A collection agency can become an important partner for any business in helping to recoup debts owed the business from past due clients when all other attempts and options have proved futile. Because the collection agency your business hires is in effect representing you, there are several smart questions to ask a potential agency in order to select one that is reputable as well as effective.

The first question to ask is how long the collection agency has been in business and at their present location. You want an agency that has a good track record and that has been in business long enough to show that they are professionals who get the job done to their clients’ satisfaction.

Another smart question to ask is how many collection agents they have on their staff and how are they trained. Find out if one or more collection agents are assigned to your account. Ask the collection agency if they expect their staff members to be professional and courteous at all times, both attitudes which can only help you in the long run.

Since telephone contact is the main course of action for any collection agency because they are not empowered to file lawsuits, garnish wages or take other legal action against your debtors, ask if the collection agency works nights and weekends to contact debtors. Ask how persistent their phone calls are to the debting party. Collection agencies that have at least some weekend and evening hours make it easier for them to reach the debtor as well as easier for the debtor to visit their offices to settle an account.

Ask how easy the collection agency makes it for the debtor to reach them, either by phone or in person. Where is their office located and do they have several office locations in order to receive payments? Find out if they offer debtors a toll-free number for returning their calls, making it easier for a cash-strapped debtor to call back and discuss the situation rather than avoiding the call because they cannot afford to make a long-distance or toll call to the collection agency.

Ask if the agency is computerized and how often they report the status of your account to you. Ask to see the last report that was done by your state’s regulatory agency reviewing their accounts and internal procedures.

Ask if the agency will provide client referrals from others in your same type of business. Ask what sort of fees they charge you to collect monies owed and if you must sign a contract to retain their services and how long is it binding on both parties.

Ask a prospective collection agency how they ensure that they are following all state and local laws and regulations regarding collection. The best agencies have an attorney either in-house or on retainer to handle legal questions.

Ask how long the collection agency works at trying to obtain your money from past-due accounts and how they determine when to advise you to start legal proceedings against deadbeat clients.