Training collectors, whether they be new hires or seasoned veterans in need of a refresher, is an expensive process for collection agencies. Not only does the trainer have to be paid, but every minute that a collector is not on the phone trying to collect is lost money. On top of that, training during during the coronavirus pandemic has become even harder, because so many employees are working remotely and training now has to be done online instead of inside an office.
A panel of experts from across the accounts receivable management industry shared their perspectives on how training can help collection agencies build and maintain effective collectors during a webinar last week that was sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning.
Taking the time to train new hires the right way is especially important, the panelists said, because that training is the foundation on which a collector’s career can be built. Training is a lot like concrete — once it hardens, it is nearly impossible to break. One tip shared by Irene Hoheusle of Account Recovery Specialists is to ask open-ended questions and have the employees repeat back what was said to them, but in their own words, so they show they understood and were able to comprehend the material. Doing that is even more important when training in a remote environment, Hoheusle said, because it is not as easy to read an employee’s body language over a webcam as it is when you’re working with someone face-to-face.
Getting new collectors used to being on live calls is tricky, because agencies do not want to run the risk of the new collector saying something he or she shouldn’t when on the phone with an individual. Michael Jeselnik, the general manager at Carter-Young in Conyers, Georgia, has new hires work as point callers for a couple of days, identifying consumers and then transferring the calls to an experienced collector, to see how comfortable those collectors are on the phone. Those collectors will also work accounts where the propensity to pay is very low and while the chances of collecting anything are slim, it does present an opportunity to gain valuable experience.
One challenge for collection agencies is catering training to the different learning styles of individuals. Some people prefer to read in order to absorb the material. Others prefer to watch or listen. Customizing the training can be a difficult task, especially for a smaller agency that may not have a dedicated trainer or training department. One possible solution is to use a number of different teaching methods during training to ensure the agency is appealing to all the individuals in the training class and to break up the monotony that may occur if the session is just a trainer in front of a room talking for hours on end.
Debra Ciskey, an executive vice president at CACi, records narration on her Powerpoint presentations, which creates a video that can be used for training purposes. That method appeals to people who like to read and those who retain more information when they watch something, she said during the discussion.