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Quality Tops NACM Survey of Important Factors for Collections, Legal Services Firms

The quality of services provided by a collections or legal services firm mattered most to creditors shopping for these items.

In NACM's monthly survey for May, when asked "What factor is most important for you when engaging a collections or legal services provider?" 50.1% of respondents answered "quality of services." The "recommendation of a colleague" came in a distant second with 12.1%, and "cost" came in third with 9.1%.

The specialization of a particular collections or legal services firm tied for fourth with participants who chose "other," with each receiving 8.6% of the total. Additional response choices, like "convenience" (5.0%), "certification" (4.8%), "location" (1.3%) and "firm size" (0.4%), received less attention.

While "quality of services" was expected to be the most popular choice, respondents' definitions of what constituted high-quality services were surprisingly varied. Some defined quality in terms of a firm that's accommodating, while others cited frequent communication practices or high recovery rates. "I prefer an agency that provides service based on our preferences and wants and needs, instead of providing service based on their preferences and wants and needs," said one participant. "We have engaged several different collection agencies and it always comes back to the quality of service and how well they kept us informed of the progress of collecting on the account," said another. "We have stopped using agencies that we rarely heard from or had to continue to contact for updates."

A personal touch also goes a long way, according to several respondents. "We stayed with one account rep who was at three different firms because of the high level of customer service she provided to our company," said one participant. "Each time she went to a new firm, we went with her."

Numerous respondents noted that their decision to use a particular collections or legal services firm came down to more than just one factor. However, if there was one factor that provided a quick, valuable assessment of a potential firm's services, it was whether or not the company came recommended by a colleague. "This is a great question and to pick one is difficult. Quality of services and specialization are as important, [but] I went with recommendation," said one participant. "If someone else has had a good experience with a firm, I believe I can trust them as well."

Certifications also provided respondents with other shortcuts to finding the right collections or legal services firm, especially a firm or service's affiliation with NACM. "I use NACM's collection department exclusively because I know they are honest and ethical," said one participant. "It also doesn't hurt that their fees are usually less than other collection firms."

For more information on NACM affiliate collection services, click here.

- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer