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November/December Feature Stories

Top Technology Partners Reveal Latest Technology

A healthy relationship with technology partners can lighten the workload collection professionals must bear on a daily basis. Collection Advisor Editor T. Steel Rose spoke with technology partners of the collection industry about ideas to benefit the accounts receivable process based on their area of expertise and the impact of consumers having more money each paycheck due to recent tax changes.

ripa johnJohn Ripa, President of Castel Communications said the uses for voice analytics, “include influencing the nature of the call in real-time.” Concerning keywords, Ripa said, “You can pop a script based on the words. You can review based on empathy.” “Certain phrase groups could escalate to a manager.” Concerning the future, he said, “As technology improves expect everything to be live. You need to respond within three seconds to provide the correct screen. Full text transcription happens and AI will permit talk offs by automated agents.” Concerning speech recognition, he explained, “A key differentiator is audio mining with expression based logic to gain more insight into the contents of the call to determine the significance. You can sample off of several analysis engines and combine the expressions.” Ripa elaborated on artificial intelligence being deep, neural network technology. “You can retrain on the fly,” said Ripa. “Originally you could only use 50 words, now you can use 50,000. Natural language processing is like understanding body language and may help with fraud detection.”

kim jeffersonJefferson K. Kim, President of CDS Software said, “A great possibility is investing in something now that will lead to future savings or efficiencies, such as a new software platform or employee training and development. The predicative dialer is interesting because even if the dialer regulation eases up, the way people use their phones has evolved. They may not pick up their phone at all, but after an initial consent, text messaging becomes more common.”


tabouelle laurentLaurent Tabouelle, Executive VP of Codix, spoke with me from France and said, “The CPR [collection performance rate] will keep going up.” Tabouelle suggested, “Create debtor segments so each one can receive a different approach with a champion/ challenger strategy. ” The most significant technology he suggested is, “leveraging the dialer and the website portal and the client portal to always improve on the ease of use and customer experience.”


kaul ajayAjay Kaul, President of Cogent said, “There is a little more cash to take care of debt and buying power. Some put off debt until they really have to pay and use the extra cash to spend more. Others are looking to solve [the debt] and then there are those in the middle. With more money now we are able to work with them to remedy their debt situation. It helps AR professionals to show them different scenarios. They can make more educated decisions.” Concerning a software company that works in collections in other countries, Kaul said, “The rules of engagement are different. The regulations are different. How many times can you call and when?”


shulzeFritz Schulze, President of Comtech Systems Inc. said, “When you move up the market in the industry you have to pull data and score. The other element is how we communicate. You text a millennial and not an 80-year-old. Each firm determines their own way of collecting and they all do it their own way.”



dantzler jeff2Jeff Dantzler, President of Comtronic Systems said one goal is, “to mitigate risks to agencies. You can control risks. In the last five years the bad guys are getting better at fraudulent transactions while the good guys only increased talent by about 10%. You can’t afford all the top talent in security, but you can move to the Cloud. Five years ago the cloud was slowing, now the performance is better, security is better, data is backed up and replicated. The miracle of data centers route customers without them being aware.”


pridemore mattMatt Pridemore, Principal at Cornerstone Support, Inc. said, “Rising wages and full employment have led to consumer confidence levels we haven’t seen in over a decade. That coupled with the changes in leadership at the CFPB have made this a great time to invest in the ARM industry. There is a change in energy, more start-ups in the last nine months than in the last six years.”


briganti carlCarl Briganti, President and CEO of CSS talked about tactics to improve payments saying, “Deep analytics help focus on the right consumer, right down to the weather [they are experiencing] which may determine when they are more likely to be at home. Their credit score, zip code and average earnings, assist in targeting the dials using waterfall data. It provides a landscape of their financial status. There are models that look at the type of debt, age of debt and source of debt. [Analytics] matches the new business and finds similar profiles like a credit card from a specific bank, with a specific balance and demographic propensity to pay. It will match those with liquidated accounts that were similar to provide an intelligent path forward. The upfront investment is less because they are focusing on accounts that matter.

“Rather than spray and pray, they are no longer hoping as much, but using analytical science from their past liquidation performance to create a sophisticated profile combining credit score and skip tracing profile. Those who hit hard times due to healthcare may pay their bills to fix their credit so they can improve their status. Credit scores come up very quickly. Bureaus are more accurate and quicker today. The scores are improving because the data is more accurate.”

Concerning new trends, Briganti said there are several. “A web-bot offering looks at consumer payment portals to create an interactive chat session to interact with a consumer until the rules determine it’s time for a live collector. Voicemail drops and dunning, dialer and messaging are also seen. Briganti explained, “The new generation is an SMS text campaign enabling an agent to handle as many as ten accounts at a time, to enable the consumer to then use an app or a link to pay online using Paypal, Zelle or Venmo. There is an identity engagement platform to make sure the right consumer is making the right payment to the right account. It is an omni-channel identity engagement platform. An advantage is real-time data for dialing. It auto-pops the screen and appends the recording.” Briganti said things coming up next are, “Behavior signals that provide real-time emotions like frustrated or angry [on behalf] of the agent and the consumer. The voice intonation gives management a glass panel view of who is in control of the conversation. Banks and debt buyers use voice samples to view the quality of the calls.”

platt steveSteve Platt, Group President, Decision Analytics and Experian Data Quality at Experian said, “Advanced analytics take a holistic view across the entire customer journey. [Analytics] identify ‘never pays,’ prevent fraudulent activity and reduce loss provisioning.” Platt said, “We are bracing for getting back to more late pays. Delinquencies are growing, so the good times may not last. Always resolve in full is the first option. Clients prefer a way to get the client back on the payment plan.” Platt emphasized, “It costs so much to acquire a customer. The goal is to provide the long-term value of the customer for a long term journey.” The goal is, “Determining who wants to pay and have hit hard times to preserve. There is a fervent desire to understand the view of the financial position of the consumer. Will a consumer who already knows his debt is written off, be now willing to make a payment to see the results on credit worthiness? The goal is establish a plan to change the status of the credit score. In Brazil consumers come to an arena, and visit a bank who can show how real-time activity can improve their credit score. Here, it is a month long process. In Brazil you only show up if you are past due, so it’s popular to get off the tough list. In Brazil they care about their reputation and credit worthiness.” The event which translates into Clean My Name is a veritable credit correction fair.

adams garyGary Adams, President of Innovative E-Pay Solutions said, “ARM professionals will benefit by actively encouraging payment plans. Automated solutions provide 24/7 convenience to the debtor, ensuring the highest possible payment while reducing overall compliance exposure and cost to the agency.”



hill matthewMatthew Hill, President and CEO of InterProse said, “It still comes down to best practices and compliance for working with customers whether a green environment or an economy under duress. Avatar virtual agent technology forces compliance by not calling beyond a time zone, or overdialing or texting to avoid litigation. An omni-channel approach whether it is a call, a text, an email, or a voice-mail drop using better analytics to make sure it is timely because they have a shelf life for response. A 10-person firm can have a level playing field to gain the business of a bank. The idea is to have better communication with the client. Win/win/win, [for the] client, the consumer and the agency. The guard is changing; agencies will attract clients to them by not being slammed on the Internet. The days of consumer as adversary are over.”

dharmaraja ranjanRanjan Dharmaraja, CEO of Quantrax said, “Debt collection is a follow up system with different follow up payments. The issue we have today is contacting people. There are 84 million baby boomers and 90 million millennials. Handling mobile, and robotics are next generation. It costs $35,000 for an employee, the bot can do it for 60%. With the bot you don’t have to have multiple language employees at the same time. It speaks English, Spanish, everything people have wanted that Google supports. It can understand, and speak most languages.” Dharmaraja expressed concern that, “People are going to be confusing people selling analytics and automation as AI. There is a test for AI with the Turing Test. You put the robot in one room and the human in another room and test them. If you cannot differentiate the robot from the human, you have AI. If the human says, “I want to settle a bill,” it has to understand you.”

Conversations Next Issue...
Robert Pollin | President and CEO of Autoscribe
Thomas Mohr | CEO of Beam Software
Edgars “Edz” Sturans | CEO and President of BillingTree
James Dunlap | CEO of Lariat Software
Jonathan Brooks | President of LocateSmarter
Thomas C. Brown | Senior Vice President, U.S. Commercial Markets and Global Market Development of LexisNexis Risk Solutions
Keith Goodnight | SVP, Product Development & Management of MicroBilt
Jeff Flood | Director of OneClick-Data
Manpreet Singh | President of Payscout
Chad Deatherage | CEO of Payment Savvy
John Telford | President of Financial Services of RevSpring
Dan Hornung | President of Roydan
Terrel Bird | CEO and Co-Founder of TCN
Jack Gordon | CEO of WebRecon LLC
Paul Gies | President of VoApps
Chris Campbell | CEO of Simplicity Collection Software
Chris J. Roberts | President and CEO of Sentinel Development Solutions, Inc. (eCollections)

Mastering Skips in Telecom Collections

Cell phones epitomize the dramatic and fast change telecommunication has experienced in the last decade. Accordingly, the telecom industry has evolved, merged and fragmented requiring collection professionals to adapt just as fast. Jay Johnson, president of sales at Prince Parker & Associates, Inc. has seen this change firsthand and predicts more to come. Johnson also reveals key aspects of recovery in the vertical that some unfamiliar would do well to learn.

What is something you think makes telecom collections different from other types of collections today?

johnson jayThere are a number of differentiating factors in the telecom space. Firstly, the sheer volume of accounts placed for collection exceeds most verticals. As a result, systems and staffing have to be designed to manage significant placement volume. Additionally, there is a high propensity for skip accounts and a significant amount of churn between providers. The key to success in the vertical is designing skip strategies to assure telephone contact and ultimately one on one problem solving with the customer. There is also a considerable amount of fraud in the telecom space and collection efforts often include problem solving and reconciliation of accurate billing as a key component to recovery.

What is a tip for collecting on high balance telecom debt?

Our success with high balance telecom accounts is predicated on developing and retaining experienced collection specialists. Tenured resources have more success recovering higher balances. Offering reasonable payment options is also a key component to recovery. Our average payment is significantly less than the average balance. Working with customers to resolve the outstanding amount over time is critical. Our highest telecom balances are normally associated with commercial debt. From our perspective, it is critical to have resources who work exclusively on commercial telecom accounts as the approach and strategy on B2B accounts is significantly different from consumer. Lastly as mentioned before, in some instances, high balances are associated with fraudulent account activity. So we often serve as an intermediary between the client and the customer to reconcile the account and resolve a corrected balance.

Do you have any recommendations for collectionprofessionals working with telecom clients?

It is critical to utilize advanced tools and technology. As indicated, the volume of accounts requiring treatment is significant. As a result, data analytics, account scoring and segmentation stacked onto compliant contact platforms is essential. The space has a number of skilled agencies who consistently improve the work they perform. Advanced analysis coupled with leading edge systems is absolutely essential to maintain high performance and remain competitive in the space.

What do you think is the most recent bigchange/occurrence in telecom collections?

Without a doubt, regulatory changes have had the biggest impact on telecom and other industry collections. TCPA regulations have driven the need to utilize alternative contact platforms. Coordinating and assuring the deployment of legal and compliant platforms for dialing cell phone numbers has to be at the forefront of strategy.

What are your predictions for telecom collections in the next five years?

We are already seeing consolidation in the space and wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t continue. The next few years will likely yield an increase in bundled services. Providers are packaging phone, wireless, cable/satellite, broadband, security systems, etc., into their service offering. We see a continuation and increase in packaging these high demand services to the consumer.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have four children so there really isn’t a great deal of free time! I enjoy all time spent with the family. I do try to carve out time to attend college and NFL football games and try to work in an occasional round of golf.

Survey Says Most Parents Pay Children's Debt

As accounts receivable professionals know, when advising consumers on how to resolve a debt, emphasis should be placed on reaching out to parents. A recently published survey by further supports this tactic as it indicates 52% of parents have helped their adult children, 18 years or older, pay a debt.

The most common debts surveyed parents paid for their children were student loan (20%), auto loan (19%), medical debt (17%) and credit card debt (16%). The survey also found men were more likely to help children pay bills than women and parents 55 and over were more likely to help pay.

The prominence of student loan debt is echoed in recently released data from the Federal Reserve which says U.S. student loan debt reached $1.49 trillion in September. As of 2015, Fed research indicates the average monthly student loan payment for borrowers age 20-30 years was $351, with a serious delinquency rate of about 11%.

It pays to ask consumers about their parents’ ability to help as, in this case, there is a one in two chance the account can be resolved.

The CFPB Cancels 8,000-Debtor Collection Survey

The CFPB rulemaking on debt collection has been further delayed. The delay comes from the CFPB formally canceling its request for approval of a survey on consumer understanding of debt collection disclosures.

It appears Bureau leadership decided to reconsider what it called Debt Collection Quantitative Disclosure Testing based on Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s announcement last month to freeze all pending regulatory action. In August, the American Bankers Association opposed the CFPB’s request because the CFPB had sought to test materials and disclosures not made available for public comment, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act.

The CFPB intended to use the survey to learn more about the burden collecting information inflicts on consumers, as well as the validity of the methods used including the use of automated collection techniques. The survey was considered to be the next step in developing the long-anticipated debt collection rules which have now been delayed over two years.

Mulvaney Disturbed by His Power as CFPB Acting Director

The position of director of the CFPB seems to be settled, at least for the time being. A federal judge has refused to block the President Trump-appointment of Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB. The CFPB’s website acknowledges Mulvaney as the acting director while the Cordray-appointed Leandra English currently holds the title of deputy director.

After Cordray recently resigned as director of the CFPB, a struggle for the vacancy erupted between English and Mulvaney. English filed suit against the Trump administration citing the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act lays out a succession plan for the director authorizing the deputy director to hold the position until a White House nominee is confirmed by the Senate. It has been suggested Cordray is likely poising himself to run for Governor of Ohio.

Mulvaney and the Trump administration have been vocal about their objection to the CFPB’s lack of accountability. At a press conference after his first day in the position, Mulvaney commented, “I’m just learning about the powers that I have as acting director. They would frighten most of you.”

“If you’ve really studied the constitutional nature of our government, if you’ve studied the way bureaucracy is supposed to work, it would both frighten and disturb you that this agency is as independent as it is,” Mulvaney added. “And it doesn’t surprise me, by the way, to the extent we are having a succession challenge as lodged by Ms. English. It isn’t surprising that that grows out of an agency that thinks it’s not accountable to anybody in the first place.”