beck gordon2Let’s face it, innovation takes guts. How many countless articles have we seen about the expenses we face, the margins that suffer, the hand we have been dealt. Sometimes I want to reach out and say, “enough!” We have faced era after era of “the world is against us:” the TCPA era, the CFPB era that then led to the compliance era, the client “cut backs” era, and I’m sure we can think of a few more. It’s over now.

Welcome to the era of innovation and technology. Welcome to the era of opportunity. Welcome to the era of “it’s about time!”

In the aftermath of multiple back-to-back periods of time that steadily chipped away at what once was an overwhelmingly profitable industry, what we have left standing are battle-tested, tried and true, professional, undaunted ARM firms that are excited, ready and hungry to see the reward for standing tall and surviving a period that saw many agencies close, move over to the world of BPO or simply sell and get out.

No great reward comes easy, that is an understatement for many of you reading this column today, but please consider this:

We have come out of this stronger than ever. We have a clear-cut path to compliance, the appropriate technology to protect us from dubious laws never meant for our industry, the staff and processes to protect us from litigious and opportunistic lawyers and the knowledge of how to operate in such a way that protects us from everything else. It’s time to move on to a time that shines so brightly on our future that it hurts my eyes. It’s time to innovate.

Even Rethinking Letters

Innovation cannot be looked at as only technology or new products, innovation is doing what no one else has done before. It’s making decisions and taking chances and not being afraid of what people will think or how we will be attacked. We have learned enough about what we can do and what we can’t and now is the time to take advantage of that.

For example, when was the last time anyone took a long look at their letter deck and the wording in those letters? Has anyone tried anything different? Has anyone said, “maybe I will put a statement in my letters that consumers aren’t used to hearing, a statement that will open their minds to who we are and encourage them to reach out and contact my agency?” How about an opening line such as, “We understand situations occur that are not always in our control, which is why we are reaching out to you today in an attempt to help you in a time of need,” should that be the case. Pretty interesting thought, right? Is it legal? Can someone sue us for that? I’m sure they will try. But at the end of the day, out of the 100,000 letters you sent that week, how many people will pick up the phone and reach out simply because they don’t feel ashamed or threatened by a run-of-the-mill collection letter? 10,000 more? 5,000 more? How do we know if we don’t try?

Obviously, I am not recommending you do exactly this, but it’s a point. We are in a time when we can try something different, something exciting, something that will recover more dollars and potentially reduce expense. We run compliant organizations that should be proud of what we do, but yet we are all too often cornered into the norm out of fear while every other industry out there can try new and exciting things to get ahead and remain relevant and competitive.

Why can’t we start doing that? The answer is, we can.

Omni-Channel: The Future of Business

I believe it is time for us to start doing video chat, having apps that make things easy for the consumer. Creating channels in the credit reporting cycle that can give opportunity to those that need it and promote positive transactions, not negative reputations.

Omni-Channel solutions are the future of our business. We are working with many different generations, but only catering to one. How can we change that if we don’t innovate?

In my opinion, we should be marketing our organizations no differently than Downy markets fabric softener; not just to potential clients, but to those that we help every day get out of debt while providing them a world-class experience.

If we open our minds to the potential we possess, we can change this industry forever. If we are willing do things never done, take risks and utilize the great technologies at our disposal we can create a world of consumer finance where people aren’t afraid to pick up their phones, answer an email, reply to a text or go on an app as it pertains to their personal accounts, not just current, but also in collections.

Think about the possibilities, if the agencies were looked at no differently than the creditors themselves and people had the confidence and the capability that they could communicate, both verbal and transactional, as they do with their own mortgage company. Innovation starts with a single thought but has to end with action. If there was ever a time to act, that time is now because we didn’t just weather the storm, we learned how to dance in the rain.

Gordon Beck is the President and COO of Valor Intelligent Processing, a new organization in the ARM Industry specializing in BPO and 3rd Party Collections. Gordon has 20 years of experience with expertise in the recovery of Wireless, Landline, Cable, Satellite, Internet, VOIP and Financial Institutions. Gordon is known as a motivator, educator and great public speaker in the industry; participating in panels, debates and several individual speeches at industry related events as well as contributing articles and content to several call center publications.