You hired them and trained them. You gave them a desk, a telephone, and a seat on your collection floor. They sounded great in the interview, had plenty of experience, and their references checked out.

So why aren’t they producing?

Some managers think it’s enough to look at the revenue numbers every day and just replace the people who don’t make them money. But that’s a hit-or-miss approach that guarantees only one thing—turnover. Smart managers know what aspects of collector performance to measure and they have a tool for doing it regularly. This tool is called a scorecard, and without it, you’re in the dark about why a collector is failing.

A collector scorecard is a summary of a wide variety of collector statistics in a single easy-to-read document. It specifies standards for various collection activities, makes collectors aware of what those standards are, and measures performance against them. If reviewed weekly or monthly with the collector, and attached to some tangible benefit, it’s a powerful tool for identifying and correcting problems with collector performance.

A scorecard should be an Excel spreadsheet, into which numerical values can be imported. You should be able to query your computer system’s database for the data required in most of the measurements discussed here. See your IT whiz to get help writing the statements if you need it. The more automated the scorecard is, the likelier you’ll be to use it consistently, and that’s essential to getting a real benefit from it.

In Black and White

The scorecard doesn’t measure revenue or liquidation. Those figures should be published daily in a separate report to the collection staff. Rather, the scorecard measures a collector’s activity over a specific period of time, such as a week or a month. It lists a dozen or more specific performance criteria and the expected and actual results for each one—hard, numeric values that can’t be disputed. Each criterion is weighted, that is, has a specific value in the overall scorecard.

At the bottom of the scorecard is a final score—a numerical indicator, or “grade” for the collector’s work efforts that week. This grade can be tied to compensation through bonuses or other “fringe” benefits, such as flex-time. Even better, the scorecard identifies exactly what work efforts are lacking, and this can be used as the basis for specific coaching. All of the criteria are in black and white—the collector knows what’s expected and how she performed. There’s no room for dispute.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Your first set of criteria involves telephone work efforts. How many work efforts overall did your computer system record for this collector over this five-day period?

Your debtor database has this answer; it’s the number of “result codes” the collector entered into the system during that period. Like most other statistics, it can be pulled up in a separate report and entered manually into the scorecard or queried directly into Excel.

You can obtain the number (and thus the percentage) of inbound and outbound contacts and “left messages” in the same way. Simply specify which result codes constitute a contact and which constitute a left message. In any case, there’s a certain percentage of contact you can expect on your portfolio—as the manager, you should have a good idea of what that percentage is. If you’re collector isn’t getting that contact, then she’s not managing her inventory properly. Likewise, if she’s not leaving a high enough percentage of messages, then she isn’t giving you 100%. And you’re not going to let that happen.

Your call analyzer program can tell you how many calls your collector made or took and how much time she spent on the telephone. Does the number of calls match closely enough with the number of work efforts, or “action codes”, recorded by the database? If not, you may have a “pencil-whipper” on your hands—a collector who documents efforts that never occurred. You can’t collect money that way. In any case, you should have an idea of what percentage of a collector’s time should be spent on calls, and how many calls she should make or take in a given week. Include those figures on your scorecard and give them the proper weight.

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