Following a difficult trading year in the retail sector in which our client operated across 750 stores it had to reduce costs in order to remain competitive. This was done at both store and Head Office level and resulted in a freeze on head count with leavers not being replaced and moving to a new, smaller Head Office facility.
As well as retail our client also supplied the goods sold in store to businesses on a trade credit basis which also suffered as a result of this head count reduction.
Following these changes it became very difficult for our client to manage all Credit Control activities with a significantly reduced team and as such a consultation was set up with Credit Style’s expert team to identify potential solutions.
Within the trade credit business there were a number of differing ledgers which were set up according to the type of organisation they traded with. Certain ledgers connected with the NHS and central and local government were extremely high maintenance and we designed a full cradle to grave outsourcing solution for these ledger items.
A team of very experienced collectors were pulled together and a very simple, daily file transfer mechanism was created in order that we could run a duplicated sales ledger to our client whilst being able to gain the significant benefits of Credit Style’s advanced collection software.
The solution we created consisted of collections activity in our clients name in a pre agreed manner to reflect good credit management practice. If payment was not made on any overdue items the collection strategy quickly flicked to Credit Styles name and was then latterly followed up by our legal team.
This three pronged, cradle to grave approach has allowed our client to utilise their scarce resource in to areas where they are needed the most leaving the specialist team to manage the ledgers they cannot service.
Our client had never previously used a debt collection company to support them; in fact they fought hard against it due to the belief that by utilising such services meant that they had failed.
Having reviewed the resources and systems utilised by our client it was clear that additional support was needed as DSO was static and bad debt provision wasn’t reducing in line with targets set by the board.
It was clear that the resources employed by our client were essentially spreading their time thinly across the whole expanse of the ledger and any threat of further action wasn’t initiated. As such, the company’s credit reputation was weak and diminishing returns had set in within the department.
In order to support our client with this common problem we created a debt recovery service which dovetailed directly with our client’s collection strategy and which came in to play at 30-40 days overdue. Our client continued to manage all collection activity up to this point and any account that reached 30-40 days overdue in the future, that was neither a key account or in dispute was referred to Credit Styles specialist collection team to bring to a full and final conclusion.
This singular change of approach freed up significantly more time for our clients team to focus all their attention on front end control which meant they were more productive and as such actually reduced the volume of debt crossing the 30-40 day overdue line each month.
With both our client’s team and Credit Styles team firing on all cylinders DSO was reduced by 10 days over a 6 month period increasing working capital by over £3 million and bad debt provision was reduced by 66% over the same period.
The solution detailed above demonstrates that adopting a tailored innovative approach, challenging our own experiences and utilising the services of specialists will deliver the desired results which can then be maintained for many years to come!
Having used a large traditional law firm to manage their legal action requirements for debt recovery for many years our client had become disillusioned with the entire process. It was deemed very slow, very expensive, ill-informed and their appeared to be only one winner – the solicitor!
As a result of this view, utilising legal action as an aide to Credit Control had diminished resulting in more accounts being written off unnecessarily and creating a belief by their customers that any threat of further action was un likely to be delivered.
In order to challenge this we set up a workshop to process map the existing collection strategies adopted by our clients and created a check list as to what “good looks like” when considering legal action in the future. We then helped to re write some of our client’s collection letters in advance of any further action being issued ensuring that all Court protocols had been adhered to.
Following the activity above Credit Style created a solution consisting of a solicitor’s letter before action, outbound telephone collection from our legal collections team, pre legal account review process and a low cost fixed fee legal service operating on a risk and reward basis.
Having created this solution our clients credit reputation amongst their customer base is now much stronger which in itself supports prompt payment and most importantly the net return we have been able to deliver for our clients has been increased tenfold compared to the previous arrangements.
As such, there is still only one clear winner – which is now our client.
Following the acquisition of a competitor our clients business decided to merge the operations of both companies in to one extremely large organisation in order to gain the benefits of economies of scale.
Redundancies were made in the acquired company and the newly acquired ledger was merged with the acquiring business. It soon became apparent that the resource levels assigned to the combined business were not adequate and the aged debt profile on the acquired ledger was already quite high made worse by the fact many of the Credit Controllers previously employed had left.
Our clients existing collections team tried extremely hard to reduce the aged profile of the ledger and reduce the large 120 day plus balances whilst at the same time trying to control the current items.
This was a major challenge and before long the ledger was controlling our client’s team rather than the team controlling the ledger.
In order to help our client gain full control of the ledger the key was to break the cycle and direct the resources to target more recently due debt in order to stop the proverbial tap from dripping.
Credit Style then set up a team of aged debt collection specialists and all accounts with a 90 day plus balance were referred to this specialist team. The collections unit we created operated under the pre text of a sales ledger and credit management review as a result of the acquisition in order to gain the trust of the customers and ensure that our clients brand was firmly protected at all times.
The Team we created were responsible for collecting outstanding monies owed and most importantly identifying and resolving any disputes raised. This was achieved by having direct access to our clients systems so that we could self-serve for copy documents etc leaving our client free to focus 100% of their time and effort on front end control.
The combined resources quickly brought the ledger back under control helping to reduce the businesses credit risk substantially thereby removing the threat of being under provided and reducing overall DSO by some 30 days.
Under the Consumer Credit Act where goods have been purchased under a Regulated Agreement if more than a third of the value of the asset has been paid for by the customer a Return of Goods Order must be issued through Court in order to re gain possession of the asset by the Creditor.
The Court fee for a Return of Goods Order is £285 irrespective of value with a further cost exposure of up to £400 in order to gain a warrant for delivery of goods giving a total cost exposure of up to £700 per case.
A number of years ago our financial services clients approached us to find an alternative solution to this costly approach with a view to protecting our clients brand and working with more vulnerable customers.
In order to meet the objectives set Credit Style created a market leading debt counselling solution.
The main emphasis of this service is to actually visit each of the customers who are in arrears to help them understand the agreement they have signed and what the possible solutions are in order to avoid most costly repossession actions.
This non-aggressive, “where are here to help” approach proved to be an instant success and resulted in a significant drop in Return of Goods Orders being issued which protected the customer and supported our clients objectives.
As a result of this considerate Treating Customers Fairly approach shortfall recovery levels are much higher post debt counselling activity when compared to traditional approaches and the good will between Credit Style and the customer in arrears remains extremely high.
Since introducing this solution into the consumer financial services sector we have also launched a field visit business debt solution which has also proved to be a major success by increasing the amount of settlements we achieve prior to more expensive options being considered.