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How independent schools can recover unpaid debt whilst protecting their reputation

Collecting overdue fees and other debts are vital in protecting the financial integrity of independent schools, but how can you maintain your reputation in the process?

Debt recovery is a sensitive area for any business. However, when it comes to independent schools, it’s vitally important to ensure that getting paid what you’re owed doesn’t have a negative impact on your reputation. Most of your debtors are not just debtors; they’re also parents whose relationship with you is unique and highly personal.

In many cases, overdue fees can be the result of life challenges such as divorce or redundancy, not to mention the current cost of living crisis. If the parent runs their own business, their inability to pay may be linked to temporary cash flow issues.

If you’ve done everything you can to recover an overdue debt, the natural next step is to engage a professional debt collection agency. But how do you ensure that the company you choose acts with tact and integrity to safeguard the reputation of your school? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Are they authorised, regulated and compliant?
A reputable debt collection agency should be authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. That means they conform to a stringent set of rules and guidelines which ensures they act with professionalism, honesty and fairness.

You should also check they’re members of the Credit Services Association (CSA). CSA members adhere to a code of practice which ensures that they maintain the highest industry standards. Under the CSA’s Collector Accreditation Initiative, collection agents are tested annually to ensure their knowledge and skills are up to date.

Data protection is also an important issue to take into consideration. Is the debt collection agency fully compliant with the latest GDPR legislation and registered as a data handler with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)? If not, the integrity of your own data protection policy could be at risk.

What about quality control?
It’s also worth checking if a debt collection agency is ISO:9001 accredited. If so, they’ll be externally audited every year to ensure they’re meeting key quality management principles, including a strong customer focus, effectiveness of the senior management team, the process approach and continual improvement.

Other important best practice methods to look out for in a debt collection agency include taking special care with debtors who are vulnerable or experiencing hardship, only making telephone calls during appropriate hours and having a clear and effective complaints handling procedure with a dedicated quality control team.

Their reputation is as important as yours
Protecting your school’s good name means finding a debt collection agency that’s known for its own professionalism and high standards, as well as its effectiveness. It’s worth doing some online research – most debt collection agencies will have case studies on their website, or you could see how other customers rate them on Google reviews.

Consider the credit management route
Vigorously chasing debts when they’re overdue isn’t the only option. Prevention is always better than cure, and many debt collection agencies offer proactive credit management services, ensuring that your credit control processes are robust and encouraging timely settlement of debts. Offering a debt management plan could also be a good call. A payment schedule can be drawn up, with regular reviews of the debtor's financial circumstances to see if instalments can be increased or the balance settled.

A trusted partner for independent schools
At Redwood Collections, we have 14 years’ experience in working with the independent schools sector. We understand the need to combine a rigorous, results-focused approach with sensitivity and prudence. That means knowing where and when to act firmly and decisively, and when to take a more careful, restrained approach.

We’re also committed to transparent communication and regular reporting. Our team of dedicated account managers and specific legal caseworkers are there to answer all your questions and keep you up to date on progress.

With Redwood on your side, your school and its reputation can Grow Stronger.

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