beck gordon2To each their own. That’s what I keep telling myself when discussing with my competitors what their strategy is to run and operate a successful collection agency. Everyone’s outlook is different, but the same. Sure, everyone wants to be a top agency, that’s what everyone is supposed to say. But behind closed doors it’s a much different conversation. Immediate profit is King, increasing the margins and chasing that evaluation multiplier reigns supreme, understandably so.

I once had a competing agency owner say to me “Gordon, when are you going to realize that being in third place is the real winner?” He went on to explain that no one in the middle of the pack has ever gotten fired for performance, their volumes are generally not tampered with, they fly under the radar and then walk away with more net profit than those at the top of the card. The question I always had in response was, is that really the way to build a successful agency? I refused to believe that being average was the best way to be; it bothered me to the core and as simple as it was to comprehend, I just didn’t want to understand it. Everyone likes to win, right?

In my mind, it was number one or bust and I would do anything to get there, legally, morally and ethically. I felt that being at the top was the only way to secure the most volume and earn potential bonuses while at the same time building partnerships where the organizations we work for know that they can always count on us so when special projects or openings in other tiers became available, we were the ones being called upon. I felt the company was building lifelong partnerships and if the investment was greater to do that, then so be it.

I have discussed this with many professionals in the ARM industry and there are vastly different opinions on the matter. Do you make less? Be #1, build your volume and strengthen your partnerships. Or do you make just enough investment to be average, stay under the radar and quietly count your stacks of cash?

The real question is, how do you accomplish both? Being a top performer while making the most money is probably the hardest objective to accomplish in this business, but it can be done. The key is what I call Productive Efficiencies. The first thing I look at is the obvious: technology. Is the investment in technology actually making you money or just protecting the money you have already made? For example, we all need speech analytics, especially for compliance (thus, protecting money). But how many are utilizing it as a direct way to train agents and make them better? This is merely an example; there are hundreds of them. The point is, are we taking our technology and using it to make money, make our performance improve or is it a way to make life easier for the back office and simply satisfy the compliance officer?

Another example: omni-channel communications. It’s a pretty word combination, one that is thrown around a lot these days. But is it utilized as a convenience for the consumers to choose how to communicate with your agency or is it engineered to target the best audience at the best time and in the best way?

Whether it is sending letters, doing text messaging campaigns, mining data through recordings or placing agents with the appropriate supervisors, there are hundreds of things we do in operations that can have a direct impact on cash flow and profitability if we make it a habit to collaborate internally on how each thing can be molded and strategized with the initiative of bringing maximum returns as it relates to those actions.

This is just the half of it. The most important action that can transmit to performance and profit is maximizing the productivity at an agent level. It may take all of the strategic initiatives discussed in this column, combined, to aid in this accomplishment. But let’s face it, if you want to make a healthy profit and you want to be #1 at the same time, it takes the agents performing at a very high level, collectively, to achieve this goal. Once you have given them the tools to succeed, i.e. strategically ensuring through technology and analytics that the right accounts and right calls are going to the right agents at the right times, you must focus your efforts on the effectiveness of the agent’s communications (talk-off) with the consumer.

The objective: an office full of top agents collecting at high level, while setting standards that are realized through a positive atmosphere, a motivating culture and a career-oriented mind set. Thirty great agents can out collect 100 average ones. Utilizing speech analytics tools, emotional analytics and agent-specific dialing strategies that target the rep’s strengths are critical. Once you show an agent a $1,000 bonus check, they will never go back. They will strive for more. If you are able to duplicate this throughout your call center floor you will always compete for the top spot and you will do so with a handsome EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization).

I know, easier said than done, but it can be done.

Gordon Beck is the President and COO of Valor Intelligent Processing, a new organization in the ARM Industry specializing in BPO and 3rd Party Collections. Gordon has 20 years of experience with expertise in the recovery of Wireless, Landline, Cable, Satellite, Internet, VOIP and Financial Institutions. Gordon is known as a motivator, educator and great public speaker in the industry; participating in panels, debates and several individual speeches at industry related events as well as contributing articles and content to several call center publications.