Historically, collection dollars are the ultimate measurement of a debt collector’s performance. Sure, most companies looked at metrics such as number of calls and the like, and legal compliance has always been paramount, but at the end of the day those gross or fee dollars were the golden measurement, and the metrics measured in between were done so as a way to drive the dollars.
While quality was always an important component to any collections program to most creditors and agencies, more and more we’ve found that creditors are now placing an increased focus on call quality as THE key metric, in many cases even over dollars collected. The question is no longer just “how much money”, but “how did you get that money.”
As an example – in our case, over the years we created several iterations of a “performance scorecard” and variations on the role quality plays in this measurement. In its earliest versions, metrics such as call numbers, productivity and conversions were king in the weighting methodology which determined what percentage of eligible bonus an agent could receive, with quality carrying a lighter weight. Over time we adjusted the weighting using quality as the “barrier metric”- meaning that a low quality score eliminated any chance of a high overall scorecard or bonus eligibility, regardless of liquidation by the individual collector. The bottom line is that quality has become the key to performance management.
In a day where creditors and agencies alike could use a boost to the bottom line, why has a “subjective” measurement become the critical focus? The reality is that the risks of running a performance management program without quality as the core have become apparent. Risks such as running a program where performance isn’t repeatable or sustainable, or is attained through “bad” behaviors, compliance risks, complaint risks, and of course reputational/brand risks can no longer be tolerated. Anyone that has been in the collection business for any length of time knows of a once heralded “great collector” known for bringing in the big dollars but when evaluating the methods used to obtain those dollars they were not necessarily ones that you would want to have other collectors emulate. Most companies have realized that the risk/reward calculation doesn’t pay off.
Does that mean the other key collection metrics such as productivity, conversions, payer rates, etc- are no longer important when managing performance? Of course not! All of these metrics remain and will always be important in measuring and driving performance. But a balanced program acknowledges the overarching role quality plays in managing performance. If you drive quality, the rest will come. Steadily. So, how do you drive and measure quality?
We’ve seen a number of strategies successfully contribute to an overall quality scoring mechanism. A large part of measuring quality is defining what quality means within your organization, and making sure that it is effectively communicated. Obviously, any regulatory or compliance infraction (i.e. not saying required disclosures) would be an immediate “fail” to a quality score. However, beyond that the key is making the measurement as sharp and “scientific” as possible since quality is a subjective score. For example, detailing a list of each component that quality will be measured on, and then providing an example of the components that would correspond to each rating within the measurement scale may be helpful:
Question: Did the agent demonstrate active listening?
Poor = 0 points- example: agent talked over the customer or interrupted
Fair = 3 points- example: agent paused while customer was speaking
Good = 5 points- example: agent listened, then restated a summary of customer’s key points or referenced within conversation
A critical component of call quality “rating” is deciding who is actually going to be responsible for reviewing the calls. Some of the most successful programs include a cross-section of reviewers and call styles (for example manager scoring, peer manager scoring, executive scoring, peer agent scoring, quality/compliance department scoring, manager to agent call calibrations/scoring sessions, client to agency call calibration/scoring sessions and any/all of these can be done on live calls, recorded calls or a combination of both). The most important step is to ensure that those combined scoring methodologies are truly impactful to an agent- such as impacting their compensation- to take a quality program full circle.
In summary, measuring quality is critical to performance management as it reduces risk while driving behaviors and attitudes that ultimately lead to a better customer experience and a sustainable, repeatable collections strategy. With these goals in mind, quality is as important, if not more than, the pure dollars collected measurement in a performance management program. While I understand there are a number of ways to measure quality, whatever method(s) is implemented, make sure that the criteria are well defined, and as detailed as possible while being measured regularly and across all program components. Putting quality as the foundation of your performance management program means being able to answer the question of “how did you get that money” and being able to respond that your company did so in a compliant, repeatable and customer-focused way.
Howard A. Enders, Esq. serves as President and COO of Phillips & Cohen Associates, Ltd., a national collection agency specializing in Business Card, Deceased, Cease & Desist and Debt Management. Educated at University of Delaware and Widener University School of Law, Mr. Enders has overseen the growth of not only Phillips & Cohen Associates from one office at inception to five domestic and two international sites comprising approximately 400 employees, but also PCA Acquisitions V, LLC, a national debt buyer specializing in niche portfolio acquisition.