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Blog Negotiating payments cost-effectively

Negotiating payments cost-effectively

Negotiating payments cost-effectively

Make sure your billing department has a clear strategic plan in place for negotiating payments.  Having payment option guidelines and rules established is necessary. Make sure your criteria is easy to understand and implement. Remember each situation is different and should be handled individually.

When you finally reach the patient/customer you want to make sure you are ready to evaluate their situation fairly to reach an arrangement that they could afford while maximizing the payment amount and shorten the terms of the arrangement. The goal is to work within their means and determine the difference between wanting to pay and ability to pay.

Next edition topic: Knowing the difference between a payer and a delayer

There are situations where your patient/customer has the means to pay but doesn’t want to adjust their lifestyle that will allow them to meet their current financial obligations.   Your teams have to be able to identify the difference.

In order to accomplish that, you will need to gather information on the patient/customer’s situation and to use your organization’s standard criteria to set the limits of the payment arrangement.  Similar to a sliding scale financial assistance program, which is based on income, your organization’s standard criteria for collections should be based more on the patient’s individual circumstance.

One of the most cost-effective advantages is knowing when to send an account to collections. Remember the following adage: ‘The probability of collecting an account diminishes with time’ Thus the longer you hold on to a delinquent account, the less likely it will be collected.

Your collection agency has the resources, experience, and time, to handle difficult, aged, or long-term payment arrangement accounts. These are the types of accounts your billing department should consider assigning to an agency. By doing this, your billing department will have the necessary time to collect the majority of those slightly past due accounts that need their close personal attention.

Upcoming related article: When should you assign an account to collections?

Knowing when to say ‘when’ can be tough. But working with your collection agency can make that determination a whole lot easier.

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Blog Tips for making collection calls

Tips for making collection calls

 

  1. Create a call script and include a list of excuses you get regularly with effective replies. Brainstorm with team members and/or staff. Log the excuses with their responses in a spreadsheet or binder and/or include them in your computer scripting. Make sure to group and index them for easy access. Next time you receive an excuse from a customer/patient you will have a ready response letting you control the call.

 

  1. Use validation to control the situation. After an objection or excuse, say, “I can understand why you feel that way” or “I can certainly see how something like that might happen.” Validating what the customer/patient has to say maintains open lines of communication. Understanding their point of view, even as you share yours, will disarm the customer/patient’s defensiveness.

 

  1. Make sure to have the account information available and know the situation before you call. If you have access to invoices or itemized statements make sure to have that information available. The last thing you want to do is let the customer/patient take control of the call.

 

  1. Focus on the conversation and control the call. Keep the end goal in mind and bring them right back to the point of your call – getting the payment.

 

  1. Keep detailed notes of each call. Ask open-ended questions. If they give you information, ask for more details.

 

If they say I can’t talk I’m running late for work, ask where they work or if they still work at ABC Company.

 

Banking information is critical, yet many customer/patients may not want to share it. Instead of coming straight out and asking, “Where is your account?” Try “Will you be sending a check or a money order?” He will usually say “a check.” You can then respond, “Okay, to make sure we apply it correctly, what is the bank name?”

 

  1. Don’t forget the effectiveness of silence. Count slowly to five before responding to a customer/patient’s statement or comment. Also, wait several seconds after asking a question. Leaving blank spaces in the conversation compels the customer/patient to fill them in. This will help you get information. Remember, when it comes to collecting accounts, you are an information-based company. The more information you can obtain, the more successful you will be in collecting your accounts!

 

  1. Make sure to smile during your conversation. Sound strange? Actually, you can hear a smile through the phone. Let go of negative thoughts and moods before you make calls since it can come across in the conversation as negative. Remember to speak calmly with confidence. Do not rush the conversation or hesitate when speaking. Speak clearly and control your tone and pitch. Make sure to listen as well.

 

  1. Use the customer/patients name throughout the conversation. This shows respect on your part and commands their attention. Be careful not to overdo it though, or it will start to sound phony and annoying.

 

  1. Don’t let the customer/patient manipulate you. A screaming customer/patient could be using anger as a ploy to get you upset in an attempt to end the conversation. At the very least, you’re not going to get anywhere with someone that’s angry. If a customer/patient starts yelling or using abusive language, stay calm. Try reminding them that you cannot help resolve the situation if they are yelling. One tip that sometimes works is to begin whispering. If your customer/patient has any desire whatsoever to deal with the issue at hand, they too will have to lower their voice so the conversation can continue. If that doesn’t work, say something like, “This obviously isn’t a good time for you to talk. When can I call you back?”

 

  1. A call that doesn’t result in a commitment from the customer/patient is a wasted call. If you can’t get them to commit to payment-in-full, get a promise for them to agree to pay you something, even a partial payment. In the worst case, get them to agree at the minimum to at least a call back with a payment date. Make sure you control the timing. Don’t ask, “When can you get back to me on this?” Rather, ask “Will you be calling me by Wednesday?” “What time?” Always be specific.

 

  1. Don’t hang up the phone without summarizing the results of the call:

 

Their commitment

Your expectations

The consequences if your expectations are not met.

 

  1. Emphasize the urgency of the matter. It’s easy for the customer/patient to forget your call as soon as they put down the receiver, especially if they don’t think you were really concerned about the outcome.

 

  1. Stress the importance that the customer/patient call you back on the date they promise payment — to let you know the check has been sent. If they fail to call, the payment likely didn’t happen. You won’t waste time waiting for a check that was never mailed.

 

  1. And finally, if the customer/patient doesn’t follow through on their commitment, make sure you follow through on the consequences. If you don’t, they will never take you seriously.

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Blog The First 3 Steps To Purchasing Your Dream Home

The First 3 Steps To Purchasing Your Dream Home

These days, everyone understands to some degree the role the housing market played in the financial crisis in 2008, and many potential home buyers are a bit tentative when it comes to the idea of purchasing their dream home. Whether you faced financial hardships personally or only witnessed the effects the housing bubble burst had on others, you’re certainly not alone if you are nervous to approach the process of buying a home. While there are certainly circumstances when buying a home would not be the right choice, with home prices still rising and mortgage rates set to increase, now is a good time to consider taking the first steps towards homeownership.

Considering purchasing your dream home? Here’s where to start:

Step 1. Make Your Plan:

Investigate where you want to live and how you want to live. Research the market in your area and base your expectations on your lifestyle, finances, and home ownership goals and form your budget. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is a good place to start researching. Design a basic timeline for purchasing your home based on the information you gather and how long it will take you to prepare financially.

Step 2. Manage Your Resources:

With your timeline as a guide, first make steps to improve your credit score. You will also want to start saving for a down payment, which should be 10-20% of your anticipated home cost. Additionally, you will need a small sum of money separate from your down payment to cover closing costs, inspections, etc. While it is possible to work these into the sale of the home, having the additional money to cover these costs can put you in a better spot for contract negotiations.

Step 3. Keep On Track:

Keep track of your savings and make adjustments to your timeline and budget as needed. There are numerous tools available to help you track your budgeting, everything from fancy apps to simple spreadsheets. Don’t let small setbacks put you off your home buying goals, but instead make adjustments to your plan as needed. During this period, collect the documentation you will need to purchase a home.

Start with these 3 steps, and you’ll be well on your way to purchasing your dream home! Check out more tips from Acclaim Credit Technologies here.

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Blog Unique Ways To Save Money You Haven’t Considered

Unique Ways To Save Money You Haven’t Considered

Anyone looking to improve their financial situation knows the common steps to cut spending: eat out less frequently, skip the expensive lattes, limit shopping to the essentials by making a list before you hit the store, etc. Chances are, if you are trying to cut spending, whether to pay down debt, better live within your means, or save up for a rainy day or for a down payment on a home, you’re probably already taking these steps.

While these types of changes can put more cash in your pocket right away, there are some other changes you can make that will also give results immediately and also can have long term positive financial impact that you may not have considered.

Get Healthy

One of the smartest things you can do to improve the health of your finances is to improve your physical health. While a gym membership may not fit your budget, even basic exercise like going for a walk has a positive impact on your physical and mental health, and costs much less than a movie ticket or a brunch date. Eating home cooked meals is healthier and much less expensive than eating out and, with a little planning, healthy foods don’t have to cost more.  Plus the savings from cutting sugary drinks and alcohol out of your budget in favor of water can add up fast.

Healthcare costs add up quickly, so it’s no surprise that many health insurance companies offer financial incentives for healthy choices. Making your health a priority can make room in your weekly budget and help you to save big in the long run.

Volunteer

While everyone recognizes how impactful volunteering your time can be, it’s often overlooked as a potential way to save money. Volunteering is a free way to get exercise, join a community of people who share your interests, and to do something meaningful, even when you are unable give financially.

On top of it all, some volunteer organizations offer student loan forgiveness to their volunteers (check out SponsorChange.org as an example).

Negotiate

Few people realize that almost anything can be negotiated. Want to pay less on your cell phone bill and internet? When your contract is close to being up, call up a competitor, find out their rates, and contact your current provider to discuss reducing your rates. Owe on a credit card? Contact the company to negotiate interest rates if you’re willing to pay more than the minimum due each month.

It never hurts to ask the question, and many people pay far more than is required simply because they don’t ask the question in the first place.

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Blog Acclaim Credit Technologies Is Celebrating Our 20 Year Anniversary!

Acclaim Credit Technologies Is Celebrating Our 20 Year Anniversary!

This is a point of view that we still hold today. We try to approach each collections conversation from the view that what we are doing – helping businesses of all sizes collect on monies due from individuals and other companies – is a process that will benefit not just the organization we are representing, but the debtor as well.

From its inception in 1997, Acclaim Credit Technologies has positioned itself as the collections assistance team that companies turn to for help collecting on monies due in a way that is both highly effective and also efficient. The secret: we don’t negate the human element of the collections process by simply pushing every account through a system, but instead created a system that works as a tool for us in facilitating successful collections.

Looking to the Year 2037 with Acclaim Credit Technologies

In reviewing and celebrating the last 20 years, it’s easy to see how far we’ve come. But part of our goal here at ACT is to always be looking forward.

When it comes to debt collection services, we have been innovating from the start. Back in 1997, Bruce Tschannen saw the need for credit consulting services to help organizations increase in-house efficiency and reduce reliance on outside agencies. These days, in tandem with innovative collections services, we are a HIPAA compliant agency, and we offer our clients a secured method to assign and review all accounts they have entrusted to our company. Thanks to our web-based Client Access Portal, all of our clients have 24/7 access to any and all account information, right at their fingertips.

And in the next 20 years? It’s safe to say, no matter how much our industry and technology changes, ACT will be at the forefront. How can we be sure? Because we’ve done it before!

A Heartfelt Thank You to Our Team

Our 20 years of success is the result of a lot of hard working, creative people who have put a lot of themselves into growing this company. We are so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with each and every one who has been with us for some or all of the last twenty years. We wouldn’t be us without you!

Gratitude For Our Customers

Over the last two decades, we have been privileged to work with so many wonderful, gracious businesses and individuals. When we partner with a company to help with their collections efforts, we view ourselves as an extension of that business and, in return, consider them a part of the ACT family. Because of this, we have grown to know so many of you not just as partners, but as friends.

We are grateful to each and every one of you who we have had the opportunity to serve over the last 20 years, and we are looking forward to many more successful years together!

Looking for help with your organizations billing and collections efforts? With 20 successful years in this business, you can trust that at Acclaim Credit Technologies, we have the knowledge base and the experience to help your business.

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Blog 7 ways to get out of debt

7 ways to get out of debt

One out of every 3 households carries credit card debt from month to month, according to the 2015 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC.

Some of those consumers are managing a modest amount of debt fairly well — always paying above the minimum on every account and holding back on new credit spending until the balances are paid down.

For others, however, debt is an oppressive burden that has them ducking creditors’ phone calls and struggling to keep up with even the minimum payments each month. Some may even be on the verge of bankruptcy.

If you’re overwhelmed by debt, you need to make some quick and perhaps drastic moves to have any hope of getting free.

“It’s not just a matter of tweaking the way you’re using your credit cards. It’s a matter of reeling in debt that’s about to send you over the cliff,” says Bruce McClary, NFCC’s vice president of public relations and external affairs.

Read on, by clicking the link below,  for a step-by-step guide to getting out of debt and into debt-free living.

Get Out Of Debt

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Blog Get Your Free Credit Reports

Get Your Free Credit Reports

Get Free Copies of Your Credit Reports

Credit reporting is a system lenders use to decide whether or not to give you credit or a loan and how much interest they can charge you for it.

Your credit report is based on the bills payments you have missed or been late paying, loans that you have paid off, plus your current amount of debt.

A credit report contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) gather this information and sell it to creditors, employers, insurers, and others. The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau.

The three major national credit bureaus are:

  • Equifax, 1-800-685-1111
    Fraud Hotline: 1-888-766-0008
  • Experian, 1-888-397-3742
    Fraud Hotline: 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion, 1-800-916-8800
    Fraud Hotline: 1-800-680-7289

Request your free credit report online or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

Credit Scores

Based on the information in your credit report, lenders calculate your credit score so they can assess the risk you pose to them before they decide whether they will give you credit. The higher your score, the less risk you pose to creditors.

The information in your credit report is used to calculate your FICO (the acronym stands for Fair, Isaac and Company) score. Your score can range anywhere from 300-850. Aiming for a score in the 700s will put you in good standing. A high score, for example, makes it easier for you to obtain a loan, rent an apartment, or lower your insurance rate.

Your FICO score is available for a fee. Free credit reports do not contain your credit score, although you can purchase it when you request your free annual credit report.

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Blog Bad Credit 101

Bad Credit 101

Checking your credit report is very essential because your credit score is an important factor that most lending businesses and banks consider when you apply for a loan.

Whether the loan is for your mortgage or a new car, creditors and banks check your credit score to determine whether you are eligible and what interest rate is appropriate.

Also, if you apply for a finance-related job, employers will likely check your credit score. It can reverberate throughout your financial life, so it is crucial that you always have a stellar credit record.

If you have bad credit because you were hit badly in the past by the unstable economy, lost your job or simply do not have the proper finances to pay for your monthly dues, taking measures to repair your credit is crucial, especially if you plan to take out a loan.

One thing you should remember is that rebuilding your credit is not something that can happen overnight. Although there are credit repair companies that promise to shake heaven and earth to fix your credit, improving your score is your responsibility and it requires your full attention and time.

Here are some tips to help you fix your lacking credit score.

Always Pay Your Bills on Time

Keep in mind that delinquent payments on monthly dues for your loan and credit card bills are hugely detrimental to fixing your credit. Missing your payment, even just a few days late, counts and can have a hugely negative impact on your credit score.

If you have missed payments, you should make sure to stay current with your bills henceforth, as settling bills on time after having a bad payment history will help to increase your credit score.

As long you keep paying your dues on time, your poor credit performance will stop haunting you, since your current good payment patterns will reflect on your credit report.

Set Up a Monthly Payment Plan to Reduce Your Debts

If you are the forgetful type of borrower, one thing that will help you keep up with your payments is to set up an automatic pay schedule that will deduct your monthly payments automatically from your bank account.

Check your current invoices to know how much you owe your lenders and credit cards so that you can determine a monthly budget to pay them through the automatic payment method. This way, you will not have to worry about missing your payments or incurring late fees on your bills.

Furthermore, you can allot a bigger budget for your loans and credit card debts that have charged you with high interest rates and then set a minimum payment budget for your other smaller accounts that you need to pay monthly.

Coming up with a payment plan that allows you to set aside some of your available budget to pay off your monthly debts can be helpful in cleaning up your credit reputation.

Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low

Aside from making timely payments, another way to help improve your credit score is by keeping all of your balances low, especially when you use credit cards to make purchases.

Check all of your credit card bills and determine your credit utilization (which is basically the amount of your available credit limit) that you use in a month. Take note that your credit utilization is about 30 percent of your credit score.

If you use several cards, you will ideally pay off all your balances on time. However, if you have to choose, say, from three credit cards, you should pay the one with the highest balance first.

Remember, the closer your balance is to your account’s credit limit, the higher negative impact it will have on your credit score.

A good technique to keep your credit card balances low is to follow the 10 percent rule, which means you must pay down every balance that is beyond 10 percent of your credit limit.

Paying off revolving debt in a timely manner and not having a balance on your credit cards that nears your limit will help to improve your score over time.

Check Your Report for Inaccuracies

As mentioned earlier, your credit score will resonate throughout your financial life, so it is crucial that you regularly check your credit report. Aside from checking your credit score, you also need to check your report for inaccuracies.

If you have not seen your credit report, you need to get a copy from any of the credit reporting agencies, like Trans Union, Equifax and Experian. Every borrower is entitled to have one free copy of his or her credit report each year. The three credit reporting bureaus get details from your lenders to build your credit report.

A vital reason to get a copy of your annual credit report is to make sure a lender or credit card company has inappropriately reported something. You might have been a good borrower, but a discrepancy on your report can ruin your credit score.

If you spot inaccuracies, you need to report them to the credit reporting bureaus immediately. Companies will then investigate the discrepancy within 30 days upon acceptance of your correction request.

Having a bad credit may be an obstacle in getting the financing support you need when seeking a home loan or an auto loan, as well as securing an ideal interest rate. However, if you take the steps to repair your credit now and have the resolve to get a better score, you can revamp your financial outlook in no time.

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Blog Action Line: Don’t get scammed

Action Line: Don’t get scammed

A reader: Spring break is just around the corner. I want to take my family on a much needed getaway. We want to go to the beach. We usually stay in a hotel but are thinking it would be great to have a house to ourselves. How do I go about renting a beach house?

Action Line: Who doesn’t like a good vacation? Don’t relax yet because scammers are always hard at work to get some of your hard-earned dollars. Vacation rentals usually offer many of the same amenities that you have in your own home. Your vacation may be just the opportunity for your entire family to rest and rejuvenate. Here are some tips to avoid travel scams and have the vacation you want:

The BBB suggests the following precautions when booking your trip:

  • Get recommendations from your family and friends.
  • Look online to see what other people are saying about pricing and services.
  • Be wary of vacation deals that promise “the moon” for a very low price, or require immediate purchase to lock in a “special” rate.
  • Never send money by overnight delivery or provide payment to a courier sent to your home. That’s a common ploy used by scam artists.
  • Avoid salespeople who try to strong-arm you into revealing your credit card number. If it’s good today, it’s good tomorrow.
  • Make sure you understand the rental policies from the payment method to how to pick up and return the keys.
  • Ask what the maximum occupancy is.
  • Get check in and check out information.
  • Are there any other policies for pets or smokers?
  • Ask for a cancellation policy just in case you need to cancel.
  • Are there cleaning deposits?
  • If you are looking online, find out the local address and telephone number of the vacation rental company you’re considering doing business with and then check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to determine if it can be trusted.
  • When you do make a reservation, pay by credit card. This gives you more protection than paying with a check or cash. Again, don’t give your credit card information to any business until you have checked on their reputation.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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