Collector - June 2020 - 25
interfaces and skiptracing services, to name
a few. Anticipate how they will integrate with
the new system and get them involved in the
process. Establish early on whether current
vendors will be able to work well with your
new system or if changes are needed.
Data conversion can be the most
challenging aspect of a system transition.
Agencies often find existing vendors aren't
eager to help them move to a competitor. If
the vendor contract doesn't clearly spell out
the agency's ability to remove their data, it
may come at a significant expense.
"If I go to a bank and get a lock box for my
valuables, I don't later have to give the bank
$5,000 to take them out," Dharmaraja said.
"That's what companies often have to do to
get their data out."
Upon getting the data, the new vendor
needs a map explaining what each field
represents-name, address, balance, payment
history, etc. Again, existing software vendors
may expect a fee to provide a data map.
"Before signing a software agreement,
ensure that it specifies you're entitled to your
data if you ever decide to leave," Dharmaraja
said. "It's reasonable to pay an administrative
cost for a couple hours of work to transmit
the data from point A to point B or to
explain something to the new software
vendor, but that's all."
Fortunately for PDQ, the company's
proprietary software meant it had access
to all its data when implementing a new
platform in April 2019. However, the
conversion was not without some challenges.
"We had 25 years of data," Trunk said. "We
brought all of it over, which caused some
challenges. In retrospect, we really needed only
the past seven to 10 years of data, which would
have been more efficient than converting 25
years of records and documents."
In preparation for the system conversion,
employees need to be trained on the new
platform and, once up and running, monitored
to ensure they are using it properly. Change is
difficult, so collectors may be tempted to rely
on old habits, routines and processes.
"Make sure everyone who will be using the
system is truly working in the new platform
in the first week, when the software vendor is
on-site," Trunk said. "Don't be afraid to get in
there and mess things up. I needed my team
to get in there and find where we needed to
make adjustments in real time."
Dharmaraja recommends agencies rely on
the 80/20 rule when first making the leap to
a new system.
"Only 20% of the things you do make up
80% of your results," he said. "Make darn
sure those things are working before you
move to the new system. If you do that,
you'll be successful."
Immediately increasing revenue on a
new system is possible, but agencies must be
willing to push themselves and try new things,
which is often difficult. Part of the reason for a
software transition is usually to add capabilities
for things like emailing and texting.
"First make sure you can do
everything you did on the old system
and then add some things you couldn't
do previously," Dharmaraja said.
"Automate a little more, save someone's
time. Don't do too much, but turn
on some new things so you can add
productivity, efficiency and service levels."
Having spent a year from research to
implementation and another year using a new
system, Trunk offers several pieces of advice
to agencies considering a system change:
* Talk to other agencies, share best
practices and help each other.
* Know your pain points and what you're
trying to accomplish and improve.
* Think about your integrations, such
as your accounting software, letter
service, skiptracing vendors and dialer
throughout the process and be prepared
to switch providers if needed.
* Keep morale high. Find a cheerleader
in the office who will be excited and
energetic to help lead the transition.
Her last piece of advice? When going
live, have coffee ready. You'll have some
long days and will be moving around a lot
to help collectors adjust. The caffeine will
come in handy.
Tim Dressen is a communications
consultant and former editor of
Selecting the right collection
software vendor is essential,
and thorough preparation can
make the transition smoother.
Change is hard, but
necessary for better
results. Find a cheerleader
in the office to help lead the
Choose software that will
meet your company's
needs now and as technology
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