September 1, 2014

Experian Launches Tool to Help Small Businesses Collect

Experian has launched a new service to help small businesses quickly evaluate new customers for payment risk, monitor to see if risk changes, and collect past due amounts.

The product is an online subscription service called BusinessIQ Express.  It’s an all-in-one dashboard to help you quickly evaluate companies that are customers and prospective customers.  You also get alerts if the risk of repayment changes.  And in the event you are not getting paid, the tool helps you collect.

According to Adam Fingersh, senior vice president of Experian’s Business Information Services, it helps you “look for indications of financial stress in your customers.”  So you can get paid … promptly.

BusinessIQ Express is an interesting tool because small businesses can find intelligence on companies they may need to extend credit or payment terms to — without actually pulling a credit report.  A lot of information is centralized in one place.  I can see it benefiting an accounts receivable department to stay on top of  changes, too.  If you keep close tabs on your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) number, and monitor it for cash flow purposes and as a sign of the overall fiscal health of your company, you especially will appreciate a tool like this.

Another thing I liked about it was the help it gives for collecting past due payments:  skip tracing, writing collection letters and finding a collection agency.  And with everything available in a single convenient dashboard, you also get a streamlined process to follow and recordkeeping support.

Let’s take a deeper look into its 3 parts: Evaluate, Monitor and Collect.

Evaluate

When you log on, one of the first things you do is enter in the names of companies that are customers or that you are considering as customers.  If the company is in the system, it will pull up information including basics such as the company address and even a small map.

This section gives you a risk rating for each company (high, mid or low) and a credit limit recommendation (a dollar amount).  Here’s a partial view — notice the High risk rating in this sample customer:

Evaluate

BusinessIQ shows whether there are any bankruptcies, judgments or liens against the company — as well as a collection history.   What you see is not an official credit report — but you do have the ability to order a credit report for an additional fee on a company.

And because many small businesses are only as solid as the owner behind them, you can also get some basic information about the owner.  You can request permission from the owner directly in the tool to pull a credit report on the owner.

Monitor

The monitoring function allows you to keep tabs on the repayment risk with existing customers and get alerts in the event the customer becomes a higher risk, such as filing a bankruptcy.  All alerts you get will remain in your dashboard so they are in one place for later reference:

Alerts

Collect

This part of the tool helps you collect outstanding payments if necessary.  For instance, it helps you find alternative addresses for the customer, in case you have the wrong address for sending invoices.

There are also collection letter templates — from friendly to “severely-worded.”  You customize the template, then print and mail them on your end.  The letter also appears under the Collect tab so that you have a record of it.

Collect

You’ll also find links to collection agencies, should you need to go that far.  All collection agencies are “reporting agencies” meaning that the collection will be reported on the collection target’s credit record.

The tool also includes a Coach’s Corner to give you tips on how to use BusinessIQ Express better.  And there is a library of educational articles.  For $99 per month (currently $750 if you pay annually in advance), you can evaluate and monitor up to 100 companies.  There’s also the ability to register for free and get free alerts and to see part of the product’s functionality.

Experian is a global company known for its credit reporting and business data, with annual revenues exceeding $4 Billion and 15,000 employees. The BusinessIQ Express tool is designed to be used by small businesses in just about any industry, if they have financial or customers relationships with other businesses.

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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. This looks like a very handy service especially in the current economic climate.
    I don’t have the problem of credit with my new business but like most small businesses, I have been let down in the past. It hurts and anything that can help avoid it has to be a worthwhile investment.

    • Hi Steve, I agree. I recently had a “business partner” essentially go belly up, and lost several thousand dollars. This tool could have saved me grief and I could have pursued an alternative partnership with a stronger company a lot earlier, had I been able to see the signs of financial stress sooner.

      My company can certainly weather a loss of that amount. But like you said, it still hurts. Our team works hard and I know what it takes for us to earn a few thousand dollars.

      Most of all, I felt the lack of our internal systems acutely. A system is one of the most valuable things this product gives, in my opinion. It gives any small business a systematic process and structure for keeping tabs on amounts due you, and realistic help to collect.

      - Anita

  2. Definitely something that could make the life of a businessperson easier. Thanks!

    • Hi John,

      That’s a good point — it makes your life as a businessperson easier. Whether you are the owner of the company, or the CFO, or the AR Department Manager — this looks like it can you save you time and make you more effective.

      I think it’s an innovative improvement over the traditional “pull a credit report” approach, and I like the dashboard aspect very much because it helps you organize and systematize the entire process. I haven’t used the product myself yet — just went through a demo and set up the limited free account — but it does seem promising.

      - Anita

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