11 Strategies to Improve the Science of Skip Tracing

  • Written by Jason Horsley

Skip tracing is part art and part science. The science involves leveraging technology. I’d like to share 11 strategies to improve how you use technology to improve the science side of skip tracing. Utilizing skip trace technology is a business- growth engine because it takes care of “easy” day-to-day activities like phone number identification and change of address, while at the same time working harder to solve overarching skip trace challenges like optimizing allocation of resources.

You want to stay relevant to your customers so that your business grows despite the jungle of compliance regulations that you wade through every day. That’s not easy to do because of the fast-paced, ever-changing and highly-competitive nature of today’s environment for the collections industry. Growing your business, while mitigating compliance risk is a top priority, and skip tracing is an important element that can help. Below are 11 best practices for effective skip tracing efforts that you should begin implementing now.

1. Don’t De-Dupe

Instead of de-duping in your batch process, have your data provider flag and return duplicate data that still seems to be good. This way, you’ll remain focused on quality data and avoid getting bogged down by progressively worse data. By confirming instead of de-duping, your business becomes more efficient.

2. Use Predictive Analytics

Optimize your use of predictive analytics. This can be done in two ways: first, by using contactability and recoverability scores to sort and prioritize your portfolios. With prioritized accounts, agencies can strategically assign resources, data spend and treatment approaches. Second, use predictive analytics to select and rank phone numbers. This more modern approach allows for you to make contact with the consumer sooner and with fewer failed attempts.

3. Monitor for Changes

One of the most underutilized technologies is monitoring for skip data changes. A study conducted in 2015 on Lexis Nexis phones found that in the first month of monitoring, there was a 10% lift in right-party contacts and that lift continued month-over-month. Enhance your batch processing with change alerts on all data types including phones and address.

4. Test your Cell Phone Data Providers

It’s imperative for collection agencies to use technology to identify cell phones, but just as you test various phone number providers, you should also test cell identification providers. Also, leverage technology to identify real-time ownership of the cell number. You should test to make sure you’re protecting your agency from TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) violations, while maintaining the ability to contact consumers on cell numbers. This is another great element to monitor for changes.

5. Filter out the Noise

Avoiding hampering your process and resources by removing “uncollectable” accounts. Identify consumers who are bankrupt, deceased, incarcerated or a contact risk due to litigious history. You can further filter out, by identifying employment status, property ownership status or consumers with judgments and liens.

6. Solve for Multiples

Leverage services provided by both your software provider and your data provider to identify and link multiple entries of the same consumer in your database. While you’re at it, cleanse your data to ensure the John Smith you are about to call is the right John Smith.

7. Identify Consumer Relationships

Contacting third parties is a critical part of skip tracing, but before you call, make sure you know whom you are calling. You should work with technology able to identify the phone number as being a lead to the consumer or a direct line to the consumer you are skipping. Doing so will help mitigate FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) and UDAAP (unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices) risk, which come with very steep fines you will want to avoid.

8. Don’t Ignore the FCRA

If you’re using data from an aggregator to make collection decisions, like payment plans or suit qualification, then the data must be FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) regulated. For example, POE (place of employment) and POE phone data that are not FCRA regulated can only be used for contacting and locating the consumer. POE and POE phone data that are FCRA regulated can be used to make suit decisions. Being ahead of the compliance curve by using FCRA data will help agencies win business with creditor clients. Creditors are more in-tune with compliance and they use compliant vendors more than ever. FCRA compliant data allows agencies to show their creditor clients that they have gone the extra mile to make sure they are using data correctly.

9. Update Content Versions

Innovative data providers constantly enhance their products. Make sure you have a process in place that keeps you up-to-date on their latest product versions and don’t forget to include regular product training for your users. You could have the best product on the market, but if no one knows how to use it or optimize it, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. Get your users on a regular training schedule. Training makes employees more productive and successful. And a successful collector is more inclined to be a loyal employee.

10. Have a Testing Plan

Grow your internal data testing competencies or outsource them to a firm who can help you get it right. Testing data quality is a complex process that is often over-simplified. Taking the time to test with rigor, and integrity is critical to your collection success and bottom-line. Test results should dictate which data provider a company uses. The better the testing practices, the better the agency will be at making an accurate assessment. This decision will fuel the agencies business for months (until another test is performed), so a wrong decision can lead to months of lost opportunity and unnecessary expense.

11. Validate Data Integration with Your Software Provider

Don’t assume your collection software provider is always up-to-date with integrating skip trace solutions. If you want the latest and greatest, then you may need to go directly to the data provider. Have your data provider explain any gaps in what’s integrated and what’s the best available, so you can make an informed decision. You may think you are getting the best that your data provider has to offer when in reality you are only getting the best of what has been programmed by your software provider. These eleven best practices enable you to do more with less, stay in compliance and stay current. When you have increased contact with the right consumers, you experience increased dollars collected and that equals business growth. By implementing these best practices, you’ll be able to lead the way in regulatory compliance by leveraging automated processes and analytics that allow human resources to focus on the challenging tasks.

Jason Horsley is the director of collections and recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.