good understanding of many areas: not only the local law, but also economics, banking, communication, psychology, logistics, modern technologies like fintech. It cannot be the knowledge gained during university education, practice is crucial. Many years of experience validates company’s competencies. European collection agencies with long-term experience have developed effective working methods. Bear in mind, however, that collection company, recovering the claims on behalf of the creditor, becomes his proxy. Agent’s actions have direct influence on creditor’s reputation.
Ethical collection without burning bridges
Debt collectors should abide by the rules of law, ethical norms and principles of community life. Applying good practices indicates professionalism of debt collection agency and makes it trustworthy for both creditor and debtor. European organisations such as PZZW, FENCA, European Collectors Association require their members uncompromisingly to apply specific ethical codes and best practice. For a client, it is a guarantee that the agency would recover liabilities in an ethical way, without an interference in future business relationship with current debtor, who is a business partner as well, after all. This is a debt collection model “without burning bridges”.
It is worth to familiarize with references (not older than a year) and current opinions on debt collection agencies given by their clients. We can ask business partners for advice. If they have used this kind of services, they would surely provide us with valuable advice. There is nothing that would be more convincing than a recommendation from trusted colleagues. Membership in industry organisations such as PZZW and the certificates obtained from them is another proof of agency’s credibility.