Collector Development Starts Right Here

| Mary Shores

Something I’ve encountered in the debt collection industry is that we train our collectors on our software systems, rules, regulations, and compliance, but we don’t always train them on how to actually motivate consumers to pay.

I believe that collector development that focuses on call flow and building consumer trust and motivation is going to be the norm in the coming years, and we’re going to see a quantitative difference between collectors who have been trained in these areas and those who haven't been.

To me, collector development – intentional training on the skills that will best support collectors to be successful in their jobs – can be broken down into three categories: communication, critical thinking, and negotiation.

Let’s start with communication

When collectors know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, they are going to perform better on their calls. Oftentimes collectors are trained only on call basics, and while most do very well, even the best collectors can get lost in a call or lose control of the conversation and never reach a deal.

We know it’s going to take time to get collectors up to speed, but there are efficient ways to train them. By creating and executing high-converting scripting at the outset, you can set your team up to succeed, and it will save you a lot of time – both in training and by reducing the number of calls escalated to supervisors.

Scripting also helps create consistency on the collection floor. It doesn’t matter how kind your collectors are if the information they're spreading is inconsistent. Mismatched communication can erode trust and diminish your collectors’ credibility. Why would a consumer want to engage with your collectors if he doesn’t trust them?

What’s more, I’ve seen a real push in the industry towards encouraging collectors to be empathetic with consumers. While this is encouraging, it’s not enough to tell someone to be empathetic. You really have to show them.

I would like to see the shift towards empathy become a permanent change, and that starts with communication training. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to prey on consumers' pride to compel them to make payments. Also, with the recent pandemic and economic downturn, I believe the collection industry is going to be held under a microscope – more so than it was before.

(To learn more about training your collectors to communicate with empathy, reach out to me here and check out this previous blog post.)

Moving onto critical thinking

As a collector, this involves being able to analyze and evaluate conversations with consumers in order to better respond.

Training on critical thinking is easier than you might think. Check out this blog post on the OODA loop for a quick and easy example.

The OODA loop decision-making strategy has been a lifesaver for us throughout the COVID-19 crisis because it has reminded my team how important it is to slow down and think things through before making a decision. What I see a lot of in the world is people observing a situation and immediately reacting.

OODA is powerful for collectors because it’s easy to get caught up in heat-of-the-moment stress, and I’ve found that when you use OODA, you are less reactive in the moment.

Finally, negotiation

It’s not enough to train your collectors on your expectations for bringing money in, you need to teach them how to negotiate.

Any time you have negotiation guidelines and a strategy in place, you are going to show up better prepared for the call than if you didn’t have a strategy.

Think about when you’re playing a board game. Going into the game with a strategy is going to give you a leg up every time.

One thing I’ve noticed is that many collectors tend to negotiate from the bottom up, meaning they respond to a low offer from the consumer instead of negotiating from the top down. With some consistency and negotiation training, I believe your collectors can increase their payment arrangements by 2-3X their monthly average.

Other benefits of collector development

I wholeheartedly believe that if you’re not developing your collectors in these three areas – communication, critical thinking, and negotiation – you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

In fact, just by making a few tweaks in our scripting, my agency’s revenue increased 34% in the first year alone.

Along with collecting more money, other benefits of enhanced collector development are:

  • Fewer lawsuits and complaints – One of my favorite comments I ever received from a trainee was that after implementing my communication strategies it “just seemed like people had less GRRR.” I knew exactly what she meant. The reason there was less GRRR was because she wasn’t using any triggering statements. Teaching your collectors how to respond to situations ahead of time can help stop complaints before they happen -- we want to protect relationships before they are damaged beyond repair. Additionally, the less time you spend putting out fires, the more time you have to direct elsewhere.
  • Reduced turnover – Constant turnover is costly, and studies have shown that 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 90 days of employment. On the flip side, when your employees feel like they're being invested in, they’re more encouraged to remain with your agency. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding. Also, when challenging phone calls are reduced through enhanced training, I believe collectors are more likely to stick around.
  • You'll attract high-caliber candidates – When prospective employees know they are going to be invested in, your job opening becomes more attractive.
  • Collectors’ ramp-up time is reduced – Early wins lead to long-term success. When you train collectors specifically on how to collect money and get them engaged in their new jobs early on, you shorten the time it takes for them to realize success. This also is a huge confidence-builder and allows them to see the potential in their positions early on. Long ramp-up times can make a collector feel defeated.

To learn more about collector training and how my Collection Advantage program can help your agency create and execute high-converting scripting that increases your revenue, reach out to me here.

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