Developments in telecom collections have allowed collection professionals to gather a huge amount of information regarding the consumer, the collection process, and the collection professional’s actions as well. The trick is utilizing the right information at the right time in the process. Collection Advisor shines the Agency Spotlight on MRS BPO and talks to senior vice president of business development, Misty Carson. Carson reveals how they keep collectors in the know during collection calls and talks about tools they developed to help reach their payment and compliance goals.
Tell us about when and how MRS opened its doors.
MRS was established in April of 1991 and we officially opened our doors in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in June of 1991. Our first clients included regional banks in later stage account placements.
How did you become involved in collections?
I started working in contact center services in Huntington, West Virginia as a Frontline Operations Supervisor in the mid 1990’s with many Regional Bell Telecom clients as partners servicing telesales and customer care calls. With the same company, I advanced from Supervisor to Operations Manager and into Client Services in North Carolina which ultimately led to a Sales and Marketing Director position in 2002. Around 2006, I transitioned into Business Development in collections supporting growth of many telecommunications client partners. I joined MRS in 2010 and I have enjoyed expanding our presence into telecommunications as well as other vertical industries.
What is a recommendation you would make to fellow business development collection professionals?
My recommendation to other business development individuals would be to really try to focus on being hands on with their accounts. It really gives you the opportunity to interface with the client and internal teams. When the business development person brings the account on board, it’s the client’s expectation you’re going to perform well for them. When a person stays involved in the account it generates a better long-term partnership.
What does MRS do to optimize upper management’s performance?
MRS has made significant investment in quality assurance, compliance, and data analytics. The MRS information technology team has created data warehouses which enable us to conduct in-depth data mining with specialized business intelligence processes for strategic analysis across all client portfolios and especially in our telecommunications programs. We rely heavily on our data analytics solutions to generate many strategic dashboards and advanced views of the data to optimize upper management’s performance. We also utilize strategic planning, analytics, and forecasting tools to manage our client scorecard results. Our data solutions are customized to our clients’ portfolios and we can make changes quickly.
What is the key to making data analytics really work for an agency?
From a data analytics perspective, our internal team developed a performance dashboard we can use in data analytics. It has a ton of information. We also partner with some vendors. Experian is a key vendor we partner with for some of our data analytics. In addition, we also built some homegrown technology platforms. One, we call CB Analyzer which is a data dashboard that gives us an analysis of an account from a scoring perspective. It’s been very useful.
If a customer makes a payment on our website, our IT team has built in different qualifiers or questions asking the customer if they were responding to a letter MRS sent or if they have been contacted via phone call. The data we capture from the customer, even from the website, is beneficial to us in understanding what might work well as far as the letter programs or if it’s better to work with phone calls.
What is the most underappreciated technology an agency has and how can an agency make it work harder for them?
The most underrated/underappreciated technology is the richness of the call detail an agency has. Understanding how to capture and analyze this call information can greatly increase compliance and profitability.
Describe this call detail.
The other data we try to give to the operations team from a scheduling perspective is that which digs into the propensity of the customer to answer the phone at certain times throughout the day. Some of the data analytics IT can create dashboards for would be contact strategy around attaining the right party contacts. Obviously certain times in the evening of each time zone are a little more critical to staffing. There are also certain peak times we have found throughout the day and also certain days of the week being a little better like Friday evening. Typically a lot of customers receive their paychecks on Fridays. We really have to dig into the richness of the data detail to create an overview so as we’re talking we can pull from dashboard analytics we’ve created for operations.
CB Analyzer is a dashboard of the inventory we have for each particular account. The dashboard analytics information we can also access is the call duration, what periods during the day and the month we’re contacting customers, how long our average top time is within the day, the conversion rate of customers paying within certain periods of the day, or certain days of the week being a little better as well. It’s important, I think, for the agency to look at the trends and see what is happening with their calls.
What is a development you would like to see in telecom collection technology?
I would like to see our clients and regulators approve the use of email and text as a standard practice for third-party agencies in telecom collections. Some of our telecom clients are currently allowing email as a collections strategy in some capacity.
How does MRS keep its multiple locations operating perfectly in concert and what could hurt a multiple-location agency’s operations?
MRS links its sites using a fast and secure Internet technology as well as a shared policy platform ensuring all staff are consistent with their call handling. One of the biggest issues facing a multiplelocation agency is to ensure robust, fast and continuous connectivity between the sites. In today’s environment this is especially important, not only because downtime is costly to the bottom line, but it impacts the customer experience as well.
How do you keep your collectors motivated and on their A-game?
MRS deploys many unique motivation strategies (list below) to keep our resolution agents on their A-game. If an agent gets a payment over a certain established threshold, they get a shout out. For rookies, any payment they get they receive a shout out.
Our managers and directors sit right next to our agents. A shout out happens when a rookie gets a payment their director would just yell, “Yay, [this person]! [This person] just got a payment!” It’s just a quick little shout out in recognition without taking anyone off the phone or causing any kind of disturbance. Everyone is very team focused.
We have several contests:
• Lotto tickets for every payment over $500.
• Wawa gift cards for larger payments over an established threshold.
• Sweets/Pretzels. Provided to agents for great quality assurance results.
• Budget Reductions. We will have a budget reduction contest for those tough months. On a monthly basis each agent and manager receives a monthly budget from senior management. What the budget entails are the dollars an agent and team need to collect for the month. If they are on track to exceed their budget or they have really great quality assurance and are training really well early in the month, this incentive could give them a percentage reduction in the budget. With the goal reduces for them they would likely exceed the goal and get a bigger bonus for the month. We really focus this contest around the six-month roll up and with specific clients needing the extra push.
• Holiday contests. On Labor Day/ Memorial Day we have a contest giving an agent an extra day off if they reach specific goals.
• “Grab” Bag Days. Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day - We do a “Grab” bag. If they get a good payment they get to pick a bag. The prizes are sometimes client related or holiday items.
Aside from successfully collecting accounts, what are important factors to keeping clients happy?
MRS has made significant investments in quality assurance and compliance.
• Our quality assurance staff has more than doubled in the past year.
• Elevated compliance to executive level with addition of our chief risk officer.
• Security spends are up 60% year over year.
• We built a dedicated compliance team with 10 staff members. We have compliance policies and standard procedures our compliance team and chief compliance officer have created. We are auditing our staff and our accounts against the internal policy. For example, if Verizon has a unique customer dispute policy when the internal compliance team does their audit they would be auditing to our policy and procedures. This could be reviewing the account notes, assuring quality assurance, or the way the agent records them. Compliance has become integral.
A lot of our clients come out multiple times per year to do their client audits. Some clients come out on a monthly basis, some only come out annually. The compliance helps with the client audits but the compliance team along with the servicers also do the internal audits. We do pretty well at MRS with all of our client audits but think part of our success rate is because we’re constantly in audit mode. Whether it’s the compliance team doing their internal audits or clients coming out to audit, the team is diligent within their audit functions against our internal policy procedures.
• Hired a project manager for successful implementation of Call Mine.
Our customer complaints are very low, especially considering the volume of accounts we service annually including late stage accounts. MRS also keeps our clients happy with our award winning Client Services to ensure all client deliverables are provided timely and efficiently. Lastly, MRS is proud of our accomplishments in scoring the best not only in quality assurance but also in our client audits.
What is a piece of advice you would offer an agency considering telecom collections?
MRS would encourage an agency considering telecom collections to ensure they have robust technology to run efficient contact solution strategies for effective analysis of their telecom client data. MRS would also advise the agency to have quality assurance and compliance solutions to meet the changes in the rigor and demands of the always-changing regulatory environment.
Is MRS involved in the community?
MRS is actively involved in supporting our communities in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and in Westerville, Ohio with the following events:
• Breast Cancer Walk in October. This is something we do the entire month of October in New Jersey and Ohio. We do different raffles throughout the month. The other thing we do throughout the month of October is management will cook hotdogs and barbecue; and team members can come in and buy lunch and the proceeds go to breast cancer. It’s probably our biggest fundraiser of the year.
• Make-a-Wish fundraising.
• Salvation Army Holiday toy drive.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy volunteering with the National MS Society in Charlotte, North Carolina. I enjoy spending time with my family and playing golf and also some travel. I also enjoy participating in spin class.