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Behind The Survey: Learning More About BillingTree’s ARM Industry Survey

BillingTree recently launched its seventh annual ARM industry ‘Collection Agency Operations and Technology Survey.’ The survey helps shed light on how different collection agencies manage their operations and has been a helpful resource for collection agencies of all shapes and sizes. Dave Yohe, the vice president of marketing at BillingTree, recently took the time to share some insights into how the survey got its start and what has been most surprising about the results from previous years. You can participate in the survey by clicking here.

How did the idea for the survey get started? 
After joining BillingTree back in 2010, I began looking for payment and payment technology utilization information to support some client success stories. The ACA had published some research but none of the reports answered all our questions. The next year we noticed an increase in conversations with clients and prospects on how the CFPB would impact ARM and payments. Again, there was no single source for this information so we decided to create the survey.

What is the objective? 
Our objective was to get answers to questions the industry was asking,  but couldn’t answer. We wanted it to be more than just about payments, so we added questions to help understand what core software solutions are most commonly used, top compliance concerns, challenges expected to face the industry. The payments questions helped frame what payment channels were in use or planned to be added, convenience fee positions, how much was collected by different means (credit, debit, e-check, ACH, cash).

What trends are you expecting to see highlighted in this year’s survey? 
We are exited to see what pops – there has been a lot of interest in text and how it can be used in ARM compliantly – I’d expect to see planned adoption go up over previous year’s surveys.

Are there any new questions this year? What was the reason they were added?
We updated several questions to reflect newer offerings including Text and auto account updater services more commonly available now. These are items that had previously been written in from previous year’s surveys.

What was the biggest surprise from last year’s survey?
PCI compliance became the top compliance concern in 2018 which is most likely because Self-Assessment Questionnaires on PCI compliance became a requirement in 2017.

If you were to share the most important lesson you’ve learned in the years that BillingTree has done this survey, what would it be? 
Avoid offering a gift card incentive for taking a survey – in the first year we offered $5 Amazon credits in exchange for qualified survey completions. It turns out there are websites that teach people how to make money taking surveys and without authorization, our offer was posted to these sites. Fortunately we had qualifying questions in the survey to identify actual collection agency respondents from non – but we had to screen hundreds of extra survey responses that year. Ever since we have rewarded participation with early copies of the results, and this year we added the data bundles where we will send completed survey respondents who elect to be identified all previous year’s results as well.

What can collection agencies take away from the survey results to help them in their offices?
Aside from seeing trends in software and service utilization, they can expect to see what keeps their contemporaries up at night and how others see the industry growing or changing. It also shows them how certain technology adoption is evolving, like web portals for accepting payment.  It will also help them see what trends are emerging operationally and they can compare what they offer to study.

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