| -

ATLANTA — Many great tools exist for repossession agencies and their clients to increase communication, keep costs down and manage the repo-to-remarketing processes efficiently. Oftentimes agencies and clients fail to partner closely and over-communicate early in their relationship or when new processes are rolled out, leading to underused or misused technology and missed expectations.

As AutoIMS continues to evolve their recovery platform to better support repossession management processes, the company is also keeping an eye on the most successful client/agency relationships and what those relationships have in common that make them successful. Certain items are already apparent.

For instance, agents who are aware of and focused on the business issues of their clients are winning more business.

In a recent survey, AutoIMS users indicated "controlling costs" and "loan defaults" as two of their top three current business challenges. These are items repossession agents can directly address with their clients, and which should be reinforced as part of an agency's unique selling proposition whenever possible, to help them gain client trust and win more business.

Once the business is won, the next key challenge facing agencies is how to communicate most effectively with lender clients.

Lenders need to know the status of their vehicles to feel confident that their case is being worked, and agencies need tools to effectively organize their assignments and time their updates. As a leading provider of these tools, AutoIMS is constantly learning and sharing new and better ways for clients and agents alike to maximize their use of the available processes and technology.

Among many other best practices, the company found that successful agencies do a couple of things consistently well:

—Make the Most of E-mail: The days of using free e-mail hosting to conduct business are dwindling, although as recently as October, an AutoIMS agent survey found that fewer than 50 percent of agencies were using dedicated, corporate e-mail domains. Lack of security, dependability, professionalism, organization and storage are all concerns with free e-mail domains.

Electronic assignments and e-mail notifications are the current de facto standard for most of the large lenders. Scanning hard copy documents such as titles and e-mailing them are also more widely preferred and more cost-effective than faxing or courier services.

If agencies are unsure of how important this is, they should contact the lender to discuss their preferred process and come to a mutual agreement on how to proceed.

—Make the Most of Repossession Management Software: According to the AutoIMS repossession agency survey, 93 percent of agencies prefer to receive assignments through an online repo management system. And on average, they use three different systems to accommodate client preferences and maximize the number of assignments they receive.

These systems provide another reason for agencies to communicate early on with clients about their expectations for how they want to work together (frequency of updates, whether they require information like a condition report, etc.), and how they can maximize use of the repo management systems to meet these expectations. Too often agencies and clients fail to set these expectations clearly on the outset, thus creating confusion and problems down the line, and not taking full advantage of the tools at their disposal.

In the latest AutoIMS client satisfaction survey, most end-users indicated high or very high satisfaction with the repossession management functionality AutoIMS offers (RecoveryIMS).

Several of the nation's largest automotive remarketers offered their direct and open feedback — good and bad — as users of RecoveryIMS, affording the Atlanta-based software company a unique view into the processes and technologies that drive relationships between repossession agencies and the remarketers that rely on them.

Both the client survey and aforementioned agent survey efforts shed significant light on opportunities for repossession agents and their clients alike to make better use of existing tools and technologies. What's the best starting point? Clear and thorough communication early in the relationship will help set a partnership in motion that can lead to productivity-enhancing improvements over time.

Joe Miller is director of customer service for Auto Auction Services Corp.