Industry Trailblazer: State Collection Service

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to a new regular feature on AccountsRecovery.net, the Industry Trailblazers. In this weekly feature, we will spotlight agencies and individuals within the ARM industry who are charting a new path. Whether through the use of technology or applying difference principles and perspectives, these companies stand out among the rest. This series is being generously sponsored by BillingTree

State Collection Service has developed a formula for success. From the way it identifies and hires job candidates through how it handles responding to all the suggestions it receives from employees in its suggestion box, the company makes sure to focus on fostering a culture of caring and respect. And that culture filters through to how the agency’s collectors treat individuals when reaching them on the phone. Tim Haag, the president of State Collection Service and the third generation of his family to run the agency, took time to answer questions that shed some light on how its formula was developed.

 

How many years has your agency been operating?

State Collection Service has been in business for nearly 70 years. We were founded in 1949 by my grandfather, Hilding Haag.

 

What associations is your agency a member of?

We are members of ACA International and it’s regional unit, the Great Lakes Credit & Collections Association (GLCCA); the Institute for Collection Leadership (ICL); the Consumer Relations Consortium (CRC); the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA); and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM).

 

Number of employees:

650

 

In what category of collections does your agency specialize?

We specialize in healthcare collections. Our work is split about evenly between bad debt and first-party self-pay. We currently service most aspects of the revenue cycle.

 

Does your agency have a mission statement? What is it? OR What values do you instill in your workforce?

We strive to create Partnerships for a Lifetime – this is our corporate vision and what informs all aspects of our business. But that vision isn’t just for clients – it’s how we view our employee relationship too. We’ve had some clients in this industry for 60 years or more. If you were to look at how many clients we’ve been partnering with for more than 15 years, you would be surprised at how large that number is.

Fundamentally, it’s all about providing clients and patients with great customer service. We work really hard to strike the right balance between a positive patient experience and the strong results our clients expect from us. To be able to maintain this balance while keeping the number of complaints and disputes low is something everyone in our organization focuses on.

 

If we asked an employee to describe the agency in one word, what word do you think he or she would use?

Family.

 

What word would you least like them to use?

Uncaring

 

How does your agency maintain a Trailblazing company culture on a daily basis

It means looking at all the technology and seeing what is out there. We put a good case study together of why we need that technology. We have to have proof that we utilize it. Our current technology has to be at 90% or greater of its capacity before we can go on and purchase something else.

For training we use an online Learning Management System, that allows us to provide up to date materials and refresher courses to our staff and they can do it at their own pace.

We’ve been PPMS certified for 15+ years. We instill that from day one of somebody’s employment.

We measure Client Satisfaction by monitoring both performance KPI’s and the results from our Speech Analytics technology real-time and report this to all levels of staff. We set high expectations for both performance and consumer satisfaction. Plain and simple we want to be the best.

The most important thing is our people. Choosing the right people to join our team and our family. We get a ton of resumes each week and we only pick the best of the best. Our interview process allows us to be very selective of the people we bring in. We don’t look for collection experience; we would rather select someone that has a clean slate with a customer-service background.

 

What is the key to motivating your employees?

Listening to their needs and trusting them. We know that if we give them the opportunity to tell us how we can be better, they’ll open up.  Several years ago, we started participating in the InsideARM annual “Best Places to Work” survey, which we’ve won the last three years. We realized that we can’t just take the results of that survey and move on to the next year.  Each year, we create action plans that focus on areas of improvement. This approach has allowed us to increase our scores every year. Our employees like to see that we listen to their needs.

When looking at the comments from the 2018 survey, the three words that were most commonly used were Fun, Family, and Flexibility. We all love to have fun at work. You can’t just expect someone to sit for eight hours in a cube and not have a laugh or giggle. We are a family-owned business and it is important to me to keep that family feel. I have an open door for staff to come and talk to me any time. I love interacting with our staff so I also make it a point to visit each of our offices at least once a month.

 

How do you define success at your agency?

It is a combination of client satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and employee satisfaction. We measure all of them.

For patient satisfaction, we use technology and have measurements and scorecards in place to ensure we’re providing the best possible service.

For client satisfaction, we track client performance and create actionable plans where we’re not measuring up to our own expectations.

And for employee satisfaction, we listen.

We have a suggestion box that we review weekly. We implement what we can and, on a quarterly basis, share those successes with all of our teams. If we can’t implement a suggestion, we make sure to communicate why we can’t. Being named one of the country’s Best Call Centers to Work. For the past three years is proof positive that we’re doing what’s right for our employees a key indication of how we’re doing. We don’t just review it internally, but share it with employees.

 

What makes your agency so productive?

This industry has turned into a technology business, but State Collection Service has always been on the leading edge of that shift. We’ve always known that technology was what we were going to need to stay ahead of our competitors and that knowledge has served us well over the years.

But it’s not just about having the latest and greatest tech – you have to know how to use it and make it work for your business. We’ve been using speech analytics for five years and I think we use it better than most because we’re constantly looking to push the limits of what the technology can do for us and our clients.

We look for forward thinkers; People who think outside the box. We have outstanding leadership. Our fun family culture makes people want to come to work each day. Because happy employees make the best employees. You can’t be in the customer service business if you’re not a happy person.

 

What separates you from other agencies?

It goes back to our people and our processes. It’s an equal balance of making sure you get the results you expect of yourself while staying focused on the patient experience and employee engagement.

 

Where do you see the industry in five years?

Both the collections and healthcare industries will continue to consolidate. Fortunately, State Collection Service is positioned well for this. I want to continue growing within the healthcare market and offer more and more services to that sector. I want to be one of the remaining agencies that’s still left standing when the dust settles because, let’s face it, I don’t see a long line of people wanting to open a new collection agency.

 

Thanks to BillingTree for sponsoring the Industry Trailblazer. BillingTree is the leading provider of integrated payments solutions to the Healthcare, ARM, Property Management, B2B, and Financial Services industry verticals. Through its technology-enabled suite of products and services, BillingTree enables organizations to increase efficiency and decrease the costs of payment processing while adhering to compliance regulations. Leveraging more than a decade of market experience, BillingTree is dedicated to growing payments with technology through an integrated omni-channel offering, suite of proprietary products and value-added services, and a company-wide focus on delivering extraordinary customer service.

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