Lately, victim restitution has become a higher priority for many of those working in government receivables, as judges order it more and more often, and as media attention makes the practice an often-talked-about political issue locally. As the practice becomes more commonplace, so have stories told of outlier situations involving an unpaid victim, and the fire surrounding the office tasked with collecting their dues. As a result, victim restitution has become an issue of deserved justice for communities affected by crime.
But local, county, or state governments like yours are often left wondering how to keep up with new demand. How do you go about updating your victim restitution program to meet your community’s needs, and comply with judicial orders? Start with these five practices:
- Increase contacts
Few government offices use sophisticated telephony products to reach out to their contacts. One or two people on staff are usually tasked with calling between 40 and 50 numbers a day, by hand, when opportunity exists to touch many more. By using technology like IVR or automated text messaging to keep contacts up-to-date, while managing incoming payments, government offices stand a chance to collect much more than manual processes often yield.
2. Make payment easier
Consumers have shown, increasingly, that payment made electronically – by phone or over the web – is a preferred method over cash or paper check. Yet many government agencies and offices still don’t adequately meet that need, some even lacking the technology to accept credit card payments. More commonly, they don’t have a web portal available to enable payment through the internet. Still more don’t integrate that technology to provide total balances to those making payments. New technology can help your office interface better, and make the process more efficient and mobile-friendly.
3. Enhance data accuracy
Many times, government offices have trouble reaching both the debtor for payment, and the victim for disbursement, because their addresses, phone numbers and other means of contact become outdated. That stems from a typical process whereby an office or agency receives a huge amount of contact information that’s impossible to work through with any expediency. By the time they get to an accurate contact, it might already have dried up. Purchasing data strategically, from a variety of vendors, and regularly scrubbing it for inaccuracies can make a big difference in its usefulness.
4. Work the right contacts at the right time
As your contacts age, it’s less and less likely they’ll yield a return. The way you work accounts matters as much as the information they contain. Government offices and their agencies tend to treat accounts of any age the same. That’s why you need to make multiple calls on a new account – with fresh information – rather than trying to contact every account a uniform number of times, using the same channels.
5. Invest in training
Many cities, counties and states don’t train their account service reps to handle the human elements inherent in receivables. Experience is seldom considered a factor, and technical knowledge of a system is given higher priority than good practices for communication. Victim restitution programs would be well-served to consider practices honed in commercial ARM agencies, which train account reps to handle tough conversations, and serve those communities with which they’re tasked to fund.
Remember, restitution is more than just a basic administrative function: Victims of crime deserve the justice that your program brings them. They’re more than just contacts in your system – They’re your neighbors, friends and family. Victim restitution is a direct way to benefit those who are hurt, and recover losses that affect their communities.
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