Choosing a B2B Collection Agency?
Originally published: January 2013
Your Agency MUST be a CCAA Member!
Did you know that there are more than 7,000 debt collection agencies in the United States?
That’s right. And most of them will tell you they can handle commercial (business-to-business) collection accounts. But do you want your accounts merely “handled” or do you want the best results available. It's like dropping your Lexus off at the corner gas station and hearing, "Sure. We work on all kinds of cars. We'll see what we can do."
The fact is commercial and consumer collections are two very different animals.
And, regardless of what they promise, the bulk of those 7,000 collection agencies have little, if any, experience in collecting from businesses.
What is the difference between consumer and commercial debt collection?
Commercial debt collection, in general, is much more complex than the consumer variety.
Most companies selling directly to consumers do not have a personal relationship with each of their buyers. They deal in large numbers, with customers often numbering in the thousands or even millions. Think grocery stores, department stores like Macys, and online shops like Amazon.
These sellers primarily generate business through advertising -- in newspapers, online, on TV, via mailed or emailed special offers. Sure, all that advertising is expensive, but given the numbers they deal with, the expense of winning an individual customer is relatively low.
And, how are consumer sales usually paid? By credit card, debit card, check, or cash. If one of these customers doesn’t pay, it’s often a matter of a relatively small dollar amount. If you lose their business, there are hundreds of other paying customers to make up for the loss.
By comparison, business-to-business (B2B) firms, generally have fewer customers. These customers have often been obtained by a relatively long and complex sales process which involves developing a rapport and building a relationship with the buyer. In short, securing a buyer is a long and costly process. B2B companies invest a lot of effort and resources into a sale; all of which amounts to time and expense they cannot afford to waste.
A single B2B sale often represents a significantly higher cash value than a sale to a consumer. If the business customer doesn’t pay, making up the loss with additional sales can be a challenge.
In addition to recovering the payment, the collection account must be managed in a way that, if possible, doesn’t jeopardize future business from that customer. Unlike consumer sales, there isn’t a crowd waiting to take up the slack. It’s much too costly and time intensive to obtain another customer. This kind of output is better spent in growing new business, not trying to replace business lost.
The difference between consumer and B2B sales, and the customer bases involved, requires a separate set of collection skills, knowledge and experience. Simply said, consumer agencies are not equipped to be effective with B2B accounts, nor should they be expected to be. Commercial collection agencies are, however. It’s their stock and trade. So, why wouldn’t you select an experienced commercial collection firm for your B2B accounts?
This is where CCAA membership comes in. It helps define and identify the best of the commercial collection agencies available.
What is the CCAA?
The CCAA (Commercial Collection Agency Association) was established in 1972 to improve the quality and the reputation of the commercial (B2B) collection industry. It is part of the oldest creditors’ rights organization in the U.S., the CLLA (Commercial Law League of America). The CLLA is well-respected organization of attorneys and other experts in credit, finance, cmmercial, bankruptcy and insolvency law that has been serving the industry for 118 years.
The CCAA works to elevate the commercial collections industry by providing educational, legislative, promotional and administrative services to its members. Its central focus is the creditor. The organization works to ensure that its member collection agencies provide commercial creditors with the highest level of professional services and ethical treatment to creditor and debtor alike.
Membership and Certification Requirements
Membership in the CCAA is limited to commercial agencies that meet the organization’s rigorous criteria, including:
- Experience: member agencies must have been in business at least four years prior to application for membership. A minimum of 80% of the agency’s collection business must be commercial account collections.
- Financial Responsibility: members must maintain a separate Trust Account to hold all monies belonging to its clients (creditors), thus keeping them from being mixed with the agencies’ own accounts. Trust accounts are analyzed twice per year by the Executive Director of the CCAA.
- Ethics: members are required to subscribe to the CCAA Code of Ethics, which sets ethical standards for dealing with customers, debtors and attorneys. Failure to adhere to those standards can cost the agency its certification. A surety bond of $300,000 minimum is required. The member must comply with all applicable local and state regulations.
- Continuing Education: members must complete 60 continuing education credits per year and attend regular CCAA meetings.
- Oversight: members must allow random site visits from the CCAA Executive Director.
CCAA Code of Ethics
The CCAA Code of Ethics is divided into four sections, requiring that a member maintain ethical conduct in: (1) general conduct; (2) relations with creditors; (3) relations with debtors; and (4) relations with attorneys.
A few key requirements in relation to creditors (the CCAA members’ clients) include:
- Promptly complying with the instructions given by the creditor, or providing a reason for not doing so and requesting further instructions from the creditor/client.
- Clearly and accurately identifying all charges to the creditor.
- Accounting in writing and remitting all monies received during the previous 30 days. Payments can be deferred an additional 30 days if the amount due is less than $100 and the creditor agrees.
Some key requirements relating to dealing with debtors include:
- Avoiding deceptive practices, statements or materials and debtor harassment in any form.
- Refraining from threatening to damage a debtor's credit reputation by notifying other vendors and financial institutions that deal with the debtor.
The requirements of CCAA membership and CLLA certification are specific and stringent. They are designed to ensure that a member agency is not only experienced in the area of B2B debt collection, but also ethical and trustworthy. This distinction is significant when it comes time for you to select the right commercial collection agency for your past due accounts.
Remember those 7,000+ debt collection agencies in the United States? As of 1/14/2013, only 96 have qualified for CCAA membership and CLLA certification. Is your collection agency one of them?
If your debtors are primarily businesses and you want the highest level of collection service and results, you'll want to choose a CCAA member. You can view their membership roster by checking the Member Directory
All facts presented in this article regarding the CCAA and CLLA are taken from their respective web sites.