Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Debate

There is a debate that has surfaced in the skip trace world in the past few years.
No, we are not talking about the battle over paper or plastic or even the cola wars. Should you use real skip tracers or just databases? This has crossed the mind of more than one collection manager. There are pros and cons to each side.
Let's take a look at just using databases first. It starts with subscribing to a database which offers name, address, phone number and so on. You input the information you have onto the request screen and request new information. The updated information is then returned to you. Usually it is not very (a relative term) expensive. You then use the information recently obtained to collect funds, property or whatever you are after. When it is described like that it sounds perfect doesn't it?
Unfortunately now for the down side. The database companies work very hard at keeping their information up to date and some of them are very reputable companies. That being said, here is how it works. The database companies mainly get their information the same ways. Everything from magazine subscriptions to public records are mixed together to get information on everyone. However, even with their best attempts, it does not take long to become outdated. The database companies claim that they are kept up to date most of the time. But, that is the same thing as saying, we have just skip traced every person in the country and we have their information. That doesn't seem to be possible.
Now the other side of the debate. A skip tracer is a living being that uses different resources, skills and experiences to obtain the needed information to find a person or property's whereabouts. Using every legal means they obtain the information that they are after. Once they find, they verify the information to ensure that it is correct. A skip tracer has the ability to read between the lines and put two and two together above and beyond just getting the requested information. Again, this sounds like the perfect solution.
Yes, there is a down side to only having skip tracers. Usually they are more expensive than databases. Sometimes they are moody or miss work due to sickness, vacation and other human tragedies. Even worse, sometimes they quit. Where does that leave your company?
Both sides can make an argument here. Both have really good points to validate their use. However, both have short comings that can reduce YOUR productivity. Oh what is a good manager to do? One costs less, but you don't really know if the information is correct. The other will take in all of the variables, read between the lines and verify the information gathered but can run the risk of being out of work due to human reasons.
So what is the answer? Put simply, a combination of the two is the answer. How much of each will be determined by the needs and abilities of your company.
Money is going to be the key. Does your company have the funds to hire and properly train a skip tracer? A skip tracer (just like any other tool) needs to be kept in proper working order to be as efficient as possible. This is done by providing constant educational opportunities to be kept abreast of changes in the laws, techniques, contacts and resources available to the skip trace industry.
Have your resources be as beneficial as possible. Stay in close contact with the database companies and the outsource companies that you use so that you get the most out of your resource dollar. Develop a tier system for your skip trace efforts. Let the value of the account determine exactly how much is done. You don't want to spend a thousand dollars to collect a ten dollar account. An easy way to do this is to separate your skip accounts into three levels: high balance, medium balance and low balance. Then assign exactly what steps will be done for each level. Work smarter not harder. Finally, if you determine that you can't hire someone full time but you can add the skip trace responsibility to the schedule of a current employee. Let there be a separation of duties. You have to think in a different mindset sometimes when you are skip tracing so determine a time that they will only do skip tracing.
These are the basics. As always if you have any questions ask a trusted and reputable person or company to help you work out the fine points.