National Skip Tracing Month

Engaged Collectors Instead of Dialer Zombies

  • Written by Sam Eidson

eidson samManaging a collection floor certainly has its highs and lows. It’s always been a, “what have you done for me lately,” kind of business. Whether your agency had a strong or weak performance last month, one thing you can count on is it will all start over next month. Collection floors typically consist of a wide variety of age groups, backgrounds, personalities and education levels. Throughout the years I’ve had the opportunity to manage many hard working professional debt collectors mixed with my fair share of the attendance-challenged, prima donnas, conspiracy theorists and those who aren’t happy unless there’s drama.

Creating the right culture and having the ability to manage personalities can make the difference between a cohesive collection floor versus one that is dysfunctional. The collector role doesn’t require a degree and in most states collectors don’t have to be licensed making it difficult to find career-orientated business professionals. Most candidates didn’t learn specific skills such as time management, prioritization and multi-tasking like those who attended college.

When hiring, there are positives and negatives to candidates with or without experience. Sometimes those with experience can be set in their ways making it difficult to coach and teach them your way of doing business. While experienced collectors tend to come with bad habits they also understand how to collect a debt. The other negative could be their inability to collect compliantly given our industries regulatory landscape. I prefer hiring collectors with little to no experience because it’s easier to teach them our way of doing business. However, there can be negatives to this strategy. For example, our society has created a sense of entitlement for the younger generation and the need for instant gratification. Years ago we didn’t have to run contests in order to motivate collectors. Their bonus check was motivation enough. Now it seems like collectors are more motivated by lottery tickets, prizes or paid time off rather than monetary compensation.

Collectors in 2018 have it easy compared to when I became a collector over twenty years ago. Technology and automation has taken the craft out of the collector role. I can remember having a rolodex full of contacts from other companies with whom I’d share information, calling directory assistance or using telephone books to find location information for a consumer. Now there are multiple vendors at our disposal who you can send a batch of accounts to and in return get the consumers’ most recent contact information all within a matter of minutes. Collectors no longer have to dig in order to find consumers because we do it all for them. To make it worse, the use of dialer systems created what I like to call dialer zombies. Dialer zombies are those collectors who just sit at their desk waiting for contacts to be fed to them. It takes constant motivation and oversight to ensure collectors are valuing each contact because they know another contact is coming their way as soon as they end their current call. In recent years our dialing strategy has transitioned to more of a manual approach forcing collectors to generate contacts on their own. Even managers had to adjust their mindset because we no longer used the set it and forget it approach. Prior to going with a manual approach we had to create a structured strategy that segmented the business in a way that makes sense. Once the strategy had been created we then had to focus on collector development.

Collectors have always found shortcuts to make their job easier. Teaching file maintenance to collectors I identified as dialer zombies became quite the undertaking. Without the basic fundamentals it can be difficult for collectors to consistently perform, not to mention satisfying our clients’ needs. I encourage our management team to engage their collectors throughout the day and monitor key performance indicators such as attempts, contacts and payments to ensure each collector is doing what we expect. Walking the floor, performing side by side training and holding internal call calibrations are ways we engage our collectors. If we don’t put an emphasis on training and development the collectors won’t feel the need for improvement or see the opportunity for advancement. As the old saying goes we would rather spend our time developing employees with the risk that they leave than not develop them and have them stay.

Sam Eidson is the Director of Operations for Delta Outsource Group, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Collectors Association.