The Importance of Stopping Bad Habits Before They Turn Into Big Problems

I read an interesting article this morning and I think it applies to the collections and debt-buying industry. 

The article examined how the Broken Windows theory can apply to the business world.

For those of you who don’t know what the Broken Windows theory is, it’s a law enforcement technique that was championed two decades ago in New York that focuses special attention on identifying the perpetrators of smaller crimes, such as vandalism and breaking windows. The thought process is that those individuals behind those kinds of crimes are either going to grow into being more dangerous criminals or that by repeatedly fixing broken windows and graffitied walls will deter criminals from coming back.

The theory gained a lot of traction when it was put into place in New York City and there was a marked drop in both petty and felony crimes. 

How this applies to business, according to the article, is in the small, but important habits of the employees at corporations. From things like forgetting to say “Thank you” to always being late for work, those small habits can create a culture of indifference and deceit. And that is bad for business. 

Examples of the small, bad habits that collectors will use include employing a spoof card to cover up their caller ID when contacting borrowers, and leaving messages when they shouldn’t. If other collectors see those tactics being used, they are likely to copy them and start using them on their own.

But perhaps the most egregious version of what would compare to a real-life version of a petty crime is what collectors call “The Gray Line.” It’s the line that collectors are not supposed to cross when talking with borrowers. On the compliant side of the line is a professional conversation. On the other side of the gray line is a conversation that includes threats and promises to try and scare borrowers into paying.

Collectors will do their best to get as close to that line as possible, saying things like “I’m not able to tell you what’s going to happen, but you may end up getting sued.” A collector’s favorite word when he or she is toeing the gray line is “may.” But that word can also be a gateway to more serious violations. And it’s something that company executives need to be aware of, to keep the behavior from escalating and to show the rest of the agency’s employees that such behavior will not be tolerated. 

If you have examples of what other “Broken Window” habits that collectors use that could open the door to bigger problems, I’d love to for you to share them by making a comment. 

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