Best Practice And Uniqueness: Finding The Sweet Spot In Debt Collection

Some of our more avid readers, will know that we get our inspiration for our blogs from all manner of places. It could be clients, suppliers, peers, colleagues, partners, things we have read online amongst the plethora of content that all of us are subjected to as soon as we get online, or things we have seen out in the community. This time however, our inspiration has come from much closer to home, and it has to do with how we decide upon our approach.

Naturally, we feel obliged to tell you that our approach to our work has been the result of several evolutions over time. For instance, our very first exposure to debt collection was only made possible by the kind of supervision from a more experienced debt collector that would be more akin to a guardian attentively watching over a new-born baby for fear of anything going wrong. Back then of course, this was completely necessary.

But what it also meant, was that we did not really have “an approach.” All we were doing was imitating somebody else’s approach. That was not a problem either. From a contextual point of view, the approach we were being shown how to use back then was completely appropriate and effective for the context in which it was occurring. In addition to that, it also gave us a platform for us to start becoming more independent and confident too.

However, and to continue with the baby analogy, as the baby grows up and becomes more able and competent, the guardian sees less of a need to watch over it so closely. As with us this created the environment needed for us to start developing, very incrementally of course, our own approach. Knowing through the previous experiences of our mentors what had worked well but also making use of the newfound information which was being given to us through our own direct experience, the journey begun.

To be a bit more specific at this stage, what we learned back then were some basic things. An invoice was a legal document which one business sent another business to make a claim for payment of some services or products that had been, or were due to be, delivered to them. Invoices detailed on it when the payment was expected (which we now call ‘payment terms’), and fundamentally, that although an invoice was a legal document, it did not automatically cause payment to happen.

Hence, why we were needed. We were required to call our company’s customers and ask / remind them to pay for their invoices. Even down to who to speak to and how to ask to speak to them people at the time were a learning curve. What we also learned was that it was not even as simple as making a phone call sometimes. There were times we had to deal with disputes and excuses for not paying, and the first time our mentor tried to explain what a credit note was, well...mind..blown.

So, at this stage, we're starting to establish a few fundamental ideas about what is important when it comes to debt collection. Namely, not everybody pays when they should so they need reminding, some people will put a bit more effort in to not paying so they require a bit more of an organised approach to ensure they be pinned down to a commitment to pay and it is important that an invoice only charges for work that is legitimately payable, otherwise it will be disputed, and payment held up.

Then came another level some years later: A different industry, a different context. Whereas the first industry that gave us our exposure to debt collection worked on the basis that if an account were overdue, it could be put on “STOP”, which would prevent the customer from purchasing anymore goods or services from us as a company, the next industry was quite different and putting an account on STOP would have been considered commercial insanity.

Enter, new mentors and new skills. The shift from a very transactional operating model to a much more relationship orientated approach was well and truly underway. Did the fundamentals still ring true? Yes, they did. There were still some customers that paid on time, some that did not and plenty of invoices not being paid because of disputes. But we were starting to realise was that the strength of the relationship that existed between a credit controller and the corresponding accounts payable person on the other side mattered, quite a lot.

This relationship would regularly prove to be the difference between whether our invoices would end up on tomorrow’s payment run or must wait another month as there is no time to get it processed. Or whether, our company’s response to their dispute had been reviewed by their buyer and it warranted approval ready for payment. The many different cogs that made up the whole purchase to pay machine was starting to become very apparent and we used it to our advantage.

Then came our venture into self-employment when JSP Credit Management was born in April 2021. The new challenge here was understanding that this time we would not be limited by contextual factors as there were no limits to the industries that we might find ourselves working in, except for the fact that some industries only tend to operate on an upfront payment basis only that is. So, the question was, how are we going to find a way to incorporate all that has been learned before to apply it here?

Today, the fundamentals we have mentioned have remained the same. We suspect all operators within the industry will agree on that. However, our own uniqueness has been crafted through our own values as a business and those values were born through our experiences of things which felt important to us in our careers. Without these values as our guide, we might revert to square one and start imitating other people again, which is not as easily done as when you are employed.

But that has not been necessary, and they have affirmed for us what we are doing and why we are doing it. For example, our interest in supporting vulnerable customers is likely to mean that our debt collection process is longer than that of some other companies that work in the industry. Equally, our commitment to diversity has resulted in a need to create standard operating procedures within the company to give everyone the tools to get the most out of their role.

This approach also affects who we work for. For example, we are also interested in sustainability and as a company we are mindful of the carbon footprint of those other companies that we work with. We are not professing to be a standard bearer on that front, but the point is, these are the kind of factors that make us unique whilst also retaining some of the fundamental principles that we have seen repeatedly result in best practice in the debt collection industry.

What is your experience of moulding your own unique approach to debt collection? How much inspiration have you taken from others? We would be delighted to carry on the conversation with you. If you want to discuss anything else credit management related, also get in touch, our number is +44(0)1827 66820 or

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