YOUR ARMor
The UCS Newsletter, providing accounts receivable management and debt collection insights. 
With the commitment to maintaining  the important balance between  
                                    
Results and Relationships.
                                                                                         Vol. 3 issue 1
 
 
 
 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE IMPORTANCE OF A WELL WRITTEN FINANCIAL AGREEMENT

UNDERSTANDING CLIENT ACCESS

CREDIT AND THE CREDIT BUREAU

FUN FACTS
 
 
 
 
Gratitude
 
 
 
 
Kim,
    You have been great to work with on this unfortunate issue. 
    Thank you so much for you kindness.
     Please apply this check to reference # XXXXXXXXX
   Thanks so much,
              a consumer
Hi,
    Just want to let you know I appreciate you calling me today to remind me.  I usually think of it around the 15th each month when I try to pay.
     I also appreciate you working with me on this debt.  Call me with any questions, XXX-XXX-XXXX. 
     Thanks again,
      Sincerely,
           a consumer

Hi Shirley,

thank you for alwaystreating me with respect when you would call.  I'm sure you're their #1 collection person.  Could you please send me the paid in full letter for both accounts. 
     Sincerely,
          a consumer


Thank you--I am doing my best to pay this off.   What is my balance, please?
            a consumer

I want to thank Krys for being so polite and helpful.  She is an asset to your company.
          Sincerely,
               a consumer
 
 
 
 
Babies first communicate by crying. But as they get older this type of communication isn't very effective, so when they reach between 12-18 months their necks elongate. This lengthening of their airway leads to enhanced speech production and a greater propensity for choking.  What this means is the ability to communicate effectively, in this case through speech, is so important to a baby's development, it is worth the risk of the unfortunate side effect--choking!

Effective communication skills are vital in the workplace as well.  Communication is defined as the successful conveying or sharing of information, ideas, thoughts, and feelings.  It is the cornerstone to success in both our personal and professional lives, but communication is not as simple as it sounds, I think George Bernard Shaw said it best with this quote, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place."

There are many ways to communicate:

  • Verbal Communications: face-to-face conversations, telephone calls, radio, and televised communications.​
  • Non-Verbal Communications: posture, gestures, eye contact, and other body language. Non-verbal communications can also include clothing choices, hair styles, and fragrance selections.​
  • Written Communications​: letters, emails, texts, memos, reports, magazines, books, and blogs.​
  • Visualizations:  maps, logos, graphics, charts, and images.

In the high-tech world where we live and work, these various ways to communicate can take place through many different modes including: snail mail, emails, telephone calls, cell phone calls, texts, video conferencing, written reports, electronic reports, websites, and the list goes on and on.  

Since every individual has their own preferred method and mode of communicating, the more ways we offer, the more opportunities we create to effectively communicate with both clients and consumers.

In my industry, a cohesive relationship between client, collector, and consumer is critical to the success of the collection process.  It's never enough to just share or convey information, you must also understand the emotions that often surround them--especially when collecting debt.  To communicate effectively you must have the skills necessary to convey difficult or hard-to-hear messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.  This takes a combination of skills that utilize a lot of active listening and the ability to recognize and control your own emotional response.

These skills don't come naturally to many people, but with the right training and practice, effective communications can create an atmosphere where strong negative emotions are calmed, information is clarified, ideas are expresses, and problems are solved.

Best regards,


 
 
 
 
 
The Importance of a Well Written Financial Agreement

There are two things you can count on when there are consumer to business, or business to business transactions: number 1, there are going to be expectations—on both sides—as to what this transaction looks like, and number 2, money is going to change hands.  In order for this relationship or transaction to be successful, the two parties must have a meeting of the minds (preferably upfront) of each party’s expectations and responsibilities. In the case of a simple transaction like the purchase of a cup of coffee—it’s a no brainer: One party is supplying the coffee, the other is paying the agreed upon price for it.  But not all transactions are simple, some get pretty complex, that’s where business transaction agreements and financial agreements come into play. By putting everything in writing, a lot of misunderstandings can be avoided.

In the case of a business transaction agreement, you will want to describe exactly what each party will receive as a result of the transaction—the more specific you get describing products or services provided the better. It’s also a good idea to have a section dedicated to defining terms: what does “default” mean to you? Does “delivery” mean, to outside the building or inside up three flights of stairs? You get the drift, the more specific you get, the less chance you have for misunderstandings.   You will also want to have a section dedicated to the exact cost and payment terms of the transaction and what will happen if the terms are not met.

In the case of financial agreements, they center on the financial side of the agreement.  Let’s say you are a doctor who owns your own practice, for you, a financial agreement would be the way to go.  You are providing medical care in exchange for financial compensation.  Your financial agreement should spell out the patient’s responsibilities, what their end of the agreement looks like. It should include things like: applicable co-pays are due at time of service or patient is responsible for paying all amounts not paid for or partially covered by insurance, things like that.  It is also a good place to request authorizations: patient authorizes release of medical information to process claims, or patient authorizes any health benefit plan(s) covering this account to pay your practice directly. You should also spell out what happens if an account goes unpaid.  Will their account be sent to a collection agency?  How many days delinquent does it have to be before it is sent to collections? If they are a no-show for an appointment, will they be charged a fee?  When you set expectations early on, there will be fewer surprises—for both sides--later.

Financial agreements not only let your patients know what is expected, they also provide your staff with a written policy of how billing and collections transpire in your practice. It lets your receptionists know they are supposed to ask for (and collect) co-pays at time of service and tells the billing department when to send delinquent accounts over to collections. 

You can find lots of articles online that explain how to write your own agreement, but use caution if you decide to go this route. Having a written—and signed—financial agreement in place will not only set expectations for patients and employees it can also be used in court to support the rights and responsibilities of both parties in the transaction. That’s why it is important to have a lawyer review your agreement before it is used in court.  Sometimes legalese sounds one way to us, but is interpreted much differently in a court room.
 
Oftentimes we see clients include a statement that refers to the patient being subject to a finance charge of up to 17 % APR if the account is 60 or more days overdue.  Sound good to you?  The thing is, the term “finance charge” has a legal definition found in the Consumer Act. It means that the creditor is collecting the interest, or other money, as a condition of an extension of credit.  The term “finance charge” is defined to be more than mere interest.  It can include any additional charges imposed when payment is deferred, including the billing charges in the agreement. Since it is such a loaded term it should not be used unless a consumer credit transaction is clearly what the creditor wants.

The imposition of attorney’s fees is strictly forbidden in consumer credit transactions, but may be added on other types of agreements.

Consumer credit transactions are subject to strict disclosure, format and pleading requirements that are quite lengthy and detailed. A technical violation of any of them could result in the creditor not only not being able to collect its account, but they could also be subject to penalties that would include paying the consumer’s attorney’s fees. 

I bet you never thought the statement referring to a “finance charge” would open up such a huge can-of-worms.

We have a network of attorneys who are very knowledgeable in the field of creditors’ rights and remedies.  If you have any questions regarding the financial agreement you are currently using, email it to us and we will have it reviewed for you—free of charge—no strings attached. 

A thought out, well written business transaction or financial agreement can go a long way to help a business or practice prosper.  
 
 
 
 
 
Understanding Client Access



There are many ways we communicate with clients. Today we are going to talk about our client access portal. Client access is your online link to valuable information such as: new listing acknowledgments, reports, and monthly collection statements.  The portal is located within our website so you can access your information anytime it is convenient for you--24/7.  

Our secure client access portal is easy to use, just go to our website: www.unitedcreditservice.com and click on the Client Login tab on the bar below our name.  Your user ID is easy to remember because it's your email address.  The first time you access the site you must use the temporary password given to you.  Upon entrance, you will be asked to create your own permanent password. You will then be allowed access to your reports and other valuable information quickly, efficiently, and securely.  If you would like more than one person in your organization to have access to this secure portal, we would need their name(s) and unique email address(es) in order to set them up as an approved use. Please note, there can only be one user per email address.

The more you use client access, the easier it will be to navigate.  If you have any difficulties, please call our help desk at 262-741-1641 and someone will assist you.

We are committed to providing our business partners with the highest level of client service possible. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please contact us! 
 
 
 
 
 
Credit and the Credit Bureau
by Jim Cox

There is a great deal of controversy and several lawsuits pertaining to FCRA law and the reporting and maintenance of data by data furnishers, such as collection agencies. As a collection agency that routinely furnishes data to the three major credit rating agencies (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax) we take our role in this process very seriously. We believe our data to be true and correct when it is furnished and placed into consumers’ files and reported to lenders. However, this does not mean that there are not instances were errors are made in the process.

At United Credit Service, Inc., we believe in the accuracy and integrity of consumer information reporting. We have policies and procedures in place so that we can be confident that our information is being correctly reported, and in most all cases, upon investigation it is.

Quite often we receive correspondence from consumers, and occasionally consumer attorneys, disputing the information we have furnished to the credit bureau. Along with the dispute, we usually get a threat of legal action should we not take immediate action to delete the disputed information from the consumer’s file, or provide proof of the debt which we are reporting. In many cases, this correspondence is received after the consumer has undertaken the dispute resolution process of the credit bureau that houses and reports the information to credit grantors.

This dispute resolution process includes what is called (ACDV) Automated Consumer Dispute Verification, which is triggered at the time a consumer files a dispute of a debt with the credit bureau. The consumer can dispute the debt for a number of reasons, a few of the more common reasons we see are: “The debt is not mine” and “The debt is paid”. Upon a consumer dispute being filed at the credit bureau that debt is “frozen” and cannot be updated until the dispute is responded to by the furnisher of information or 30 days has elapsed. The data furnisher has a 30 day period to do a diligent investigation of the dispute and make a report back to the credit bureau as to the status. If that 30 day period lapses with no response by the data furnisher the credit bureau is required to delete the debt from the consumer’s file.

The process of receiving, making updates to credit records and responses to consumer disputes is done thru a web based entity known as e-OSCAR (Online Solution for Complete and Accurate Reporting), which is a browser based Metro2 complaint system developed by the credit rating agencies as an online solution for data furnishers to process Automated Consumer Dispute Verifications (ACDVs) as well as Automated Universal Data forms (AUDs). AUDs are necessary when the data furnisher finds it necessary to update a credit record quicker than the regular activity reporting cycle process, usually incorporated with the data furnishers’ monthly collection remittance process. A for instance would be where it is necessary to have a record reflected as “paid” so the consumer information is being reported correctly to a lender. In some instances a lender requires this in order to make a favorable lending decision. We may also find a debt being reported in the wrong consumer record and would want this to be corrected as quickly as possible when we become aware of this situation.

Getting back to the ACDV process, the data furnisher will do their investigation as to the disputed debt and make a report back through the e-OSCAR system. This report will update all three bureaus that house and report this data to lenders. It’s not instantaneous, but the process works well to insure that credit records are being reported accurately and updated timely. E-OSCAR is not available to anyone other than registered data furnishers, therefore a consumer cannot access their credit file to make any changes to information contained therein (for obvious reasons). Only the data furnisher and the credit bureaus have the ability to change/update/delete data from a file. In order for the data furnisher to make an accurate response to a dispute the information and circumstances would be analyzed by the data furnisher to make a decision on a response. This may entail contacting the original creditor to verify their information obtained at the time the debt was originated. Information, such as: address, names, birthdates, Social Security numbers (where legally allowed) would be compared to that of the consumer who has made the dispute. In the case where a dispute is based on the debt being paid, the creditor would be asked to verify if their records reflect receipt of payment. The data furnisher will then respond to the ACDV when the investigation has concluded and information has been verified. Again, the process allows for a 30 day response period, but we try to respond as quickly as possible and usually within 5-7 business days.

It is important for consumers to know what is contained in their credit records and to limit the derogatory information. To this end, the consumer should periodically check their credit record and question any unknown information. This is not to say dispute everything, but investigate and communicate with the data furnishers, whomever they may be, to determine where a problem may exist with the information. Not all data furnishers are collection agencies, some are mortgage lenders, credit card companies, retailers, and utility providers to name the most prevalent. Payment habits of the consumer go a long way in establishing a good credit record and reputation, whereby a lender would be confident in a positive lending decision, and at a reasonable interest rate.

 
 
 
 
 
Fun Facts

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies and concluded that 93% of all daily communications are non-verbal.

According to an Infographic by Get In Front Communications:

  • We listen at the rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1000-3000 words per minute.

  • 55% of the meaning in our words is derived from facial expressions, 38% in how the words are said, and 7% in the actual words spoken.

  • Words are processed in short term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information at a time. (That's why there are only 7 digits in our phone numbers) and images go right into our long term memory.

  • There are 193,000 texts every second.




 
 
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