The Efficiency and Effectives Engineer

Credit to Cash strategic enablement

The evolution of technology and its effects to transform process is moving at a rapid rate. Acceleration of process automation and how the task oriented, labor arbitrage model in outsourcing has reinvented itself. A substantial path to gaining efficiencies and effectiveness as a business model requires little in the way of validation since we have all seen the reaction of improvement to some of the most intricate business processes.  As an engineer focused in the area, I have had the opportunity to see this new era of automation occur and also as a CEO gain from the benefits not only for client but in our own back office efficiencies.

Pioneering companies, and the people who comprise them, understand the possibility and are finding industrialization and repurpose for these core application with little barrier or limitation in the art of the possible for credit to cash efficiency and effectiveness. In its most basic form, we create, develop, and transform these processes, whether they are completely new solutions or improvements over existing ones. One extremely important aspect to this new world is the client centric approach. Why is this important? Not all organizations, industries or business culture is the same. This may be challenged by the thought relative to an invoice is an invoice or cash application is a standardized process but this is just not the case. In working with a vast base of clients from manufacturing, consumer products, financial services, media and entertainment and healthcare, creative customization to achieve the business outcomes is always created by ways of collaboration and specialization.

We are in a new era, where technology-led processes are generating a different kind of competitiveness in various business segments. The market needs to be asking providers ‘are you able to architect efficiencies in the process?’ The proof comes from careful collaboration and deep listening to the client organization. Technology enablement and its true outcomes are generation when the domain expert as a provider invests in the client relationship with acceptance and accountability for results. Couple this with the passion of people to solve and resolve complex issue and the synergy to drive this exciting collaboration takes hold.

I view the business service provider role as more than simply deploying people to automate business processes. Rather, I look at what we do as being differentiated by engineering that established ourselves apart from the in-house or captive world. Collective expertise and specific domain and process understanding give us a position to solve some of the most immediate challenges in business today.

Throughout my career seeing the cycles of recession and following recovery, successful companies in any sector – and especially the credit to cash services sector – if this mind set of innovation has not been adopted or sort out, your credit strategy has inhabited growth. While we deliver solutions experience and the passion for technology – the process efficiency is as good as the people and customers it enables, the creativity in our new world of smaller barriers to efficiency makes the possibilities endless and outcomes substantial.

– Bob Williams, CEO of VWi

The Innovation Track for Subrogation

Expertise in Subrogation is not just about technology but the innovation behind experienced human capital

Subrogration outsourcing

As a business, VWi has spent the last 50 years in the subrogation space, with a deep understanding of the laws and regulations of managing subrogation cases. We are continuously working on our recruiting and finding people who are really enthusiastic about learning the nuances of subrogation. This development of the next generation of experts isn’t so easy for our clients as the people who founded the key processes are buried in a serious time crunch as they try to keep up with the day to day business. So how do you make this sector exciting for the next generation? More important, how do you share the knowledge in a meaningful way to develop the next wave of experts?

Lets start with what’s happening to the experts

A new term has emerged called, claims adjuster burnout. Cases are increasing, claims are getting more complex and the process has become increasing more complicated overtime. Add to this the growing demand of providing an excellent customer experience with a single point of contact, never ending phone calls and a full inbox. It takes an extreme professional with years of experience to manage the end-to-end process. Add to this the complication of age and experience of these industry veterans and you start to understand what will happen next in an industry desperate for the next generation of proficiency.

An evolving job market

The insurance industry has seen a major impact. As the number of claims per year starts to meet or exceed the number of premiums, the industry is thirsty for talent. In a study by the Jacobson Group and Ward Group, they found that from 2010-2015, the number of positions in the claims management area has increased year over year. As the need for more claims adjusters continues to climb, many companies are turning to temp labor, but that merely defers the problem with a lower cost solution, but seldom creates those long-term employees that are now don their way to retirement.

The need for claims adjusters continues to climb year over year.

Using innovation to engage the workforce

Challenging the incoming workforce to be innovative will be essential to keeping them engaged long term. Just as the advancement of technologies has improved our daily lives, innovation in the workplace will be key to keeping them interested and, more importantly, tap into the knowledge of the retiring experts.

As our own business grows, we work with our teams to identify those key employees that show promise in both managing the process and looking for creative ways to circumvent problems. By pulling them into conversations that focus on improving processes or identifying waste within the business, we help them grow to the next level. It also helps them see a path to a career that perhaps wasn’t previously on their radar.

Looking to the future

As the laws that govern the subrogation industry become more stringent, the future becomes more clear that competent people are necessary to foster long term growth and stability. Add to that an incoming workforce that is impulsive and fickle about their employment opportunities and you have a compounded problem. Conversely, VWi sees this as an opportunity to take the subrogation industry to a new level.

By engaging the technology minded Millennials to work with the experience of the Generation Xers and the leadership of the Baby Boomers, VWi is leveraging the key strengths of each generation of the workforce to find solutions that improves the claims management process, reduces risk and increases revenue.

Value based solutions are the focus, not service delivery location

The previous economic downturn has ushered in the politics of protectionism. Sending business to foreign shores to create jobs, infrastructure and skills overseas, when these are needed so desperately on native shores, has a negative impact on corporate and political goodwill — a valuable asset for public image.

In the face of current turbulent times, opting to go onshore to create teams of highly skilled and knowledgeable employees locally is good judgment for many companies – particularly those seeking increased service levels and a higher degree of overall customer satisfaction. Notwithstanding the obvious advantages of offshoring, most companies would still prefer to buy domestic. A CFO magazine survey of more than 150 finance executives showed that only about a third outsource any finance work, and the vast majority of those — 83% — keep delivery onshore.

Corporate managers are simply getting over their infatuation with lower cost international labor and analyzing the total long-term costs of doing business locally compared to say — China or India. There is a dollop of icing on the cake here as well. The topic of focusing on on-shoring to boost employment levels seems to be an area of agreement between bickering political parties the world over.

The past 12 months have also been characterized by social and political unrest, particularly in many developing markets. This has demonstrated the geopolitical risk of locating business services abroad and alerted corporate decision-makers to the fact that while offshoring delivered benefits to the balance sheet, it brings with it the very real possibility of denial of service and the business challenges that come with this.

These factors have shifted the context of a CFO’s thinking when tackling with the offshoring vs. onshoring debate. Yet, what has become more critical to CFO’s is simple – the growing momentum to hire and employ using value based mentality. In other words, corporate executive are thinking diligently about the right operating model for the right outcomes – at the right time. What delivers value to corporations is the investment in people and innovation so that businesses get more time to spend on managing their core business and don’t need to worry about the viability of a location strategy. Undoubtedly, the future direction of the outsourcing industry will see relationships with clients who will be a combination virtual and value based delivery.

The offshoring trend continues, yet in recent years, more companies are finding it beneficial to reverse course and move select operations closer to home, back onshore. The objectives of CFO’s and credit executives when outsourcing Order to Cash functions are the pursuit of cost savings, increasing core business management availability and accelerating transformation. However, along with potential controversy from overseas outsourcing comes a series of real challenges for corporate finance: the risk of reduced cost savings, increased overhead for communications, project overruns, language barriers, risk of poor service, loss of business knowledge and security breaches.

At a time when corporate social responsibility is considered a significant factor in business success, companies may think twice about employing workers in countries with poor human rights records or overly lax labor standards. In the case of customer service, some organizations are deciding it makes sense to focus upon value and outcomes rather than location. And for certain corporations, theirs is an inherent sense that their customers simply prefer to do business with firms that commit to a domestic workforce and add to this the fact that high quality, affordable labor is available in U.S. markets, and it is not surprising that the onshoring trend is gaining currency.

Bob Williams, CEO of VWi

Building Best-in-Class Global Collections Outcomes with Tricon Energy

Global 3rd Party Collections Program to Maximize Late Stage Accounts Receivables Recoveries

Business People Communication Corporate Team Concept

Operating a successful global business in a challenging global economy is a masterful art. It takes a deep level of experience and collaboration to lead a complex set of requirements with customers and varying financial models. Tricon Energy, an industry leader in global trade and petrochemical derivative distribution engages in such a commercial endeavor through the physical movement and marketing of industrial chemicals and polymers to the global market.

Rodrigo Guillen, Tricon Energy Credit & Collection Analyst, is a key expert in bringing together Tricon and VWi to solve a global issue – How do we locally and globally support our customers and find resources to resolve and collect our invoices? Easy statement to make but not always easily accomplished in such geographic locations as West Africa, Turkey and Congo, among others. These are necessary markets and as a sales focused, growth minded company, Rodrigo and Tricon are making this expansion a success using credit and quality of service as a tool.

So where does VWi come into the equation? VWi’s roots started in the 3rd party collection space and have expanded globally over the past 25+ years to include end-to-end services and domain expertise in credit to cash. Bundle together a global platform enabling the front-end process (First Party) with 3rd Party collections and you have a complete solution of collections and reconciliations in one provider. Tricon recognized this unique capability and quickly tapped into our resources. As Rodrigo stated, “The global expertise and capabilities in credit and collections enabled by technology made the choice to utilize VWi earlier this year a low risk engagement. Their people are the key to our early and impressive results but when coupled with the full depth of a global solution, our results over the past few months have exceeded our expectations.”

Finance professionals such as Rodrigo have more options than ever to optimize a crucial area of the financial value chain—credit and collections management. Increasingly this need for a strong partner in the end-to-end process is needed to cure delinquent receivables while maintaining customer relationships. VWi in this example with Tricon brings three key components: People, Process and Technology. Extensive knowledge and expertise in a tenured team of people, key processes to maximize recoveries with a high level of customer experience and technology aimed at drawing analytics and insights to determine a custom designed collection strategy.

Empowering the Team

Informed and empowered people form the front line of effective credit and collections management. The trick is keeping the credit and collections team up to date and enabled, particularly as operations grow in size and complexity. Compliance is an area where we as an industry have no choice to be at the top of our game. The others are effectiveness and efficiency; Manual collections processes are filled with routine and non-productive tasks. The right information doesn’t always flow to the right places at the right times, so a unique platform coupled with experienced teams are the key ingredients to success.

Streamlining the Processes

Processes give shape and guidance to a collections team’s activities and provide a context for measuring its effectiveness, but business processes aren’t always perfect. In the revenue and receivables arena, which culminates in credit and collections, processes are frequently disjointed as they cut across multiple departments and span geographies. Sometimes, certain parts of a larger process get automated, but these islands of automation have to be bridged, and that is usually by strong insights and analysis.

With Tricon, VWi recognized through experience and insights how to structure the processes for effective analytics, communication and productivity. When enabled with industry expertise, the results of everyone playing on the same field – client, partner and customer – success is achieved.

Leveraging Technology for Visibility and Control

Technology can empower people and drive more effective processes, but it takes a platform, not a piecemeal approach. In the collections process, as elsewhere in the financial value chain, the proper implementation of technology can drive end-to-end visibility, improved controls and ensured compliance.

The VWi platform approach provides visibility across disparate information systems and processes by concentrating reliable and timely information in a single spot, thus providing a common source for business process pulse checks and for the application of consistent metrics to measure performance. The platform also enables common technologies to be applied to ensure consistent controls and practices enterprise-wide. Automated workflows to optimally guide team members through complex processes, as well as the automatic application of business rules to enforce policies. Moreover, in centralizing information and automating processes across all relevant systems such as business credit analytics and local payment trends, a platform enabling financial data and decisions to be documented and auditable, thus freeing the focus for the critical role in execution of customer contact and invoice resolution.

In the collections process, this can all translate into:

  • Automated company and credit analysis and evaluation of processes: Skip tracing and payment modeling
  • Dynamic rules-based account segmentation and country level strategies: Payment probability and risk
  • Comprehensive portfolio management and analysis: Identifying areas for continuous improvement
  • Collections task prioritization and automation: Using the tools to prioritize collector efficiency
  • Automated dispute management and resolution: Workflow to separate disputes for skill set alignment
  • Real-time insights, analytics and alerts to keep clients informed: Transparency of the end-to-end process

The Result is Success

Over the past 6 months, this approach to end-to-end customer management has enabled the company to rack up considerable recoveries, efficiency and flexible benefits. Collections expenses for Tricon have been cut based upon the outcomes generated and by using a contingency fee model. Added value through new process efficiencies have enabled the company to re-focus internal personnel on higher value tasks and allowed for the company to explore more alternate channels to increase sales. For VWi, our collection experts are praised for their creativity and dedication to Tricon and rewarded with expanding scope.

Customer Centric Solutions

Listening and Understanding Counts in Collections 

For all of us in the services industry, especially my realm of 3rd Party and Order to Cash Outsourcing, the relationship and the trust to solve complex problems is one, which can be missed during the buying cycle. I often realize though the complexity of day-to-day business how critical true partnership is and one, which should not be forgotten in the crucial matching of the supplier relationship.

My main focus, as an owner of the client / customer experience, it is my job to take the complex issues and turn them into quick solutions for our clients. In the world of 3rd party collection and being the support mechanism between creditor and debtor, this can be a challenge. Over the years I have learned to hone my skills and bring experience plus practical solutions for our customer service team, customer and ultimately their customers as a solution provider. This requires a skill, which seems to be lost in some sense, listening and understanding.

Most of the issues and resolution in credit and collections comes in the form of a dispute or financial difficulty on the debtor’s part. While we are at our best when solving a client problem, working with a debtor maybe challenging and our collectors need the support of their client liaison to accelerate a solution evolving our client. In some cases the added stress and pressure to make good on a large balance due and the personal attachment to a business can bring forward some interesting attempts to contort and distort the real issues. As our collection associates and clients provide vast amounts of data and analysis, we need to take into consideration some of the most important traits of working with multiple groups and ultimately, people. The facts and data provide us with the starting point and deductive reasoning and a good network of skilled solutions oriented resources the rest. The needs for these skills and the ability to have mutual trust through actions are sometimes missed in our industry but for me a clear differentiator in the services industry.

Practical thinking and passion for delivering to the client a quality of service with the right construct to their expectations is not an easy task. But spending your time and effort to understand these needs and expectations goes a long way in clearing the path for a long-term partnership. I have spent many hours with our clients, which are valuable hours as to get the process right and ultimately time and cost of ownership savings for both. Understanding their business and listening to their needs as I stated is unfortunately becoming a lost practice as more and more need for speed drives assumptions and ready-made answers. Grounding ourselves in this service based economy and respecting the needs of the mutual business partners and customers is crucial to best business practice.

As a day in the life of working in a fast paced environment and making each customer a priority can be a challenge in most businesses but mutual investments have been made and value relative to revenue large and small can be made a priority. A careful selection of resources aligned to delivering what has been promised and load balancing your infrastructure, as an investment to serve the client is a simplified way of making sure all inquires and issues are handled as designed with the client. Additionally providing the right working environment to reduce turnover and unplanned change is your risk prevention. Change occurs, people move on but the right people grow with your business and clients long term. Your back up plan, always a highly skilled team to move up and continue the consistent quality of service and relationship always..

When specialization is required, collaboration between all is enabled by good customer practices and bringing forward the best solutions and skills. Trying to do it alone will not strengthen relationships but quickly result in disappointment. It has been my 15+ years mission to have this careful attention to detail delivered in each client engagement by using a full network of people and tools to not be seen as the king of all customer service but a practitioner of bridging relationships for the best outcomes. Networking people and the growing of relationships is truly the best part of all, isn’t it?

Some lessons learned across the way of working with diverse customers, sectors, and people globally which I would say are attributes which make for great experiences. My favorite part of all engagement is the respect, which comes with giving respect and gaining the accolades from positive customer retention through solid outcomes. While service providers such as us in 3rd party collections or providing an outsource service can generally be the deciding factor on revenue recognition, reduced write offs or the hand holding agents through a legal process, listening and understanding are what count in professional and personal success. Automation increases the speed of delivery but personalization and care keep a client and bring business growth.

-Matt Stachkunas, Customer Service Manager