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Winning the Compliance Game

  • Written by Joshua Fluegel

The CFPB has been continually dealing blows to collection agencies’ bottom lines for a couple years now. The environment has led many into dreary time causing many agencies to close their doors. However, these times have also provided great agencies to prove their ability to remain effective. One such agency is Delta Outsource Group. Collection Advisor spoke with Delta Outsource Group’s president and COO, Nick Jarman, about how he and his team have discovered the benefits of creating an atmosphere conducive to turning difficult circumstances into positive experiences. As compliance is paramount in today’s collection environment, Jarman reveals Delta Outsource Group’s choice compliance information outlets as well as how they have adapted to the new compliance standards.

Tell us about how Delta Outsource Group came to be and how you became involved in collections.

jarman nick“Delta” means change and Delta Outsource Group, Inc. was founded in 2009 with a shared vision by its three founding partners Jim Peacock, Jackie Mucha, and myself to build an organization on a foundation of integrity, accountability and transparency. 2009 was probably not the best time to grow a business from scratch as the economy was in the tank at the tail end of a global recession and the debt collection industry facing uncertain times on the eve of an unprecedented regulatory environment and the creation of the CFPB. While a little scary at the time, we had a desire to take control of our own destiny, a collective confidence in our own abilities and the vision of doing business the right way. Change was coming and we wanted Delta Outsource Group, Inc. to be a positive and influential part of that change.

On an individual basis, Jim became involved in the collection industry when he joined a major private label credit company in 1985 as a collector. Working through the ranks, Jim joined a regional-based collection company in 1988, eventually working his way to General Manager. In 1990, Jim joined a relatively new agency with fifteen employees. When he left in 2008, Jim was an equity partner and the company had grown to over one thousand employees with a national presence. With over 30 years of experience encompassing all facets of the collection industry, Jim has worked with many clients from diverse markets to define and implement custom workflow strategies from cradle to grave.

I became involved in collections in 2000 with an entry-level position known as a “Dialer.” Basically, I made telephone calls all day and when contact was made with a consumer, I passed the call to a tenured collector. I worked in this position for a few years and it allowed me the opportunity to see areas that needed improvement that I otherwise wouldn’t have. My drive to see those changes through afforded me the opportunity to be promoted from Dialer, Collector, Collection Manager to VP of Operations. I was fortunate at the time to be involved with an organization that believed in the people they employed and because of that, had a vested interest in seeing them succeed.

How does Delta Outsource Group use technology to stay competitive?

One of the pillars of Delta Outsource Group, Inc. will always be focusing on “Innovative Technology.” As a brand new organization starting out in 2009 we knew we must embrace technology and stay ahead of the curve with the latest technological advances if we wanted to be successful. Back in 2009, we were one of the first collection agencies to build our organization on a completely hosted environment including our collection and telephone systems. We have continued to build on technology over the years; including becoming TechLock Certified, implementing Call Miner speech analytics and offering web chat and call scheduling options for consumers through our website.

Why did Delta Outsource Group choose to build on a completely hosted environment?

A completely hosted environment offered us scalability combined with affordability. When we evaluated premised based versus hosted options, the hosted options always came out on top. Better price points, dedicated support staff, updated options, and much more.

How do you keep your collectors motivated and happy?

First and foremost, we keep our team members motivated and happy by understanding that as a leadership team, we must continually focus on these objectives. When we started Delta Outsource Group, Inc., we wanted to ensure that we created an organization that our employees wanted to be a part of and ultimately enjoyed what they did every day. So from the beginning, we created a P.A.W.S. culture that stands for Positive Attitudes Will Succeed. It is a shared vision of building a culture through positive experiences. P.A.W.S. requires four things of our team members:

1. Positive Attitude
2. Be Present
3. Be Memorable
4. Have Fun

From compensation to how we treat our team members to community outreach and collector contests, we know having a motivated and happy workforce is contagious and empowering and we place a high level of focus and reinforcement on this area every day.

Describe the collector contests.

Collector contests are centered around desired objectives such as compliance scores, dollars collected, or attendance. Every March we conduct a March Madness contest to coincide with the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where teams compete for the office title over the course of March with eliminations occurring at the end of each week. Each summer we have a Survivor contest in which employees are provided several goals to meet such as attendance, compliance scores, and dollars collected each day. As long as they hit those goals they get to “stay on the island.” By staying on the island they get various rewards each day or get to dress casual (generally shorts and t-shirt as it gets very hot in the Midwest during the summer).

What has Delta Outsource Group done to ensure success in credit and collections?

The foundation of our success starts with being appreciative for and valuing every opportunity that presents itself. The overall experience we provide must be extraordinary, with both our clients and the consumers we interact with. Selecting the right team members and investing in them through employee and leadership development has been critical to our success as well. The bottom line is our team members are the backbone of our organization and we will never take that for granted. Ensuring success is also about maintaining strong performance results for our partners so that they can rely on the returns they get from us.

How has credit card collections changed in recent years?

The two most notable changes with credit card collections in recent years is decreasing volume and increasing compliance requirements. There is still plenty of opportunity for organizations in the credit card segment as long as they are able to balance the performance versus compliance proposition. How you manage and adapt to the various credit card clients’ requirements is also a major change in recent years.

How have credit card clients’ requirements changed in recent years?

With the CFPB on everyone’s radar, each creditor has their unique approach to compliance. The approaches to compliance cross a very wide spectrum, from minimal oversight and requirements to extensive restrictions. No two creditors are the same in their approach to compliance and it’s important to be understanding, flexible, and adaptable to compliance changes as they come down from the clients. We are in uncertain and volatile times and being able to successfully adapt to these changes will determine ultimate success.

How does Delta Outsource Group stay up to date on compliance developments and changes?

We stay plugged in to as many compliance avenues as we possibly can. Joining professional groups, attending educational seminars, and staying abreast of the latest news and court decisions are a few of the ways our organization stays up to date. In addition, we also place an emphasis on staying ahead of developments and changes we believe may be forthcoming by constantly surveying the compliance landscape and making internal alterations as needed.

What are some other compliance sources Delta Outsource Group utilizes?

ACA International offers the most extensive resources for compliance with their updates, seminars, events, and updated database resources. A fairly new resource called the Compliance Professional Forum is also a great resource to engage with compliance professionals and share best practices.

How is Delta Outsource Group involved in the community?

delta at school 
 Delta employees teaching financial literacy to 4th graders.

As part of our P.A.W.S. culture, community outreach is extremely important to us. Just this spring, we continued our partnership with Junior Achievement and volunteered for JA in a Day. Our leadership team spent an entire day teaching the 4th grade at a local elementary school about the importance of financial literacy. Aside from partnering with Junior Achievement, we also regularly organize and participate in food drives, the Salvation Army, Hiring Our Heroes, and the Shoeman Water Project.

What was one particular challenge you had in the office and how was it overcome?

Several years ago, the CFPB had made clear it was concerned about performance-only bonus programs so we knew we needed to incorporate compliance into ours. We came up with numerous options at first but none of them felt right to incorporate that would be both fair to the collector and the organization. So after about a year of concepts, constant dialogue and idea sharing amongst members of management and our employees, we collectively came to a solution that integrated compliance into our bonus program and ended up with a complete buy in from all levels of the organization.

How did compliance end up getting worked into the bonus program?

We had always been using a proprietary collector scorecard to evaluate our collectors on their phone calls. Once complete this scorecard generates an overall scored percentage from 100% to 0%. We incorporated the scored percentage into the performancebased plan and formulated a structure from there.

What is one tip you would give fellow collection professionals?

Ensure that analytics is an integral part of your evaluation and decision making process. While data may not always tell the entire story, it most certainly provides a solid narrative to build from. Just remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

How would an agency ensure analytics is an integral part of the evaluation and decision making process?

There is always a hierarchy of analytics in each organization. Owner and C-Level executives tend to review high-level analytical data, while middle and front-line managers will look at analytical data on a more granular level. Take for instance compliance, a high-level review may consist of an aggregated score of the company or clients, while a more granular level will focus on specific teams and individual collectors. When looking at performance, aside from the obvious metrics related to dollars collected, analytics focusing on closing percentage, average size payments, and fee per hour are just a few of many options available to look at.

I have been told that you meet with Congressmen. Why do you meet with them?

 jarman-congressman long
 Jarman speaking with Congressman Billy Long.

We meet with members of Congress to educate them on what we do as debt collectors and how important our role is to the health of our credit based economy. It is our responsibility to ensure we engage our legislators on a consistent basis and educate them on the issues so they can make informed decisions.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

As any business owner can attest to, “outside of the office” is a very limited and loose term. With that said… For Jim, outside of the office revolves around lots of travel both for work and fun. Jim and his wife enjoy traveling in their RV, staking a campsite, and enjoying the great outdoors. As a long-time St. Louis sports fan, you also have a good shot at catching Jim at a St. Louis Cardinals or Blues game during the season. For me, most down time is about family and focusing on being the best husband and father I can be. Being fortunate and blessed to be married to my wife where together we have three beautiful daughters who keep us very occupied. I am also an avid sports fan, rooting on my Florida teams (Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Heat) from the Show Me State.