Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Collection Agencies, It's Gut-Check Time

You have been promising your clients and maybe even the regulators that you are working to get your disclosure and mini-Miranda percentages higher:  you know you have a problem and you are implementing changes to fix it.  Your colleagues have heard you whine about why HR keeps hiring recalcitrant agents that can't get this stuff right.  And they have also heard you joke about public humiliations and executions for non-compliance as a way to "get [the agents'] attention."

Let me say up front that collector compliance is actually an easily fixable problem, but the first step is a gut check:  Do you want to fix this problem or not?  I don't care what it is, but inside your own head, give an honest answer.  Yes or no?

It seems weird that this would be a choice, but with any longstanding problem, you have to wonder if there are incentives reinforcing the undesirable behavior.  And in fact, there are perfectly good reasons to say no.  One reason to say no is that you have tried to fix this problem and you haven't been able to do it and you are not willing to put any more effort and investment into doing it.

While it's a little disingenuous, it is perfectly normal to talk about wanting to do something and not be willing to make the effort.  I had always wanted to be the bass player for the Allman Brothers Band, but I haven't seriously practiced the bass in almost 20 years.  And truth be told, I wasn't all that good to start with.

Being the Allman's bass player is something I talked about wanting to do, but I never really did anything about.  The truth is, I think it would be fun, but I never did anything to make it happen...didn't practice that much, didn't get into bands that played that kind of music, didn't network in the industry, etc.  I might have wanted it, but I never made the effort and needed trade-offs.  Maybe this is your story with the disclosure compliance of your collectors?

There is another reason not to fix your compliance problem.  This one is a little more self-serving.  Your experience and perhaps even some data you have indicated that when you have agents with high disclosure compliance, they collect less money.  You believe that what logically follows is that if you increase your compliance rate across the center, you are going to lower your collections.  I am not saying that is true, but you might have concluded that and therefore have decided not to do anything more to improve compliance.  The lost revenue is not worth it.

Again, perfectly normal.  Businesses make trade-offs all the time between their various stakeholders.  They short-change customers to return more profit to shareholders.  They "liberally interpret" regulations to do something for their customers or again to lower their costs and return more to shareholders.  Sometimes it is just a tradeoff that is made while trying to balance short-term and long-term objectives and sometimes it is a decision you have to hope you don't get caught doing or not doing.  Cue Morpheus from the movie The Matrix saying:  "Welcome to the real world."

I am not here to judge your decision or the reasons behind your decision.  I am suggesting that you and those around you will be happier if you make conscious decision about your choices and stop pretending it is important when it is not.

On the other hand, there might be some agencies who have really tried to fix this.  They have recorded calls, they've hired monitors, they've taken the agents off the phone to coach them, they've used speech analytics, they've installed complicated variable compensation schemes that pay a certain percentage for revenue collected and another percentage for compliance, they have recognized and rewarded the best agents with preferred parking places, and even fired the worst offenders despite the huge expense associated with hiring and training a good collector.  And after all this, their compliance rate hovers in the 80th percentile.  These agencies have made a real investment and seem to have earned no return whatsoever.

Is this you?  You want to fix it, you have tried to fix it, but you don't know what else to do?  If yes, there is a way out of this wilderness.

The solution is so simple and so bullet-proof that you will wonder why you lived with the problem for so long.  It involves the use of pre-recorded audio, linked to the CRM so that the agent, literally, can not get access to the rest of the data in the file or advance/complete the call until the mini-Miranda is read to the customer and acknowledged.  Not expensive.  Works every time.  Problem solved.

If you don't want to address agent compliance, no problem.  Just acknowledge it.  My friends were glad when I finally stopped talking about being The Allman's bass man.  If you really do want to fix it, the problem can be permanently fixed in a matter of days. You don't have to live with this problem for even one more day.

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