A new SunGard survey says companies are using the wrong approach to decide when to send business-to-business bills to collection agencies.

According to the survey of 179 executives worldwide, 96% of companies send B2B bills to a collection agency based on the number of days the bill is delinquent, with 80% of companies waiting at least 90 to 120 days to do so.

But SunGard says the longer a bill is overdue, the less likely it is to ever be paid.

A better idea, SunGard says, is to do a risk analysis of late payers to establish which are most likely to pay and then focus in-house collection efforts on those customers, sending the rest to collection early.

C.J. Wimley, head of B2B Trade Liquidity Solutions for SunGard’s AvantGard business, says the company has developed an automated predictive metric that is “two times better than any other metric out there at making predictions as to which bills will likely go significantly delinquent or become a loss.” The main metric is the customer’s past payment history.

“If there’s a high risk that a customer is not going to pay, why wait to send that bill out for collection?” Wimley asks.