Regular training, call monitoring and personal attention can help collectors meet their monthly goals
The success of your collectors directly affects the success of your business, which is why it’s important for agencies to promptly identify the factors affecting collectors’ ability to meet their goals each month.
Beth Conklin, training manager for National Enterprise Systems in Solon, Ohio, said her agency holds quarterly training sessions to keep collectors up-to-date on collection strategies.
However, even well-trained collectors have their bad days. When collection numbers start to slip, National Enterprise Systems examines a number of factors, including the experience of the collector.
“One of the first things we look at is whether it’s a veteran collector,” Conklin said. “Often veteran collectors can be more difficult to train since they’ve been collecting so long.”
Because today’s consumers are so different from consumers 10 years ago, training veteran collectors on new and improved negotiation tactics is important.
“Collectors used to be able to send consumers out to get refinanced or apply for a special loan to pay their debts, and they can’t do that anymore,” Conklin said. “The economy has changed so much that it’s not as easy to get a cash advance on your credit card to pay an account or get a personal loan.”
Reviewing effective negotiation tactics can also help collectors meet their goals.
“Everyone wants to know, ’What’s in it for me?’” Conklin said. “We might knock off $100 since it’s a different consumer today than it was four or five years ago. It goes back to retraining your collectors.”
Conklin often rereads client guidelines to determine what kind of settlement offers collectors are allowed to provide consumers. It’s important for collectors to understand whether the settlement negotiation has decreased, if they’re allowed to offer payment plans and, if so, the length of the plans they’re allowed to offer consumers.
“One of the key indicators is making sure the collector understands the client guidelines,” Conklin said. “We might start there if production goes down.”
In some cases, poor performance could be the result of broken promises from consumers. Conklin said it helps to sit down with collectors to figure out what could be causing them to miss out on payments.
“It could be that they set up a check payment on a certain day but said something like, ’If there’s a problem, give me a call back,’ leaving it open to the consumer not calling them back,” she said. “Just removing that one sentence in the talk-off could help.”
By solidifying the initial payment arrangement rather than allowing consumers to call back, collectors can avoid a potential renegotiation attempt.
Many agencies use call monitoring to review collector performance. Listening to a call with the collector can help managers point out specific areas that need improving.
“It’s really different when you hear yourself on the phone,” Conklin said. “I can tell you all day what you’re doing, but listening to yourself is a big eye opener.”
In some cases, when collectors work a portfolio of accounts that doesn’t suit their personality, managers will see lower collection results. For example, perhaps the collector has been assigned to front-line collections when customer service would be a better fit.
Attitude and location can also play a role in how collectors approach accounts.
“Are they being negative?” Conklin asked. “Do they sit by negative people? If you’re in an environment that isn’t good, then a simple desk move might help. Sometimes the conflict is with the person next to them, so we accommodate that.”
Environmental factors can make it difficult for collectors to do their job effectively. Whether it’s a power outage or a failing phone system, a whole host of problems can occur when you least expect it.
If the power is out for an extended period of time, Conklin suggests agencies should just roll with the punches and send collectors on a break. If the computers go down, it might be a good time for everyone to check their voicemails and catch up on any messages left by consumers.
In spite of your best efforts, you can’t always control the outcome of your collection efforts, which makes it important to keep an open mind.
“You need to be able to change things to combat the issue at hand,” Conklin said.