From Collector: Making Good Things Grow

Debt collection agencies often hear kind words from consumers, but they don't always take the time to track and promote those compliments. Instead of dreading another addition to your to-do list, think about how these positive stories can help encourage your collectors and shed a new light on the credit and collection industry.

4/20/2018 1:00 PM

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From Collector: Making Good Things Grow

Here’s a secret that’s only a secret outside of the debt collection industry: Consumers say nice things to debt collectors all the time—and not in a “I said good day, sir!” kind of way.

Instead think: A consumer sending an Edible Arrangement to a debt collector along with a note of thanks for unparalled customer service (which has happened at ConServe) or a woman bringing a debt collector a plate of homemade cookies after the agency worked with her husband to help him resolve a debt (which has happened at Credit Consulting Services Inc.).

Good things are happening in debt collection agencies around the world every day, and a growing number of ACA International members are turning consumer praise in to a powerful driver of continued success—for themselves and the debt collection industry as a whole, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reports in the April issue.

In Praise of Praise

One afternoon Rodney Meeks, CEO of Credit Consulting Services Inc. is the checkout line of a grocery store when his shirt—which is embroidered with the Credit Consulting Services logo—catches the cashier’s eye.

“Do you work there?” the cashier asks, nodding at the company logo.

“Actually, I own it,” Meeks says.

“I’ve been working with Ms. Mora,” the cashier says, smiling, “She’s been so nice.”

In the office the next day, Meeks relays the cashier’s compliment to Ms. Mora, one of Credit Consulting Services’ debt collectors. She is proud, and tells Meeks that Credit Consulting Services is actually garnishing the cashier’s wages to help pay an outstanding debt.

Why in the world would someone say nice things about a person who played a role in taking part of his paycheck? The answer may lie in one word: Relief. Debt collectors wear many hats, but essentially they are problem solvers in what can be a stressful and scary time for consumers. Agencies that train their collectors to focus on achieving positive consumer outcomes—helping them get back on track and treating them with compassion and respect along the way—reap results that ripple beyond the four walls of their office, Rosso May reports.

“When you position your communication strategies in such a way that the quality of a consumer’s experience is the priority of your intent, compliments become the norm,” said Jason Olson, director of production at Alliance Collection Agencies Inc. “Our intent has never been to be perceived as nice bill collectors…our intent has always been to be good people.”

Olson recounted an experience that happened a few months ago, when one of the collectors at Alliance Collection Agencies was working with a consumer who had medical accounts with three separate providers and six collection agencies. At the end of one of these phone calls, the collector asked, “It was my intention to be respectful and to maintain your dignity throughout the call. Do you feel I have done so?”

The consumer said: “Let me tell you something—my life has not always been like this. I was once an executive for a customer service company, so I know how it goes. That was some time ago and things were pretty good then. Now life looks very different, as you can tell from all of my medical bills. I can tell you with great certainty that I don’t remember the last time someone— anyone!—treated me with as much respect as you have, to say nothing of being a bill collector. It’s like people talk at you or through you, but rarely with you. This is the best service I’ve ever received and I can’t tell you enough how much it means to me to be treated like a person.”

Comments like these, a poignant mix of heartache and gratitude, often focus on a debt collector’s compassion and determination to find a solution that works for the consumer’s unique situation.

At ConServe, Stacy Bartl, public relations director, said that her company’s collectors are trained to help consumers “resolve their debt in ways that restore their self-respect and empower them to make a positive change in their lives. Receiving a compliment that expresses a consumer’s relief, gratitude and peace of mind for the help they received motivates our team.”

Another common theme in consumer compliments hinges on the sometimes complicated nature of a debt, whether it’s a misunderstanding about the billing process or a question about repayment options.

A debt collector at North American Credit Services got a call from a consumer who wanted to dispute a medical debt that had gone to collections because he didn’t understand the charges and believed he had been double billed.

The NACS agent walked the consumer through the hospital statement, explaining it “with the depth I needed, and she did it with ease and graciousness,” the consumer wrote in a thank-you letter to the company, after paying his balance in full. “If only [the hospital] had knowledgeable people like [the collector], this bill would have been paid 90 days ago.” The consumer added: “Would someone please give [the collector] a BIG HUG for me.”

Conversations like these that untangle bills and examine the consumer’s financial situation to determine a win-win repayment schedule can be long and involved, and run contrary to call center stereotypes that representatives are trying to hurry people off the phone to get to the next call in the queue. The truth is that collectors often establish deep connections with consumers by going above and beyond to help them get their account settled.

Industry Groups Can Help Amplify Good Deeds

Internal recognition is one piece of the puzzle, but to truly change the public’s opinion about the third-party debt collection industry, these individual stories of how debt collectors help consumers rebuild their lives need a larger audience. That’s why industry groups are stepping up to help spread the word.

Last year, the Institute for Collection Leadership, a coalition of ACA International members who are all large agency credit and collection professionals or affiliate members, launched a website designed to clarify public perception of the debt collection industry. The website for Collect the Truth features videos and written testimonials from debt collection professionals and the consumers they’ve helped, all speaking in support of the credit and collection industry.

Take it Up a Notch

Empathy. Patience. Collaboration. These are the buzzwords of the debt collection industry today, and the qualities agencies and industry groups are working to promote and recognize.

So consumers say, “thank you!” and send complimentary emails and even Christmas cards to debt collectors because having a debt is stressful and getting it resolved—by patient and understanding financial services experts—is a relief. Sharing these compliments, both internally and externally, helps reinforce the fact that debt collection agencies are doing good work to help consumers achieve their financial goals.

Read more examples of consumer compliments and how to use them to your benefit in the April issue of Collector magazine. Share your consumer feedback stories with us on Twitter @acacollector.

Subscriptions to the Collector magazine digital edition and email notifications for each new issue are available for ACA International members by logging in to ACA's website. Members and nonmembers can also purchase a print subscription. Nonmembers can create a guest profile on ACA’s website to subscribe to available publications.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

From Collector: Making Good Things Grow

Here’s a secret that’s only a secret outside of the debt collection industry: Consumers say nice things to debt collectors all the time—and not in a “I said good day, sir!” kind of way.

Instead think: A consumer sending an Edible Arrangement to a debt collector along with a note of thanks for unparalled customer service (which has happened at ConServe) or a woman bringing a debt collector a plate of homemade cookies after the agency worked with her husband to help him resolve a debt (which has happened at Credit Consulting Services Inc.).

Good things are happening in debt collection agencies around the world every day, and a growing number of ACA International members are turning consumer praise in to a powerful driver of continued success—for themselves and the debt collection industry as a whole, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reports in the April issue.

In Praise of Praise

One afternoon Rodney Meeks, CEO of Credit Consulting Services Inc. is the checkout line of a grocery store when his shirt—which is embroidered with the Credit Consulting Services logo—catches the cashier’s eye.

“Do you work there?” the cashier asks, nodding at the company logo.

“Actually, I own it,” Meeks says.

“I’ve been working with Ms. Mora,” the cashier says, smiling, “She’s been so nice.”

In the office the next day, Meeks relays the cashier’s compliment to Ms. Mora, one of Credit Consulting Services’ debt collectors. She is proud, and tells Meeks that Credit Consulting Services is actually garnishing the cashier’s wages to help pay an outstanding debt.

Why in the world would someone say nice things about a person who played a role in taking part of his paycheck? The answer may lie in one word: Relief. Debt collectors wear many hats, but essentially they are problem solvers in what can be a stressful and scary time for consumers. Agencies that train their collectors to focus on achieving positive consumer outcomes—helping them get back on track and treating them with compassion and respect along the way—reap results that ripple beyond the four walls of their office, Rosso May reports.

“When you position your communication strategies in such a way that the quality of a consumer’s experience is the priority of your intent, compliments become the norm,” said Jason Olson, director of production at Alliance Collection Agencies Inc. “Our intent has never been to be perceived as nice bill collectors…our intent has always been to be good people.”

Olson recounted an experience that happened a few months ago, when one of the collectors at Alliance Collection Agencies was working with a consumer who had medical accounts with three separate providers and six collection agencies. At the end of one of these phone calls, the collector asked, “It was my intention to be respectful and to maintain your dignity throughout the call. Do you feel I have done so?”

The consumer said: “Let me tell you something—my life has not always been like this. I was once an executive for a customer service company, so I know how it goes. That was some time ago and things were pretty good then. Now life looks very different, as you can tell from all of my medical bills. I can tell you with great certainty that I don’t remember the last time someone— anyone!—treated me with as much respect as you have, to say nothing of being a bill collector. It’s like people talk at you or through you, but rarely with you. This is the best service I’ve ever received and I can’t tell you enough how much it means to me to be treated like a person.”

Comments like these, a poignant mix of heartache and gratitude, often focus on a debt collector’s compassion and determination to find a solution that works for the consumer’s unique situation.

At ConServe, Stacy Bartl, public relations director, said that her company’s collectors are trained to help consumers “resolve their debt in ways that restore their self-respect and empower them to make a positive change in their lives. Receiving a compliment that expresses a consumer’s relief, gratitude and peace of mind for the help they received motivates our team.”

Another common theme in consumer compliments hinges on the sometimes complicated nature of a debt, whether it’s a misunderstanding about the billing process or a question about repayment options.

A debt collector at North American Credit Services got a call from a consumer who wanted to dispute a medical debt that had gone to collections because he didn’t understand the charges and believed he had been double billed.

The NACS agent walked the consumer through the hospital statement, explaining it “with the depth I needed, and she did it with ease and graciousness,” the consumer wrote in a thank-you letter to the company, after paying his balance in full. “If only [the hospital] had knowledgeable people like [the collector], this bill would have been paid 90 days ago.” The consumer added: “Would someone please give [the collector] a BIG HUG for me.”

Conversations like these that untangle bills and examine the consumer’s financial situation to determine a win-win repayment schedule can be long and involved, and run contrary to call center stereotypes that representatives are trying to hurry people off the phone to get to the next call in the queue. The truth is that collectors often establish deep connections with consumers by going above and beyond to help them get their account settled.

Industry Groups Can Help Amplify Good Deeds

Internal recognition is one piece of the puzzle, but to truly change the public’s opinion about the third-party debt collection industry, these individual stories of how debt collectors help consumers rebuild their lives need a larger audience. That’s why industry groups are stepping up to help spread the word.

Last year, the Institute for Collection Leadership, a coalition of ACA International members who are all large agency credit and collection professionals or affiliate members, launched a website designed to clarify public perception of the debt collection industry. The website for Collect the Truth features videos and written testimonials from debt collection professionals and the consumers they’ve helped, all speaking in support of the credit and collection industry.

Take it Up a Notch

Empathy. Patience. Collaboration. These are the buzzwords of the debt collection industry today, and the qualities agencies and industry groups are working to promote and recognize.

So consumers say, “thank you!” and send complimentary emails and even Christmas cards to debt collectors because having a debt is stressful and getting it resolved—by patient and understanding financial services experts—is a relief. Sharing these compliments, both internally and externally, helps reinforce the fact that debt collection agencies are doing good work to help consumers achieve their financial goals.

Read more examples of consumer compliments and how to use them to your benefit in the April issue of Collector magazine. Share your consumer feedback stories with us on Twitter @acacollector.

Subscriptions to the Collector magazine digital edition and email notifications for each new issue are available for ACA International members by logging in to ACA's website. Members and nonmembers can also purchase a print subscription. Nonmembers can create a guest profile on ACA’s website to subscribe to available publications.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

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