From Collector: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

How to benefit from consumer complaints.

2/8/2019 12:30 PM

Collector MagazineNews
From Collector: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

From a regulatory perspective, all accounts receivable management companies need to track consumer complaints. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau expects companies to self-detect issues, resolve them and prevent them from happening again.

But you should be monitoring complaints anyway, because great ideas to improve your business can come from pretty much anywhere: your CEO, a collector, a client… even a disgruntled consumer, Collector magazine Managing Editor Anne Rosso May reports in the February issue. Sure, you may not love hearing complaints about your business, but by viewing them as tools you can start to respond constructively rather than defensively.

In a session at ACA International’s 2018 Convention and Expo, Sarah Headly, president of Peacock Consulting, broke down how you can use complaints to better your business.

Improve Staff Morale

Your employees are on the phones every day talking to consumers, listening to their concerns and brainstorming solutions to their financial problems. Being on the receiving end of consumers’ gripes and frustrations isn’t always the easiest thing, but knowing your company has a process in place to manage and resolve those issues can reassure your employees that they aren’t just punching bags—they are part of a process that will help the consumer and potentially resolve the account. This also comes in handy when a staff member is speaking to a difficult consumer.

“When you have a specific process that outlines what employees should do when they get a complaint, they can tell the consumer, ‘I hear your complaint; thanks for letting me know. This is our complaint process, and these will be the next steps for handling your issue,’” Headly said.

Make Your Company Better

A complaint management system delivers multiple opportunities for company improvement. Maybe you haven’t detected a broken process or there’s a technology glitch you didn’t know about. Whatever the issue, consumer complaints can tip you off to things gone awry that might otherwise take you weeks or months to uncover.

Even complaints that turn out to be rooted in the consumer’s personal issues—i.e., those that aren’t your or your client’s fault—can highlight areas of potential improvement. For instance, maybe you can give your collectors additional training on common areas of consumer confusion, like health insurance or workers’ compensation, ultimately making future conversations more productive.

Your complaint management system can also strengthen your reputation and prevent lawsuits.

“If you go online and look up your company, you might not like what people are saying about you,” Headly said. “There are all sorts of websites where consumers can go to complain about collection agencies, and there’s no way for you to respond to all of them individually. So before consumers get to the point where they feel they have to go on one of those websites or call your clients, it can really benefit you to have a clear, direct way for them to complain to you.”

Make it easy for people to complain:

Create a spot on your website where consumers can submit a complaint or set up a phone number they can call, for example. But make sure you provide structure around these options to ensure issues get handled appropriately.

Read more on how you can benefit from consumer complaints, such as boosting client retention, in the February issue of Collector magazine.

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