Courts that rely on a traditional compliance process don’t do so because it works well. They do so because it’s well established. They’re familiar with it, and they’ve built their workflows around it. The fear of potentially disruptive change is real.
But as we’ve previously discussed, courts can no longer afford to be complacent. Compliance isn’t just about collecting fines and fees; it’s about how responsibly courts use their shrinking resources and how well they engage their constituents.
“State courts occupy a unique place in a democracy. Public trust in them is essential, as is the need for their independence, accountability, and a service-oriented approach in all they do.”
– “Principles on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices,” National Center for State Courts (NCSC)
All court systems, even (perhaps especially) the largest and busiest, should be focused on building a collections process that not only nurtures compliance and brings most cases to a swift close, but also serves the court’s organizational interests and the best interests of the people they serve.
Here’s what an ideal compliance process looks like up close.
Behind the Scenes, Greater Purpose and Control
Courts that nurture a more compliant process maintain a dual focus on service quality and operational efficiency. They set measurable goals in both areas, and they use tools and practices designed to advance them.
For many customer-facing organizations in the private sector, the customer experience (i.e., all touchpoints along the customer journey) is carefully considered and designed.
• How well does each touchpoint serve the customer?
• How are various interactions perceived by the customer?
• Does each touchpoint elicit the desired response and/or behavior?
Courts that enjoy a high rate of success in their collection efforts take all of the above into account. Their compliance process aligns with constituents’ perspectives and needs. Court personnel are dedicated to ensuring they’re serving the public well.
Cutting-Edge Data Management and Workflows
The ideal compliance process offers court personnel high-level, real-time visibility into every case. Data is used to monitor account activity and stay up to date on debtors’ contact info and case status. Accounts are scored and ranked by likelihood of payment based on various factors (age of account, balance owed, and debtor payment history) so employees can prioritize action on those accounts.
A more data-driven, streamlined compliance process confers two major benefits. Because most routine functions such as payment processing and collection outsourcing are automated, court personnel can work easily and efficiently. And, because they always know when human intervention is required for outlier cases, they can work more effectively on the court’s and its constituents’ behalf.
The Constituent’s Journey: Easy, Empowering, and Friction-Free
As they navigate the ideal compliance process, constituents are treated like the customers (taxpayers and voters) they are. The court helps guide them through, its actions signaling care, competence, and professionalism.
Clear Communication From Day One
The court makes contact right away, when payment is likeliest to occur. Expectations and instructions are clearly laid out, including on the court’s website, so defendants know exactly what they must do to resolve their cases.
The court also sends convenient reminders so debt stays top of mind—not just by letters, but by text, phone, and/or email per defendants’ stated wishes. At every step, the court is fully transparent and ready to offer live assistance as needed.
Flexible Payment Options
Defendants can pay their debts by whatever means they find most convenient: in person, through an online portal, or by phone or kiosk. They’re also afforded flexible payment terms which, in some cases, they can arrange on their own using online self-service tools.
Predictability and Fairness
Every defendant’s journey is consistent with other constituents’ experiences. The court’s actions and responses are appropriate and properly timed. There are no rude surprises—no sudden escalation to an outside collection agency, and no threats of punitive action that seem to come out of nowhere. Constituents not only find it easy to comply in this environment, but they feel more inclined to do so.
What Courts Need to Make It Happen
For courts to achieve this ideal, big shifts in thinking and priorities may be required. Fortunately, transformative change is well within reach of even the largest, busiest court systems. The solution is simple, it’s cost neutral, and it requires very little training. It also works well with existing case management systems.
If you’re a court clerk or administrator looking for an easy way to improve collections and public relations, our latest eBook is for you. Download your free copy of “Collecting Court Fines & Fees: The Path to Nurturing a More Compliant Process,” and discover the simple secrets of compliance success.
Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.
© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.
As I write this, it has been three weeks to the day (5-28-19) since the CFPB released its proposed new rules for debt collection. After the initial frenzy of conversation, consumer groups and the debt collection industry have quietly retreated to their respective...
It is hard for anyone to get their head around the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed new rules for debt collection. The document is an exhausting 537 pages long, filled with cross references, mired in statutory definitions, and extremely challenging to...
For the Superior Court of San Joaquin County, managing roughly 94,000 cases per year was a big challenge. The court relied on antiquated, disparate systems and manual processes to do the job. Due to a state mandate, the court needed to migrate its four legacy systems...
Courts across the U.S. are in a bind when it comes to the collection practices they’ve relied on for decades. As cost concerns, administrative burdens, and mounting public pressure continue to bear down, court clerks and administrators are coming to terms with a...