Collector - October 2017 - 16
"We're not going to give
out all of our secrets, but
we point other agencies
in the right direction. We
work well with others
and that pays off."
Extending an olive branch to direct
competitors didn't always come easily for
State Collection Service executives. In
fact, it took a nudge from a client to get
the ball rolling.
"We had one client who brought in a
new vendor a few years ago, and the client
reached out to us and said, 'Hey, this new
competitor has the same system [that you
have]. We like the way your reporting
works-would you be willing to tell them
how you do that?' " Haag recalled. "You
scratch your head and think, 'It's nice the
client likes our process, but how does sharing
it benefit us?' "
Ultimately, State Collection Service's
leaders decided that being recognized as an
expert and helping their client's business
succeed trumped their desire to keep
competing agencies at arms-length.
"Now we do that often," Haag said. "We're
not going to give out all of our secrets,
but we point other agencies in the right
direction. We work well with others and that
pays off. We know that if we needed their
help down the road, they would extend the
same courtesy to us."
Clients usually appreciate agencies that
embrace this spirit of cooperation, especially
if they have several new policies to explain
to their stable of third-party collection
agencies. Why waste an afternoon on
multiple cookie-cutter conversations when
you can gather everyone together for a single
Pam Kirchner, CEO and an owner of BCA
Financial Services in Miami, said this exact
situation is what initially inspired her to tell
her clients that she was open to working with
other collection agencies.
"We had a client who was going to do an
alphabetic split of its patient list between its
agencies, but it wanted all the statements
to look the same because one person could
theoretically get a statement from each
agency," Kirchner said. "We ended up just
saying to the client, 'Listen, there's no reason
for you to have this conversation over and
over. We can all meet together.'"
These joint meetings also ensure
agencies hear the same message at the
same time, putting them on an equal
Even if there are no new processes to
announce, regular meetings or conference
calls with a client and its collection agencies
can be productive.
"We really try to promote monthly group
update calls with any clients that aren't
already doing it," Haag said. "We tell them,
'We have nothing to hide, and it just makes
sense to talk through an issue together.'"
Not all clients will be supportive
of collaboration between their thirdparty collection agencies. If your clients
frown upon it, there are still plenty of
opportunities for you to make connections
with peers. Many valuable relationships
start organically at industry events,
like trade association conferences and
meetings. Go beyond cocktail party
chatter and get to know the company
leaders. Do you share similar corporate
cultures and values? Would you trust this
person enough to discuss the hurdles your
business is facing?
Kirchner said she prefers to establish
relationships with agencies that are
involved with ACA International. "We
know the people who are involved in
ACA-we know the type of businesses
that they run," she said.
WHAT SHOULD YOU SHARE?
These relationships aren't just to swap
tall-tales or grumble about crazy client
requests, they are opportunities to share
knowledge and grow your business.
Developing relationships with agencies
that have common issues and understand
your challenges is a powerful way to inject
new life into your approach to a problem.
From the client's perspective, it also makes
you easier to work with. When you talk
through issues with other agencies in these
informal business intelligence groups, you
put yourself in a position to educate clients
and provide more than just the service they
are paying you for.