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5 Phases to Get the Most Out of Your Training Programs

eidson samThroughout my career I’ve either read or heard that companies are only as good as their employees. I’ve found this to be a true statement and that’s why we feel it’s extremely important to train and develop our most valuable resource. Those who value employee development will continue to grow while those who don’t tend to remain stagnant. Our new hire training program consists of five phases including:

1. Introduction to our company including management team, employee handbook and code of conduct.

2. Compliance with state and federal laws including internal policies and procedures. Our collectors must pass with a minimum score of 90% on our debt collection rules and regulations tests before they can even make a call.

3. System training including telephony, collection software and file mechanics.

4. Talk off training including required disclosures, call progression and collection techniques. During this session we like to perform role-playing scenarios to help the collector overcome common objections.

5. Client specific training and special account handling.

A Valuable Ongoing Training Practice

Training isn’t a one and done program for our collectors. We feel like ongoing training for collectors with all ranges of experience is important to their development. Our industry is ever changing so there is always new material to cover. Often times those with experience have some bad habits or try to take shortcuts that end up costing them or us additional revenue. Employees need development not only to make them better at what they do but also to feel valued by their employer. Knowing there are multiple learning styles we try to accommodate each individual by using a different approach. One of our most valuable training practices is group round table call calibrations. We choose a few veteran collectors and a few rookie collectors and listen to a call from each. Once the call has ended each collector gets to speak on what they liked and what they may have done differently. The last collector to speak is the one whose call we just heard. Then the training manager adds their comments and suggestions. When we first started this practice I’d hear collectors moan and groan on their way to the training room. By the time the session was over each and every one of them came out of the training with a positive upbeat attitude. Some even asking when we were going to do it again.

The One-On-One Session

Other forms of training include side-by-side sessions where a manager sits with the collector and evaluates their file maintenance and talk off. We also have one-on-one call listening sessions where we listen to a right-party contact and allow the collector to evaluate how they performed. Having the collector evaluate the call allows the manager to have a better understanding of the collector’s job knowledge. Sometimes it takes listening to yourself on the phone to realize when you’re leaving money on the table or whether you could’ve handled the call more efficiently. A few of the things we evaluate during the call include tone of voice, call progression, fact-finding questions, psychological pause and urgency. Every so often we add pop quizzes to our intranet and offer a prize for those who score 100%. Once we identify each collector’s strengths and weaknesses we cater our strategy to their strengths. All collectors are not created equally so it’s our job to place them in the best position for their success. Some agents are better suited for a dialer while others are more effective skip tracing and manual dialing. We have a nice blend of post date collectors versus our liquidators and need a mixture of both in order to continue our success.


Sam Eidson is the Director of Operations at Delta Outsource Group. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Missouri Collectors Association.

Strategies to Focus on More Lucrative Accounts

eidson samThere are many ways an agency can operate strategically. Each agency must cater their strategy based on portfolio type, staffing, inventory, client demand and regulation. Today I’m going to discuss a few of the strategies we’ve implemented throughout the years.

When I first entered the collection industry we didn’t have dialer technology to help us work our inventory. Each collector was assigned a number of accounts for which they were accountable while at their desk. During what we called “prime time,” collectors would spend the majority of their time manually dialing in an effort to make contact with the consumer. During non-prime time hours we would use various skip tools and contacts to obtain updated location information for accounts that didn’t have accurate information. Now we have an automated process that sends a batch of skip accounts to our skip trace vendor freeing up more time for the collectors to make phone calls.

In the early 2000s we began using auto dialers to reach consumers and actively work our inventory. In the beginning we utilized the dialer only when inventory was behind and service level agreements had to be met. As our business grew we became more dependent on the dialer and used it the majority of the day. We found many benefits to using the dialer including increased penetration rates, campaign and agent reporting, local caller ID packages and time zone/area code mismatching. As we all know, attorneys have made a living suing companies for alleged TCPA violations due to the use of an auto dialer. Agencies had to change how they did business or deal with frivolous lawsuits. We not only changed the technology we used to dial phone numbers, we also changed our collection strategy.

Scoring Strategy

We currently score all of our business allowing us to segment our inventory in tiers focusing on accounts with the highest probability to pay as opposed to those with less lower scores. The scores also allow us to strategically target accounts using a letter strategy. We send the initial letter upon placement on all accounts received. After 45 days we then target the higher scored accounts with a payment arrangement letter. The final letter of our series is a settlement offer letter that’s sent 45 days prior to recall.

Trigger Strategy

Triggers are another way to focus on accounts with a higher probability to pay. There are hundreds of triggers including contact, credit available, positive improvements, new trade lines and inquiries. Each agency will have to determine which triggers are most effective for their line of business.

For many years we used a standard strategy and segmented our inventory using the data our clients provided. There’s nothing wrong with using a standard strategy. Listed below are a few of the ways we segmented our inventory:

• Last payment date
• Charge-off date
• Balance
• Co-signers
• Number of years account was open
• Total number of payments made
• Received date
• Settlement authority

We would also segment the business based on data we obtained through our work efforts:

• Previous contact campaign for closers
• Postdate campaign to upgrade arrangement
• Calling at different times throughout the day
• Manual place of employment calls during typical business hours
• Creating a debt settlement company team to handle those accounts
• Not-Sufficient-Funds (NSF) roll over to the house collector after so many days

Our industry continues to evolve and it’s important that agencies change with the times. While most strategies are similar and don’t require reinventing the wheel, we as leaders must continue to think outside of the box and come up with new ways to contact consumers.


Sam Eidson is the Director of Operations at Delta Outsource Group. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Missouri Collectors Association.

Interviewing the Next Top Gun

eidson samAs we all know, hiring employees is an expense. While it’s far more cost effective to retain and develop whom we have, turnover and growth make hiring new employees a necessity. Implementing a formal interview process allows an organization to be selective when searching for their next successful collector. Finding the right fit to join your team is important to any organization no matter the industry. Today we are going to discuss a few of the things we do to separate us from our competitors. Being prepared prior to interviewing candidates is a must. Not only are we interviewing the applicant, they are interviewing us. Not being prepared, having a messy office or being unorganized could discourage an applicant from accepting your offer.

We recently revamped our interviewing process and it all starts with pre-screening the applicant via phone interview. During our phone interview we explain the position so the applicant knows what to expect especially if they’ve never collected before. After explaining the job description we ask the following questions:

• What do you know about our organization?

• Why are you interested in collections – or – how many years experience do you have?

• We go over our schedule and ask if they have an issue working our scheduled shift? Being flexible is a plus.

• Do you have means of transportation to get to work?

• Tell me about your computer experience?

• What compensation are you looking for?

We’ve found that pre-screening applicants brings value by ensuring we interview candidates that have the willingness and ability to do our job. So long as the applicant passes our phone interview process we will have them come in for a live interview. The most important part of the interview is the beginning. This is the applicant’s opportunity to make a great initial impression on the interviewer. While not a deal breaker, the first impression is weighed heavily. Showing up late or not being presentable can be detrimental even if the applicant has a glowing resume. During the interview we ask a variety of questions that differ for those with experience versus those without. We ask open-ended questions requiring the applicant to elaborate which allows us to determine whether they are an ideal fit for the organization both personally and professionally. For example we will ask applicants with experience what portfolios they’ve worked, budgets they’ve been responsible for and may even test their compliance knowledge by asking questions off of our FDCPA test or something as simple as having them recite the mini-Miranda. Below are a few additional questions we ask during the interview:

• What motivates you?

• How do you rate your verbal communication skills on a scale of 1-10? Why did you give yourself that rating?

• What would you do if a person on the phone became rude or upset?

• What type of pace do you like in a work environment?

• Describe the work environment or culture in which you are the most productive and happy?

• Provide an example of a time when you were able to demonstrate excellent listening skills. What was the situation and the outcome?

• Share an experience in which you successfully shared a difficult piece of information.

• Describe the last time you got really stressed at work? How did you cope? What happened in the end and how were you able to overcome it?

Interviewing those without experience can be even more challenging. We don’t have the luxury to test their knowledge of the industry so we look for certain attributes that make successful collectors. We want someone who is money motivated but also look for those who have the desire to learn, advance and grow with our organization. Confidence is an attribute that an applicant must have in order to be a successful collector. In addition, being well spoken is important for them to be understood over the phone. And last but not least the applicant must have a positive mental attitude. I’ve always said that consumers have a sixth sense when it comes to dealing with collectors. If the collector doesn’t have the attributes mentioned above it will be difficult for them to find success.

While the aforementioned techniques can help an organization find their next top gun there will always be exceptions. We’ve had applicants who interviewed very well and fallen flat on their face and we’ve also given a chance to applicants who don’t interview well that end up being a top performer.

Sam Eidson is the Director of Compliance for Delta Outsource Group, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Collectors Association.

Encouraging 5 Behaviors to Improve Morale

eidson samEver since I entered the collection industry I’ve heard about the importance of a positive mental attitude. I’m a positive person as it is so it didn’t take long for me to embrace and eventually preach the value of having a positive mindset. The mind is the most powerful tool we possess. It can bring success and if not used properly can bring failure. As leaders it is our responsibility to create a culture of positivity while encouraging the behaviors we expect.

Years ago we came up with an initiative to increase morale around the office. The acronym for the name of our company is DOG so we thought it would be fitting to name the initiative PAWS, “Positive attitudes will succeed.” Every quarter two employees from each department volunteer to be part of the PAWS committee. They discuss ways to improve morale and come up with fun contests and social events for our employees.

Throughout the years our past president would come up with catchy slogans and clever acronyms in an attempt to create the culture we desired but the majority of them seemed to come and go with time. In January of 2017 our new president empowered the leadership team to come up with five behaviors that we felt were important to our growth and success. During our annual senior leadership meeting each of us wrote the behaviors we thought were important on a large dry erase board and then we all voted until we agreed on the five behaviors we would begin to encourage and expect from our workforce. We named the behaviors our star behaviors, created a logo and displayed it throughout the office. We then printed up hundreds of star cards for leadership to give out to employees who exhibited one or more of our star behaviors. In the beginning we would give the star cards out throughout the week when an employee displayed the behaviors we were encouraging. Over the past few months we’ve started to give them out during our weekly floor meetings so praise is given while everyone is present. Nothing feels better than to receive praise in front of your peers. Positivity becomes contagious and eventually others will strive to be the next to receive such praise. For almost two years the entire organization has embraced the culture we created. It’s lasted because the leaders responsible for encouraging the behaviors are the same people who created them. In order for your employees to buy in you must have buy in from your leadership team.

Below are the five behaviors we expect from everyone in our organization:

Engaged

Whether you’re speaking to a consumer, third party or co-worker, be present and focused in everything you do.

Own it

Taking personal accountability for actions, processes and the job. Not who should but I should.

Positive

In an industry that comes with a lot of negativity you must remain positive in order to be successful.

Challenge/Change

If you don’t an agree with something or have anan idea that could make it anbetter we ask that you an challenge and change the an status quo.

Respectful

Being honest, open anand considerate to each other.

We not only refer to our star behaviors when an employee has demonstrated one or more of them, we also refer to our star behaviors when someone has not demonstrated one or more of the behaviors. For example, if someone generates an avoidable complaint, the majority of time it’s because they weren’t being respectful. If someone exhibits negativity on the floor we will work with the employee to identify the behaviors that could be improved. We explain how the behavior is important to our organization, team and also his/her personal goals. We discuss the negative outcomes from not demonstrating the behavior. We clearly articulate our expectations, set priorities (i.e., what behavior(s) should be addressed first) and teach employees to always reflect on behaviors.

As organizations grow in size it can be easy to forget the values on which the organization was founded. It’s extremely important for leadership to always be mindful of who has contributed to the growth and recognize those on a daily basis. I believe that our organization can and will achieve greatness so long as those who continue to contribute daily are recognized and appreciated.

Engaged Collectors Instead of Dialer Zombies

eidson samManaging a collection floor certainly has its highs and lows. It’s always been a, “what have you done for me lately,” kind of business. Whether your agency had a strong or weak performance last month, one thing you can count on is it will all start over next month. Collection floors typically consist of a wide variety of age groups, backgrounds, personalities and education levels. Throughout the years I’ve had the opportunity to manage many hard working professional debt collectors mixed with my fair share of the attendance-challenged, prima donnas, conspiracy theorists and those who aren’t happy unless there’s drama.

Creating the right culture and having the ability to manage personalities can make the difference between a cohesive collection floor versus one that is dysfunctional. The collector role doesn’t require a degree and in most states collectors don’t have to be licensed making it difficult to find career-orientated business professionals. Most candidates didn’t learn specific skills such as time management, prioritization and multi-tasking like those who attended college.

When hiring, there are positives and negatives to candidates with or without experience. Sometimes those with experience can be set in their ways making it difficult to coach and teach them your way of doing business. While experienced collectors tend to come with bad habits they also understand how to collect a debt. The other negative could be their inability to collect compliantly given our industries regulatory landscape. I prefer hiring collectors with little to no experience because it’s easier to teach them our way of doing business. However, there can be negatives to this strategy. For example, our society has created a sense of entitlement for the younger generation and the need for instant gratification. Years ago we didn’t have to run contests in order to motivate collectors. Their bonus check was motivation enough. Now it seems like collectors are more motivated by lottery tickets, prizes or paid time off rather than monetary compensation.

Collectors in 2018 have it easy compared to when I became a collector over twenty years ago. Technology and automation has taken the craft out of the collector role. I can remember having a rolodex full of contacts from other companies with whom I’d share information, calling directory assistance or using telephone books to find location information for a consumer. Now there are multiple vendors at our disposal who you can send a batch of accounts to and in return get the consumers’ most recent contact information all within a matter of minutes. Collectors no longer have to dig in order to find consumers because we do it all for them. To make it worse, the use of dialer systems created what I like to call dialer zombies. Dialer zombies are those collectors who just sit at their desk waiting for contacts to be fed to them. It takes constant motivation and oversight to ensure collectors are valuing each contact because they know another contact is coming their way as soon as they end their current call. In recent years our dialing strategy has transitioned to more of a manual approach forcing collectors to generate contacts on their own. Even managers had to adjust their mindset because we no longer used the set it and forget it approach. Prior to going with a manual approach we had to create a structured strategy that segmented the business in a way that makes sense. Once the strategy had been created we then had to focus on collector development.

Collectors have always found shortcuts to make their job easier. Teaching file maintenance to collectors I identified as dialer zombies became quite the undertaking. Without the basic fundamentals it can be difficult for collectors to consistently perform, not to mention satisfying our clients’ needs. I encourage our management team to engage their collectors throughout the day and monitor key performance indicators such as attempts, contacts and payments to ensure each collector is doing what we expect. Walking the floor, performing side by side training and holding internal call calibrations are ways we engage our collectors. If we don’t put an emphasis on training and development the collectors won’t feel the need for improvement or see the opportunity for advancement. As the old saying goes we would rather spend our time developing employees with the risk that they leave than not develop them and have them stay.


Sam Eidson is the Director of Operations for Delta Outsource Group, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Collectors Association.