Our industry is full of talk of “bad apples,” those rogue organizations who, unfortunately, reinforce all of the bad press with which we’re already plagued. However, many otherwise legitimate organizations end up with such a label when they fail to adequately police their own operations.

Complaints against collection agencies, be they first- or third-party, reached an all-time high last year. According to the FTC, 140,036 complaints were filed last year (though, as the ACA points out, it doesn’t verify the accuracy of the complaints unless law enforcement gets involved). Any complaint to the FTC can represent failure to communicate effectively with our employees, and our employees with our customers. People do not take the extraordinary step of contacting the federal government unless a serious breakdown in the collection effort has occurred. The volume of complaints in question was not all generated by “bad apples.” Those complaints represent all of us.

Here are four quality control targets an agency can focus on with little-to-no cost. It can help your agency ensure that its employees are adhering to all aspects of their training, not just the legal portions. If a collector has a poor response on any of the following levels they will be prevented from fully benefiting from their training.

Level 1-Response

What was the employee’s reaction to his training? Did the employee have a good emotional response to the training? Do they see potential value in the training? Did they enjoy the method in which the training was presented, or did they believe the training was too difficult or was too easy? A common reaction I find is that many seasoned collectors believe theory-based training is unrealistic. This type of mindset will prevent them from ever benefiting from it. Checking in with your staff to see what their honest response to training has been can save you trouble down the road.

Level 2-Cognitive

You want to make sure that your employees understand the training they receive. Did they understand and retain the key principles that were presented? If you are talking about FDCPA then you should measure their knowledge of the individual components of the FDCPA before and after the training to ensure they retained the appropriate information.

Level 3-Behavior

Your employees may feel good about the training, and they may understand the key facts: but are they prepared to change their behavior? Evaluating call recording data has become the new standard, and is wonderful for determining a collector’s behavior. Monitoring programs should include an objective and consistent process to ensure measureable growth. Collectors should believe that no call is a “throw away” call and their behavior is always being measured.

Level 4-Results

The final method of evaluating training is the most obvious; however, it is also the most inconclusive. If a collector liked the training, understood the facts and put the training into practice shouldn’t the results validate that? However we all understand that training is not the only variable that affects the results. Variables like changes in the economy, change in the types or number of accounts a collector is working, changes in the collectors support system, or changes in collection staff are just a few of the factors in play in determining the final results.

Finally, a word or two about the ‘Bad Apples’ in our own organizations. I am struck by the number of individuals who work for perfectly reputable companies who flagrantly violate the law and sometimes even common decency. All too often I have witnessed a reluctance to adequately control these types of collectors – especially if they are also the group’s top collectors. All the money they may collect is not worth your reputation. In this industry your reputation is the currency by which your long term success is determined.

Creating a system that measures these four areas will ensure you can answer the age old question when it comes to collector performance. Is the collector capable of the change you are looking for or are they simply not willing? Once that question is finally answered we may all be able to look in the mirror and determine if they are collectors on our collection floors today who shouldn’t be.

About Brett Sivits

Brett is an Associate Partner at The Intelitech Group, a consulting firm exclusively focused on the accounts receivable industry.  Although Sivits consults for clients in all areas of the accounts receivable industry he spends most of his time working to improve the education and support that frontline collectors and their coaches receive.  Sivits believes passionately that programs that support this core component can result in the change that many in the industry are seeking without compromising collection rates.  If you have questions or comments for Sivits please contact him at bretts@intelitechgroup.com.

About The Intelitech Group

The Intelitech Group provides consulting and technology solutions to help organizations achieve optimal results. Leveraging industry expertise and market intelligence with the latest technology innovations, The Intelitech Group brings extensive knowledge, insights and practical tools to help agencies delve deep into all facets of the organization to measure, analyze and implement results-oriented solutions. For more information visit: www.intelitechgroup.com.

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