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How To Design New Contact Plans

*** IMPORTANT *** This topic continues the discussion started in How To Use Contact Plans. Please read that topic for basic information on using Contact Plans in Collect!.

When you find that you need procedures that are not covered in the Contact Plans that Collect! has provided, you may want to modify an existing Contact Plan, or you may need to design your own. We will discuss both designing and modifying Contact Plans.

This document will help you gain full control over managing your contacts with the powerful, flexible feature, Contact Plans.

Requirements

- Review help on Contacts, Events, Schedule Next Contact
- Review help on Reports and Letters
- Plan a Collection Strategy
- Setup Clients. Debtors and Operators
- Setup and Use Work In Progress
- Review help on Debtor Status Codes
- Review help on Transactions, Promised Payment, Payment Plans
- Review help on Printable Field Codes

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Introduction

The combinations of procedures that you can perform on an account are limitless. Each agency has its own way of doing business. Perhaps you send five standard letters to your Debtors with two phone calls at specific intervals. Someone else sends two, phones once, does a review. Etc., etc. When a payment is received, you may handle it one way and someone else another.

Although this makes it difficult for Collect! to provide sample Contact Plans that suit you perfectly, the feature Contact Plans allows you to design any combination of procedures that you require to automate the scheduling of Contacts and recording results. Used correctly, Contact Plans greatly simplify and streamline your operations.

tip.gif The Contacts that are scheduled in Contact Plans ARE still Contacts, and they are subject to the settings you make in your Work in Progress setup. For this reason, it is necessary to have WIP Options and WIP Reload Filters setup correctly so that they do not conflict with what you are asking Collect! to do in a Contact Plan.

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New Accounts Contact Plan

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Overview

Suppose that you want a Contact Plan for new accounts that differs from NEW described and used in the topic How To Use Contact Plans. Let's imagine that you want to design your New Accounts Contact Plan to

send letter 1 on day 0
send letter 2 on day 14
send letter 3 on day 35
and, finally, review the file in 45 days.

Now suppose that you have this plan in place and you need to plan for the possible outcome of your contacts. To keep it simple, let's suppose there are two possible outcomes -- either the Debtor will contact you or will not contact you.

* If the Debtor does not contact you, three letters will be printed in your daily print batches, and eventually the account will land on the lap of one of your collectors, by appearing in that operator's WIP list to review.

* If the Debtor does contact you, Collect! intervenes with contact plans for special circumstances.

For example, the Debtor may call and dispute the account, and you need to schedule a Contact to your Client for additional information. You can do this with a Contact Plan.

Or, the Debtor may pay in full, and you can tell Collect! to immediately close the account, again with a Contact Plan.

Or, you may negotiate a payment plan for the Debtor.

Any one of these scenarios, and many more, can be handled with the contact plans in Collect!. We will design the solutions now.

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Implementing A New Accounts Contact Plan

To implement a New Accounts Contact Plan, we will design a plan and run it from a Debtor's record.

*** IMPORTANT *** For these exercises, please sign into Collect! as operator OWN. When you choose a Debtor for one of the instructions, check the upper right hand corner of the Debtor form. The Operator field should read OWN. This way, your results should match the results that are described in the examples.

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Designing The Contact Plan

1. Pull down the System menu and choose Contact Management Settings, Contact Plans, View.

2. Press F3 to create a new Contact Plan.

3. Fill in an ID such as ACC and a Description, for example 'New Accounts'.

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Filling In The Events

To perform the tasks we outlined for this Contact Plan, we will need an Event for each of the letters and one for the review. Since this is a new account, we would like our plan to automatically change the Debtor Status to NEW when the plan is run.

Each Event is a certain type and basically handles one kind of process. Our plan has five processes. We will create five Events.

Now that we have given our Contact Plan a Code: ACC and a Description: New Accounts, let's continue.

1. Press F5 to open the list of events in the plan. Since there are no events yet, you are asked to create a new Event.

2. Choose Yes to create the first Event in your New Accounts Contact Plan.

3. Fill in the details in the Event.

tip.gif The Type of the Event can be selected from a drop down list on the Event form. The default Type for a new Event is Letter. This suits us and we will accept that Type.

4. Click on the Description field to select the letter you want Collect! to send on Day 0. Choose a letter that Starts On the Debtor.

tip.gif The Report Definition list will open displaying all the possible choices for reports and letters that can be selected. It is necessary to have spent some time examining the Reports and Letters so that you can choose an appropriate one.

5. The rest of the default settings should be fine for the first letter.

6. Press F8 to save the Event. The Contact Plan now contains a single Event in the list.

7. Click on the Event list so that it is active. Its title bar should be blue. Press F3 to create the next Letter event in this Contact Plan.

8. Click the Description field, and pick another letter to be sent on Day 14. Make sure you choose a letter that Starts On the Debtor.

9. Now, click the Delay Days button, and enter 14 for the number of days.

10. Press F8 to save the Event. The Contact Plan now contains two events in the list, and your cursor has highlighted one line in the Event list.

11. Repeat steps 7 to 10, two more times, filling in the Event Type, Description and Delay days as required for the last two letters.

You have created four Events, each one of them schedules a Contact.

12. Create another new Event by pressing F3. This Event will set the Debtor's Status to NEW.

13. Choose Status for the Event Type. In the Description field choose NEW.

14. Leave all other settings as they are and press OK.

We have created five events and you now have a New Accounts Contact Plan. Click OK until you have exited the Contact Plan forms.

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Running The Contact Plan

* To run the Contact Plan on a new Debtor, pull down the Browse menu, choose Active Debtors, and open a Debtor form. Click the Action button. When the Contact Plan form is displayed, choose ACC, the Code for our New Accounts Contact Plan. Collect! does some quick work and the letters and review are scheduled. Notice that the Debtor Status is NEW. Select the Contacts tab and you will see the letters in the Debtor's Contact list.

tip.gif Events in a Contact Plan are assigned to an operator. If you do not see the letters, check the operator on the Debtor form. We intentionally let our Contact Plan default to "Assign to account operator" when handling events. That is why you were instructed to sign on as operator OWN for these exercises. If you are signed on as OWN in the Demodb database, please choose Debtors assigned to OWN when trying out these plans. We will experiment with assigning Events to specific operators further on in this example.

tip.gif To run a Contact Plan on a tagged list of Debtors, pull down the Tools menu, choose Batch Processing, and choose Run Contact Plan. As part of the Batch Processing setup, you will be able to choose the Code of the Contact Plan you wish to run.

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Dealing With Possible Outcomes

We already know what will happen if the Debtor does not respond to our letters. The account will be reviewed after 45 days. This is part of our New Accounts Contact Plan.

Now let's deal with the possible outcomes we outlined above:

The Debtor may call and dispute the account and we need to contact your Client for additional information.

The Debtor may pay in full and we need to immediately close the account and cancel pending contacts.

You may negotiate a payment plan for the Debtor.

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Disputed Account Advise Client

Let's design a solution for a disputed account.

One possible outcome is that the Debtor may phone and dispute the debt in some way. There is a Contact Plan in Collect! that handles a situation like this. Its Code is DAC and the actions it performs are as follows.

- Put a note in the Debtor's record.
- Schedule a phone call to the Client.
- Do a follow-up review in 10 days.

Each of these actions is an Event in the DAC Contact Plan. In the topic How To Use Contact Plans, the concept of the Event was explained and illustrated with several examples. Each Event is a certain Type. Collect! knows, internally, what each Type means and performs certain tasks based on this Type.

Perhaps, in your business, disputed accounts are handled by a particular operator, let's say - a Senior Collector whose unique ID is SC.

tip.gif Each and every operator must have a unique ID. For instance, if you have several

Senior Collectors, each one has to have their own unique ID. You could not use SC for each one.

We want to set the Phone Event so that the notification to phone the Client appears in the To Do list for SC. Let's assume that a different operator handles reviews, let's say - the Collection Manager whose unique ID is CMG. We want to set the Review Event so that the Contact appears in the To Do list for CMG.

Let's examine the existing Contact Plan in Collect! and see whether we can use it as is or need to modify it for our purposes.

This Contact Plan, DAC, has three events:

Note
Phone
Review

Notice the operator assignment settings in each of these events. Although we could use this Contact Plan to notify the Client, we would like to assign the phone call and review events to specific operators. Let's modify this plan to suit our purposes.

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Modifying An Existing Contact Plan

We will make a copy of the existing plan, with a different name, and modify it to assign events to the operators we choose.

1. Open the list of Contact Plans and scroll down until DAC is highlighted.

2. Pull down the Edit menu and choose Copy.

3. Next, pull down the Edit menu and choose Paste. There are now two copies of DAC in the Contact Plan list. You may need to use the Up arrow to see both copies.

4. Click the Edit button at the bottom of the Contact List while one of the DAC copies is highlighted. The Contact Plan is displayed now and we will modify it.

5. First, change the Code, making sure you are not choosing a name that already exists in the Contact Plan list. Using the record navigation buttons [ << ] and [ >> ], let's scroll through a few Contact Plans near DAC and see what their codes are. The list is alphabetical.

6. There is no Code named DAA, so let's call ours DAA, Disputed Acct Advise. Change the name in the Code field and type in the new Description. *** Make sure the Contact Plan you are modifying is DAC when you start modifying the Contact Plan.

7. Leave the two boxes checked: " Delete all pending contacts" and "Prompt before deleting."

8. Click on the first Event line to open the Event form. This Event is a Note Type. We will leave it as it is.

9. Use the record navigation FORWARD [ >> ] button to advance to the next Event in the Contact Plan. This is the Phone Event.

10. Click on "Assign to specific operator." A drop-down list appears where you can pick an operator. Choose SC for Senior Collector. Leave all other fields as they are.

11. Use the record navigation FORWARD [ >> ] button to advance to the next Event in the Contact Plan. This is the Review Event.

12. Click on "Assign to specific operator." A drop-down list appears where you can pick an operator. Choose CMG for Collection Manager. Leave all other fields as they are.

13. Click OK and you should see the Contact Plan displayed with all the events in the list. Note the new operator assignments.

*** There is a Debtor Status Code for disputed accounts. It is DIS. Let's let the Contact Plan take care of changing the Debtor's Status to DIS.

14. Click on the Events list to make it active and press F3 to create a new Event. Choose Status for the Type.

15. From the Description field drop-down list, choose DIS.

16. Leave all the other settings as they are and click OK.

Our Disputed Account Advise Contact Plan is ready to be tested. Because we have involved several operators in our Contact Plan, we will sign in and out of Collect! to see the effects of this plan for individual operators. This will give you practice changing operators. Later on we'll mention another way to see the contacts scheduled for different operators without signing out of Collect!.

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Testing The Modified Contact Plan

1. Assuming that you are signed in as OWN, Browse Active Debtors and choose a Debtor whose operator is OWN. Ordinarily, you will be dealing with a new account, but existing accounts will serve for our experiment.

2. Click the Action button and choose the Contact Plan DAA that we modified. You will be prompted before pending contacts are deleted. Choose "Yes" to delete the contacts. Next the Schedule Next Contact form will display. Leave it as it is and choose "Next" to close the form. Notice that the Debtor Status has changed to DIS.

3. Select the Contacts tab and notice the Phone and Review contacts that have been scheduled for this Debtor. Notice the collectors to whom the Contacts have been assigned.

4. Close the Debtor forms and choose Work In Progress. Notice that there are no contacts for this Debtor in your To Do List.

5. Press Exit. You will be at the Welcome to Collect! screen.

6. Click the LOGOUT button and enter SC for the ID and sc for the password. Press OK to return to the Welcome to Collect! screen and then press the Start button.

7. The Senior Collector setting will take you directly to the WIP list and you will see the Phone contact that was just scheduled. We assigned it to "specific operator" SC in the Phone Event and there it is, in SC's To Do list!

8. Press Exit again. You will be at the Welcome to Collect! screen. Click the Logout button and enter CMG for the ID and cmg for the password. Press OK to return to the Welcome to Collect! screen.

9. Press Start. The Collection Manager setting will take you directly to the WIP list and you will see the Review contact that was just scheduled. We assigned it to "specific operator" CMG in the Review Event and there it is, in CMG's To Do list!

10. Press Exit. You will be at the Welcome to Collect! screen again. Press the Logout button and enter OWN for the ID and own for the password. Press OK to return to the Welcome to Collect! screen. Press Start and you will be signed in as OWN again.

When you are handling a disputed account, all you have to do is press the Action button and choose DAA. The Disputed Accounts Advise Contact Plan will change the Debtor's Status and schedule contacts to handle the account.

tip.gif The other way to check the contacts scheduled for different operators is the following.

When you are viewing the WIP list, notice the Reload button on the upper right hand of the Work In Progress form. Press this button to display the Reload Work In Progress List form. At the bottom of this list, you can choose an operator whose contacts you want to load.

Signed in as OWN, choose CMG. Press OK. Notice our scheduled Review in the list.

Press Reload again and choose SC. Press OK. Notice our scheduled Phone call in the list.

See Also:

- Work In Progress

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Full Payment

Now let's design a plan to handle an account that is Paid In Full as a result of the letters we sent to the Debtor.

Our Contact Plan should change the Debtor's status to PIF, delete all pending contacts and Close the file.

Your collectors should only have to enter the amount of the Debtor's payment. When Collect! calculates that this amount has settled the debt, our Contact Plan can take care of all details.

tip.gif It is necessary to know the basics of Collect!'s use of printable field codes. Each field in every form in Collect! has its own code. These codes are used in report definition. They are also used to set conditions in events. Please refer to the Help topic Printable Fields for more information as this is beyond the scope of the present topic.

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Creating The Paid In Full Contact Plan

1. Open the Contact Plan list and press F3 to create a new Contact Plan.

2. Type PIF in the Code field and "Payment in Full" in the Description field.

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Change Debtor Status

1. Click the Event list to activate it and press F3 to create your first Event for this plan.

2. Choose Status for the Type field and PIF for the Description.

3. In the Schedule If field, type or choose de.ow, then =, in the next field, then 0 in the next field.

tip.gif We are saying: Change the Debtor's status to Paid in Full if the Debtor owing field has a value of 0.

4. We are going to accept the defaults for other settings.

5. Press F8 to save the Event. It now appears in the Event list.

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Close File

Let's add an Event to close the file, If the Debtor status is PIF.

1. Click on the Event list and press F3 to open a new Event form.

2. Choose type Close and enter a brief description.

3. In the Schedule If field, type or choose de.sta, then, in the next field, =, then in the next field, PIF.

We are saying, Close the file if the Debtor Status is PIF.

4. Accept the defaults for the other fields and press F8 to save the Event. It is now in the Event list.

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Trying It Out

Let's try out our Paid In Full Contact Plan.

1. Assuming that you are signed on as OWN, Browse Active Debtors and chose a Debtor whose operator is OWN.

tip.gif Remember, we left the default "assign to account operator" switched ON in our Events in the Contact Plan.

2. Type ACC for the Contact Plan and press Enter. We want to make sure there are pending contacts so that we can test our routine.

3. Open the Contacts form and notice the new letters scheduled for this Debtor.

3. Now enter a payment amount for the Debtor that settles the debt.

tip.gif When you enter the Paid field, the Transactions form will open. Please refer to Help on Transactions as this is beyond the scope of the present topic.

The Debtor Owing field should indicate the appropriate amount to enter to settle the account. When you have entered it and returned to the Debtor form, the Debtor Owing field should be empty.

4. Click on the Action button and choose PIF for the Contact Plan. The Debtor Status should change to PIF and the Mode should change to Closed.

By performing these actions through a Contact Plan, your collectors don't have to remember the details of these operations. Behind the scenes, the Contact Plan can take care of checking all conditions that you need to verify.

5. View the Contacts for this Debtor and you will see that the letters and review have been canceled.

Later on, in this article, after we have discussed Calling One Contact Plan From Another, we will modify the PIF Contact Plan to use the CLO, Close file Contact Plan.

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Payment Posting Options

The previous exercise shows how Contact Plans can respond to conditions that you set in Events. In an actual transaction, however, you may not have to click the Action button to choose and run your PIF Contact Plan. A Contact Plan can be scheduled to run whenever a payment is posted. In Payment Posting Options you can pick a default Contact Plan. Please refer to Help on Payment Posting Options as this is beyond the scope of this article.

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Promised Payment

The last possible outcome that we will discuss is the possibility that you negotiate a payment plan for the Debtor. Examine the list of Contact Plans designed for you in Collect!. You will see several that relate to Payment Plan and Promised Payment. In the Events for these plans, contacts can be handled to deal with payment schedules, late payments, missed payments and more.

Please refer to help topics Promised Payment and Payment Plans as these concepts are beyond the scope of this article.

tip.gif If you are ready to assign a Payment Plan to your Debtor, use the pre-designed Contact Plans in the Collect! Demodb database. You can copy these to your masterdb database as described in the Help topic How To Use Contact Plans.

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Calling One Contact Plan From Another

Open the Contact Plan called PPR, Payment Plan 30 days. Notice in the Event list, a Type named 'Plan'. The Code in the Description field for this Type indicates another Contact Plan that is called from the Contact Plan you are viewing.

tip.gif This feature of Contact Plans enables you to design complex scenarios to handle your accounts. It is necessary to be very familiar with the operation of Collect! before you attempt this. Contact Plans and their events must be set up to work cohesively and not conflict with each other.

We will show a simple use of this concept by modifying a Contact Plan which we designed above. For more complex designs, it is advised that you seek help from Comtech Systems, or use the Contact Plans that Collect! provides in the Demodb database. It may only be necessary to modify them slightly to suit your needs.

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Paid In Full Revisited

When we designed our Paid In Full Contact Plan, we created an Event to close the file. We could have called another Contact Plan to do this. There is a plan called CLO, Close file. Perhaps your business has several steps to closing a file. You may want to create your own Close File Contact Plan.

To keep things simple, let's use CLO as is.

1. Open the Contact Plan list and choose PIF.

2. Click on the Event list to activate it and press F3 to create a new Event in the Paid In Full Contact Plan.

3. Choose Plan in the Type field.

4. The Description field is now a drop-down list of all available Contact Plans.

tip.gif Although all Contact Plans are listed, this does not mean that any one of them would be appropriate to call from the plan you are designing. You have to know which plan you want to call and what it is going to do when you call it.

5. Choose the CLO, close file plan. Click OK.

6. In the Schedule If field, type de.ow, then in the next field, =, then in the next field, 0.

We are saying "Run the Close file Contact Plan if the Debtor Owing is 0.

7. Leave the other setting as they are and press OK.

8. In the Events list, use the arrow keys to scroll and highlight the Close event. Press Delete and choose Yes to remove this Event from our Contact Plan.

Let's try out our modified Contact Plan.

tip.gif To test this Contact Plan, see "Trying It Out", above and follow the steps outlined there.

tip.gif Notice that the "Schedule If" condition set in the Plan Event (de.ow = 0) is different from Close Event we designed above (de.sta = PIF). This is because the CLO Contact Plan runs BEFORE the PIF Contact Plan changes the Debtor Status!

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Event Timing

To experiment with event timing, change the 'Schedule If" condition in the Plan Event so that it reads (de.sta = PIF)' Try the Contact Plan on a Debtor as outlined above. You will see evidence of the fact that somewhere in the running of the PIF Contact Plan, when the Plan Event checks its "Schedule If'' condition, (de.sta = PIF), it is not true yet and the CLO Contact Plan does not execute! On the Debtor form, after the Contact Plan is run, the Mode remains Active. The file is not closed and the pending contacts are not deleted! However, if the "Schedule If" condition is changed to (de.ow = 0), the plan works!

This is a very good example of the necessity for careful planning. When a Contact Plan is called from another Contact Plan, you have to make sure that the conditions you are checking for have already occurred. If you expect your Contact Plans to set certain conditions before you perform other actions, you may be in for a surprise.

tip.gif If you write a note to the Debtor's Notes from your Contact Plan and from the Plan that it calls, you can check the times that the Notes are posted to see what is run first.

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Advanced Exercises In Contact Plan Design

The following Contact Plan scenarios do not contain step by step solutions. Rather, they are presented to give you an idea of some of the ways that contact plans can be used to automate more complex operations that you may have to perform on some of your accounts.

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Automatically Repeating Contact Plans

Contact plans can be designed to perform scheduled operations on a continuous basis. Once they have been set and run on an account, "delay" settings and "schedule if" settings in the contact plan events, result in a completely automatic repeating process.

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Exercise 1

Create an automatically repeating Contact Plan that sends letters on the 1st of every month. You can use conditional scheduling, i.e., settings in the "Schedule If" fields, to keep sending letters, and then automatically close the account when the Debtor's owing falls to 0 dollars.

tip.gif Conditional scheduling refers to conditions placed in the "Schedule If" field. We used these in the examples above.

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Exercise 2

Set up a series of events in a Contact Plan to do the following:

if the Debtor's owing is greater than $50, print a Dunning letter.

if the Debtor's owing is less than $50.01, close the account.

if the Debtor's owing is less than $0, schedule a file review for overpayment.

Consider adding a Note to the Debtor's Notes when each of these events occurs.

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Exercise 3

Create a set of contact plans that do the following:

STARTUP PLAN 1

set status = NEW

set mode = Active

schedule Letter 1 to be printed in today's print batch

schedule Plan 3 to run in 10 days

tip.gif To schedule another plan to run from your Contact Plan, create a new Event and choose Plan for the Type field. In the Description field, choose the Contact Plan you wish to run. (Plan 3 - assuming that you have already designed a Contact Plan named Plan 3)

To run this plan in 10 days:

Choose Delay days....10 Days rather than the default "Schedule immediately."

Typically, once the letter is sent, one of several things could happen:

Payment In Full (hopefully your careful wording did the trick)
Partial Payment
Returned Mail
Some other event that affects the account (for example, it may have been listed in error)
Finally, nothing at all may happen, either because the Debtor couldn't be bothered to reply, or because she is vacationing in the Bahamas.

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If Payment Received

If a payment is received in the next 10 days, Plan 2 will be run when the payment is posted (if the Payment Posting Options are set to run Plan 2 as the default Contact Plan). Please see above under " Payment Posting Options.".

PLAN 2

if the Debtor's owing is less than $ 50 but > $ 1 : Set status = SIF

if the Debtor's owing is less than $ 1 : Set status = PIF

if the Debtor's owing is less than $ 50 : Close the account

if the Debtor's owing is less than $ -10 : Schedule a file review for overpayment

if the Debtor's owing is greater than $ 50 : Change mode to ACT

if the Debtor's owing is greater than $ 50 : Schedule a file review

After a payment is received, the account is either closed or a review is scheduled, all done automatically by Collect! when the payment is posted. With most accounts, you will just print letters and post the payments.

tip.gif When an account is Closed, any pending contacts are automatically deleted, except for Metro contacts. Metro contacts are reported the next time a credit bureau report is generated. Then they are marked done. Please see help on Credit Bureau Reporting.

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Mail Return Scenario

When mail is returned, the account is found using the Browse pull-down menu, and a skip tracing plan could be run. This will schedule a review by the skip tracing desk, and clear the pending Contact Plan 3 that is normally run when we don't get a mail return or payment.

tip.gif On the Debtor form, under the Address line, you will see an OK button. This is the Address OK switch. If it is "switched off" (unchecked), letters will not be printed to this Debtor. Note that the color of the address fields changes to alert the operator. This is the first step in skip tracing.

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Skip Tracing

After the Address OK switch is "switched off" as described above, a Contact Plan could be run to assign the account to a specialist in skip tracing. In the Demonstration database there is a sample Contact Plan called SNS, Status now SKIP. Review this Contact Plan. It can be modified to meet your needs.

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No Reply Scenario

If no payment was received, Plan 3 will be scheduled to run on the 10th day when the daily scheduled Contacts are processed. The system will notice that Plan 3 is to be run on that Debtor on that day, and will fetch the Debtor and run the plan.

If Plan 3 runs, it is known that letter 1 was already sent, and that there has been no response.

PLAN 3

Assigns an account Operator with the Collector Assignment plan ASN.

Schedules Letter 2 to be sent in today's letter batch.

Schedules a review in 10 days by the account Operator.

tip.gif You can see by these exercises, that whole series of complex events can be scheduled. Actually, this is still only a basic example. Further, Plan 3 could be designed to send another letter if the owing amount is less than $100, but schedule a review if the owing is greater than that amount.

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Summary

The possibilities of Contact Plan design are limitless! However, nothing can take the place of a carefully thought-out collection strategy before you begin to design your own Contact Plans.

Continue to review the Contact plans included in the Demodb database. Open the plans and examine the events and their settings and conditions. Examples are shown for new account assignments, assigning Operators to accounts, scheduling phone calls, sending letters and a host of other activities.

See Also:

- How Collect! Executes Contact Plans Internally
- Using Contact Plans For Batch Letters

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