COVID-19 is having a significant negative impact on the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry and is causing some companies to seek other opportunities outside of our typical business model. An excellent example is discussed in Stephanie Eidelman’s recent insideARM article published on May 12, “The U.S. Needs Thousands of Contact Tracers; Know Who is Ideally Suited? You Are.” Hardly a week goes by without seeing articles about the need for large numbers of staff to reach out to potentially exposed persons. Initially, this would appear to be an opportunity. However, the reality is that our industry has been largely ignored.
ARM companies are particularly suited to outbound calling and communicating with potentially exposed persons while notifying confirmed cases and face to face interviews are typically left to healthcare professionals.
Central Research, Inc. (CRI), like other ARM companies, has aggressively pursued contact tracing opportunities with limited success. The CARES Act virtually stopped industry activity for student loans through September 30, 2020. However, some Department of Education private collection agencies (PCA) have pursued other call center work in an effort to retain staff who would otherwise be without work. One PCA found work with a state unemployment department and CRI also briefly performed a call center service for the Small Business Administration. These are but two examples of industry efforts to keep our staff employed.
When it comes to contact tracing opportunities, what we have found is many municipalities, counties, and/or states are simply not aware of our industry expertise in filling these vital roles. We have seen municipalities and counties seeking to hire local unemployed residents as a first option rather than outsource. Some states are repurposing employees, using volunteers, or using an RFP process to select vendors to perform tracing functions. Many recent RFPs require the use of in-state residents, have a local preference, or favor businesses with contact tracing experience. While COVID-19 contact tracing is relatively new, our industry is limited in the required experience when competing against non-ARM companies with experience in contact tracing. These companies have been successful in capturing many of the opportunities.
CRI is still seeking contact tracing opportunities, and a recent acquisition has given us a chance to not only diversify our offerings but offer a unique contact tracing solution. CRI acquired Global Emergency Response, Inc. (GER) in early March 2020, prior to knowing what the COVID-19 impact would be on our population, economy, and the healthcare system. The company’s Disease Surveillance system was designed to be used for monitoring infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, and is also an excellent solution for employee screening and monitoring. This cloud-based software, available via a web interface or mobile application, expands our offering aimed at helping slow the spread of COVID-19.
During the ARM industry COVID-19 slow down, we encourage spending time expanding into other opportunities suited for ARM experience. At CRI, we are continuing to pursue contact tracing and call center work while devoting significant time marketing GER’s solutions for employee screening, monitoring, and contact tracing. Collectively, our industry can perform more outreach to educate municipalities, counties, and states of the value our industry can offer for COVID-19 related requirements.