For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume all organizations understand complete and proactive compliance with all applicable rules, regulations, and client requirements must be continuously demonstrated. To have success in telecom collections a collection agency must be proficient in four points of emphasis in addition to compliance: data and physical security, skip tracing, employee development, and technology. It is important to ensure the proper amount of time, effort, energy, and resources are invested in each of these areas to give a collection agency not just the best opportunity for success, but long term sustained success. Those collection agencies that find the most success are those who have a firm understanding that telecom collections is a unique portfolio in comparison to other types of debt and are able to prepare and execute on a specifically designed telecombased strategy.
Data & Physical Security
The first element of being successful in telecom collections is data and physical security. Data security is critically important for all organizations and is at the top of the requirements for telecom collections as well. In order to be a successful partner with telecom providers, you have to start off and remain a trusted partner. Trusted partners are those collection agencies who can demonstrate data security is paramount and they not only have the necessary certifications but also provide demonstrable evidence the data being sent from the telecom provider will remain secure while the data resides with the collection agency. Physical security is also an important element as well. Ensuring controlled access into and out of the building, 24/7 video surveillance, segregated work environments, and security guards, in some cases, are some of the many expectations a telecom provider may expect from their collection agency partners.
Skip tracing is another component in a successful telecom collection strategy because the phone number causing the account to default is generally no longer owned by the consumer and finding their new phone number is critical. There are two approaches when it comes to skip tracing: quality and quantity. In my opinion, quality is a far more efficient and effective method over quantity. Quality skip tracing means the collection agency is more focused on ensuring they take the necessary steps and utilize available match logic to provide them the most likely one, maybe two phone numbers believed to go to the consumer. Quantity skip tracing focuses on providing any and every phone number that may have or could be associated with the consumer. The quality approach is favored by most in the industry as well, including regulators such as the CFPB who have made it clear they are concerned with skip tracing efforts leading to wrong numbers and interfering with unassuming and uninvolved consumers. The quality approach is also the most cost effective since collectors work efforts are zoned into working high-likelihood phone numbers rather than wasting time with wrong numbers.
The employee development function of a collection agency must be top notch when developing telecom collectors. As mentioned, telecom collection is unique to other types of debt and therefore the training and development must be designed and communicated as such. Odds are the majority of consumers contacted about their telecom collection account will have some form of an objection. Whether it be the termination fee, usage amounts, or other charges, there is generally an objection given by the consumer and it is important the collector is aware and prepared with a rebuttal. The collector should be well versed in all different areas of the telecom billing process and be able to clearly communicate to the consumer why the debt is justified and owed. The collector also must be able to collect the debt in a professional and respectful manner. Having a debt in collection is a difficult situation but it doesn’t mean they must have a difficult experience dealing with a debt collector. The most successful debt collectors are those who are proficient in active listening, can empathize with the consumer, explain the situation, and work toward a mutually beneficial resolution.
In today’s day and age, the organizations embracing and investing in technology continue to find themselves with the most opportunity and sustained success. With organizations facing unprecedented penalties and settlements for alleged violations of the TCPA, being up to date and utilizing TCPA compliant dialing systems and ensuring they do not meet the definition of an automated telephone dialing system is imperative. As it relates to compliance, utilization of speech analytics to review and monitor 100% of collector calls is a great way to not just ensure compliance but also can be leveraged to evaluate and educate collectors from a performance standpoint. Emotional analytics is another technology enhancement being used by collection agencies to monitor not just the called consumers’ emotions on calls, but those of the collectors to ensure they are always providing best in class service.
Nick Jarman is COO at Delta Outsource Group, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Directors for ACA International.