Help your collections agency to help you

“Help me, to help you” – I love that line by Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. In fact, I feel like I say that to my staff a lot. Here’s the clip in case you don’t remember this movie:

I had no idea how true it is for our collection agency! 

Collections agency results

Just last week I talked with our collection agency about their performance on our accounts over the past few years and requested a more thorough review to see if there was anything we could do to improve. They shared an ‘Integrity Analysis’ report with me that I had never seen and it revealed some very interesting statistics:

  • They collected only 12% on accounts with a bad phone number, but a good address.
  • They collected 40% on accounts with both a good phone number and address.
  • They collected 75% on accounts with a good home number, good work number and a good address.

Our internal collection system

We start with our Dentrix Collections Manager report to make sure no one has slipped through the cracks of our regular ‘collect at the front desk’ guidelines. We follow a quick process for accounts that need to be paid:

  1. Send a statement
  2. Send a courtesy ‘you might have missed this’ letter and make a phone call
  3. Send a second more forceful letter and make a second phone call
  4. Decide – either ‘write off’ this account if it’s less than $100 or send it to collections

We created our own collection letters and simply mail merge them using the Quick letters function in Dentrix. This works very well. We have created several custom letters that we save in the Quick letters and can use as the situation requires. We have a ‘partial payment letter’ or a ‘stopped making payments’ letter. I really like how Dentrix keeps track of letters sent in their Office Journal so if a patient wants to talk about the letters/calls they’ve received (or they say they’ve magically never received) – I can see the dates and the letters sent, along with the statements we’ve sent as well!

For patients that continue to ignore us (and their account balance is over $100), we do submit these to a collections agency. I’ve worked with several different companies over the years and we’ve settled on one that makes phone calls rather than just sends letters (since we’re handling that on our own). The statistics above are from the agency we’ve worked with since 2005.

Ideas to help our collections agency to help us

After discussing our Integrity analysis report with the agency, I shared the results with our secretary team. We were all surprised at how drastic the difference was based on getting good contact information. So, we discussed our process for getting the information submitted to the agency. It sounded pretty good, but thanks to this review I expect our team will make sure that we’re sending every possible phone number and address we have available to the agency. I also encouraged our collections manager to gather this information early on – we have many patients making payments that sometimes stop and end up at the collections agency. If we can make sure we have good phone numbers and addresses as part of the payments process, perhaps we can continue to collect past due balances even when the patient becomes non-responsive.

Handling dental collections is just one way you can run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog:

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AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
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