A new survey makes the unsurprising claim that technology and consumer relations are leading factors in raising collection productivity.

The 1995 Western Union Survey Report on Consumer Credit Collection Trends compiled responses from 260 U.S. collection industry executives, largely from banks and thrifts, mortgage companies, finance companies, and collection agencies.

About 92% of the those surveyed said technology would "continue to drive" the collection process, while 73% predicted a heightened emphasis on customer outreach.

"They (banks) want to keep their existing accounts on board, because there is a shrinking pie out there," said Michael C. Yerington, vice president and general manager of Western Union Commercial Services.

"The pool of available new customers for banks is going down," he said. "As the cost of doing business goes up, banks are looking at ways of making employees more productive."

The survey indicated that excessive debt obligations have replaced unemployment as the leading factor in consumer delinquency. Fewer customers are considering bankruptcy than in 1992, when a previous Western Union survey was conducted, although bankers surveyed cited bankruptcy laws as the industry's greatest challenge.

Mr. Yerington attributed these changes to the improved economy, lower unemployment, and decreased spending restraints.

"The economy upkick has improved the ability to collect," he said. "People had been pulling back on their spending habits. Now, they're spending that money and putting more credit on their cards."

Same-day-payment services are on the rise, second only to regular mail as the means by which collectors receive delinquent payments, according to the survey. Western Union said that use of these services by collectors has grown since the 1992 survey, especially among mortgage companies and collection agencies, while regular mail usage has remained stagnant.

Telephone check drafting is also growing; 20% of collectors surveyed said they obtain payments by check over the phone.

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