There is so much that a new collection agency employees needs to know. What the heck is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, anyway? Why can’t I threaten to break someone’s legs if they don’t want to pay their bills? And, most importantly, where is the bathroom?
All kidding aside, training a new employee is akin to laying the foundation on a home; if it’s not done properly, everything else is going to be off and it will all likely come crumbling down sooner or later.
A panel of executives was convened last week to talk about training programs and what was interesting about it was how similar and how different they were. None of the four companies, for example, spend the same amount of time training new employees. One agency spends five days, another spends 10, and another spends eight, the speakers shared during the webinar, which was sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning. A copy of the webinar recording is available here.
The panelists for the webinar were:
- LaDonna Bohling, Vice President, Contract Callers
- Bob Duenkel, Compliance Credit and Collections Officer & Ombudsman, Williams & Fudge
- Kelli Krueger, Vice President, Organizational Development, CBE Companies
- Kelly Parsons-O’Brien, President, Pacific Credit Services
Contract Callers has doubled the amount of time new hires spend in training, increasing the training period to 10 days, Bohling said.
But while the amount of time that new employees spent in training was different, the core components of those training classes were very similar. All, for example, spent time training on the most important components of the FDCPA. All, as well, spent time training on soft skills, such as conversational techniques, negotiation tactics, and other important traits that separate good collectors from bad ones.
At CBE, for example, the entire first day of training is dedicated to soft skills, primarily teaching Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” One of the objectives, Krueger said during the webinar, was to start with something that made employees feel like they matter. It also gave them something to talk about when they went home after their first day and were asked about how it went.
“We want to focus on making their better at home, because they they will be better at work,” Krueger said.
Teaching collectors how to manage their emotions is one of the most important components of training, Duenkel said, because they have to maintain their composure when a call “goes south,”
A key to making the training materials stick inside the heads of new employees and making sure they stick around once the training is over is to try and make the time in class as fun as possible, the speakers agreed.
At Pacific Credit Services, for example, new employees are paired up with experienced employees as a means of getting new hires integrated into the company more quickly. The company even pays for the two to go out to lunch and spend time away from the office getting to know one another.
During the training period, when new employees are shadowing experienced collectors, the new hires play a game called “sit by” bingo, Parsons-O’Brien said. The bingo cards have spots on them, like “got a payment,” and “had a balance ending in .01.” The game forces new hires to pay attention to the calls and helps them learn how experienced collectors work.