Call simulations, call monitoring and computer-based training programs help collectors improve their skills
Before the advent of predictive dialers and call center simulation programs, collector training was pretty direct and simple, according to Harry Strausser III, IFCCE, MCE, president of The Remit Corporation in Bloomsburg, Pa.
“We taught them tactics and techniques for communicating with consumers, but we didn’t have computer systems, predictive dialers and Internet applications as part of the process,” Strausser said. “They needed the basics and knew how to dial a phone and write up their calls on manual ledger cards.”
Today’s collectors can take advantage of a variety of technological advancements, from computer-based training to collection software that records their calls. To start, call simulation programs offer a way to help collectors become more comfortable with call scripts, according to Tina Hanson, vice president of State Collection Service in Madison, Wis.
“It is a great tool to get collectors comfortable listening to their voice,” she said.
Calling programs also help collectors get used to self-paced activities, while learning to maximize pitch and tone on the phone. The program State Collection Service uses is based on four consumer personality types: results-orientated, socially oriented, relationship-orientated and process-orientated.
The program includes a variety of stalls and objections to assist collectors when handling different consumers and accounts.
Some call simulating programs allow users to create their own scenarios that mirror the everyday situations their companies handle. Debra Ciskey, director of compliance at Afni Inc. in Bloomington, Ill., said while Afni uses a program that is equipped with more than 40 scenarios, the company has added specific scenarios for the types of accounts they collect.
“In my opinion, this tool helps people who have never been a collector understand that their behavior has an impact on their ability to get the job done,” Ciskey said. “It presents trainees with a sample call made by an exemplary performer and gives the trainee the opportunity to record themselves on a simulated call, and then compare how they sound with the exemplary performer.”
Call simulators also provide a way for trainers and supervisors to monitor employee progress.
“Supervisors can go in and review the testing after each module, review the script practices and pick up on any coaching opportunities,” Hanson said.
Collection agencies have also incorporated technology into their collector training through call monitoring. Recording collector calls can be just as beneficial as a call simulation program because recording provides a way for collectors and their supervisors to review techniques used on the call. The main difference, of course, is that recordings document live phone calls made to consumers, while simulators provide a way for collectors to practice a variety of possible scenarios.
“We use our call recording system to record the majority of calls handled by our newest collectors,” Ciskey said. “We use these to give daily feedback on their performance and technique. Over time, we reduce the number of recordings as it becomes less necessary to provide feedback so often.”
Technology has made it possible for collectors to log their calls electronically, bringing an end to the days of manual call logs. Ciskey said that in addition to logging information electronically, her company has started providing important documents, such as its policies and procedures manual, in electronic form to make it easier for employees to reference.
“We have enhanced our manual so that any policy that requires a specific action includes a pop-up box or expandable text that explains how to perform the required action,” Ciskey said.
The electronic manual also includes short videos showing the user how to do various tasks, such as manually ordering letters in the company’s system. Employees can use this as a reference point if they are unfamiliar with a process or need a refresher on how it works.
In addition to technologically advanced equipment, collectors in today’s credit and collection environment also have access to teleseminars, online seminars and computer-based training available within the industry and at their own organizations. According to Strausser, this has changed the training dynamic over the years.
“We now not only have to train on the culture and skill set of the industry, but on dialer use, collection software applications and many other technological components of our operations,” Strausser said. “In line with our increased technological savvy, we have products at our disposal to enhance our in-house training programs.”
According to Ciskey, although technology can improve training, it does not replace the need for face-to-face training.
“You can make do without technology in your training, but you can’t do without the ability to get questions answered, check for understanding, discuss key points and help students apply them to the real world,” she said.
As technological advancements continue to make their mark, collection companies will strive to find ways to use it to their advantage.