Collection agencies spend years building a rapport with clients, developing a relationship, establishing trust, and creating a bond that tries to stand the test of time.
But that rapport can be crushed in an instant, taking nothing more than how a collection agency responds to a complaint or an inquiry from a client. A panel of operations experts spoke on the topic of how to turn complaints from clients and consumers into training opportunities. The webinar was sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning. A copy of the webinar recording is available here.
“This is a relationship business,” said Harry Strausser, the corporate vanguard for Eastern Revenue and formerly the owner of Remit Corp., and one of the industry’s foremost trainers. “The key is being responsive and realistic.”
Sharing information like expected liquidation rates during the on-boarding process can help mitigate potential issues down the road, Strausser said during the webinar. Over-promising can lead problems.
“I used to have a sales person who would say, ‘We can collect what you can’t’ and that’s not right,” said Mary Shores, the president and CEO of Midstate Collection Solutions. “You have to manage expectations right from the outset. You have to talk about things like court costs and how reimbursements work.”
Being open and honest is an easy way to ensure that there are no complaints from clients. But sometimes reading inquiries from clients can be difficult. Oftentimes, there are complaints buried within a question or an inquiry from a client.
“You get questions and you have to look for the underlying dis-satisfaction,” Shores said. “We have a three-step process. Step one is validating the client’s feelings by saying things like, ‘I can see why that is important to you.’ Step two is planting seeds of happiness. Step three is to make an action statement.”
Another important component of dealing with complaints and how to prevent them is to solicit feedback from clients on a regular basis. At Strausser’s former firm, for example, the agency’s went out and visited its largest clients every year. The rest were contacted via phone and email to ask if there was anything else the firm could be doing better. Silence is not always golden, Strausser said.
“No news is good news is not always the best strategy,” Strausser said.
Getting a complaint is not always a and thing, either, Strausser said. Complaints can shine lights on areas of inefficiency or where further training may be necessary to shore up policies and procedures.
“I want to get complaints so I can address it,” Strausser said. “I don’t want to hide our heads in the sand. Maybe there is a problem.”
Understanding the nature of a problem can be a difficult nut to crack, Shores said.
“My job is to conduct a root-cause analysis,” Shores said. “So many people have ulterior motives. They believe in the squeaky rule gets the grease. I come right out and ask them, ‘What is the outcome you’re looking for?’ What they are often after has nothing to do with what they are complaining about.”
With consumers, sometimes the complaint is nothing more than an attempt to have a debt removed from their credit report, Shores said. Years of experience have taught her how to differentiate between legitimate complaints and those who are more of a Trojan Horse.
“Not every complaint is a complaint,” Shores said. “It’s about education.”