I had lunch a while back with a top executive at one of the bigger collection agencies in the U.S. He told me a story of how an accidental wrong party phone contact almost almost landed his agency on a major TV news network for all the wrong reasons.
His collector had made a wrong party phone contact with a gentleman who just happened to be a national TV reporter, and who was none too pleased at the mistake!
Being PR savvy and engaged, this agency owner learned about the incident over the weekend, but didn’t wait until Monday to take action. Instead, he spent his Sunday afternoon finding and calling the upset reporter on his cell phone. The agency owner apologized on behalf of the company, did what he could to make the issue right and as a result gained immense respect and appreciation from the reporter.
The reporter still ended up doing a story about the wrong party contact and his experience, and went on to discuss the debt collection industry at large using his national TV platform. But guess what? He NEVER mentioned the agency involved – all due to that Sunday afternoon phone call from the executive.
What a PR save! All because this agency owner had the PR savvy and people skills to personally reach out and try to make things right with the upset reporter/consumer.
Granted, every wrong party contact you make is not going to end up being a national TV reporter with a huge platform in front of millions of people, but the advent of Social Media has made it easier than ever for people to spread negative stories about your agency or collectors.
If you’re not listening (both online and inside your agency) to what the consumers are saying about your brand, you’re playing with fire, because negative stories (true or not) about your agency can spread like wildfire online. The good news for collection agencies is that you can now listen to and engage your critics online, demonstrating for the “online peanut gallery” of people watching that person’s Facebook feed or Twitter stream that your agency does indeed care and is trying to set the record straight. And even if you don’t win over that particular critic online, you may win over important audience members (regulators, potential clients, industry members, consumers, etc.) who were “watching” your interaction with the angry consumer online to see what (if anything) your agency did in response.
How you conduct yourself matters. Whether or not you listen to and engage your critics online and in person matters. There’s a large audience – perhaps even millions of people! – watching your every move now thanks to Social Media. You no longer have the option of ignoring your critics when they start chirping about you online. If you’re not actively monitoring social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to hear what people are saying about your company, or setting up Google Alerts for other mentions of your agency that pop up online, you’re doing yourself a major disservice!
Kudos to this agency executive for being smart enough to listen, engage and respond to a critic in real-time. His willingness to make that Sunday afternoon phone call saved his business an incalculable amount of negative publicity and the potential loss of revenue, increased litigation from consumer attorneys, unhappy clients, etc., that would have followed in its wake.
- The Collection Agency Lead Generation Kit (full kit, all 5 lessons)
- Collection Agency Financial Benchmark Report 2011
- 5 Steps to Protect Your Image as a Debt Collector
- The Science of ARM Marketing: Content