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Collectors Working from Home: Is that Remotely Possible?

strausser harryOver the years, when I presented programs on technology and the impact it has had on the ARM industry, I have always found a lot of entertaining stories and examples to use underscoring how far we have come. The interesting dynamic with technological change is that we quickly forget how we used to do that and adapt to the new way of doing business. We might go down kicking and screaming about the change as some are not open adopters but eventually the new revelation becomes the norm and we brace ourselves for the next wave. And what waves there have been.

During this unprecedented time with the Covid pandemic, organizations have been forced to stretch their comfort levels in extraordinary ways. Those companies that had already embraced a remote workforce were in a prime position to adapt quickly and smoothly. Those that had not explored that culture had to scramble to acquire the equipment, software and telecommunications platforms necessitated for this kind of transition. Six months ago, no one could have predicted the wave of change necessary for ARM industry players to stay in the game. The good news is that most firms are winning this game.

 It is common in business for leadership to put substantive change on hold until it is the right time. We have so many competing priorities and challenges with which to contend. We go from needs that are on the back burner to an urgent requirement for change to allow our organizations to keep the doors open. When states mandated the closure of non-essential businesses, we added one more layer of challenge to what is already an industry riddled with regulatory, litigious and financial dynamics that keep owners and leaders on their toes. What we have learned is, it is possible to conduct business in the midst of a pandemic and the consumer public still wants to pay their bills. Most collectors are busy!

Think of how we manage change and new direction in our personal lives. When we experience the misfortune of being burglarized, we then invest in a security system for our home. When a hurricane passes through our region and we lose power for 2 weeks we then purchase a home generator. When we receive a reprimand from our doctor that we need to lose 40 pounds, we go on a diet. Something motivates our decisions and it is often due to the discomfort we feel.

It was George Bernard Shaw who said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” What we need to do as an industry is strategically predict the change needed to keep our businesses healthy and successful. Sometimes it takes a crisis: a pandemic. We need to look forward and envision what we do in a new light and leave the old conventions of business behind us. Socrates proclaimed, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.” The new day has arrived.

         So, YES, it is more than remotely possible for collectors to work from home. In fact, it is hugely successful. Many, in fact, are stunned at how effectively collectors can perform while using their homes as an office. Today, telephony software allows us to track, and record calls. Dialers can still manage the call flow. Video devices display the collector’s workspace. Virtual Private Networks allow for the office connectivity we require to work on collection platforms. Software tracks keystrokes.

         My hope is that our readers are finding success during these unpredictable times. Open your minds and focus on what we CAN do to keep moving forward despite the fact that we are continually being told what we CAN’T do. Conduct business differently. Think creatively. Survive instinctively. The other side of our challenges tomorrow will be determined by the decisions we make today!        

         We continually welcome thoughts and best practices from our readers. Feel free to send us your feedback for possible inclusion in a future column.

Harry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and at 570-336-7056.

Empathy:  Paving a New Road to Collector Understanding

 
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              2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year that forever changed the way people across the globe view life, socialize with one another, travel and transact business.  What a difference a few months can make and what a resilient people we are.  We are not only sharing the unique dynamics of the coronavirus crisis within the US from coast to coast but throughout the entire world.  In many ways it has broken down walls of difference.  In some ways it will create new cultures that will dictate how we live, work and interact.

            For many years as a trainer I have spent much time in my programs talking about how critical it is for collectors to attempt to understand the consumers with whom they are communicating.  The one on one exchange between collector and consumer is absolute gold in the collection process and much like precious metals, more and more of a rarity.  If we are fortunate enough to actually have a conversation, we have to use every tool at our disposal to make a successful connection with the consumer. Empathy forges that pathway and builds a foundation upon which understanding is key.  Henry David Thoreau said when referring to empathy, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”  

            Empathy is defined as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”.  Further definition includes what is known as Cognitive Empathy or, sometimes referred to as “perspective taking”.  It refers to, “our ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions.”  It is important to differentiate between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy becomes problematic for a collector in that they develop, “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.”  Sympathy pulls at the heart strings where empathy says, “I’ve been there and I understand you”. 

            Our ability to communicate is directly proportional to our ability to collect.  When we develop an understanding of another person, we are much more able to create and express messaging that generates action in that person.  During these pandemic times, virtually every person on the planet is impacted in some fashion.  Domestically, we have all been subject to personal illness, illness of a loved one, problems accessing products and services, job furloughs, and resulting financial hardships.  Collectors are now in a position to directly understand the hardships of the consumer from whom they collect.

            Not only can we truly understand, but we now have an outstanding opportunity to enhance public relations between debt collectors and consumers. Many firms have drafted new messaging as they openly offer to assist consumers with their financial concerns over debt in collection.  Consumers are finding that collectors can serve as a resource for financial education and have programs and plans to help them through these trying times.  I have always stated that I believe the overwhelming majority of consumers desire to pay their debts.  Collection firms across the US have been sharing their amazement at the high level of activity from consumers during this time.  They continue to receive large volumes of inbound calls, thus creating the opportunity for meaningful, empathic conversations.

            A popular quote on empathy states, “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”  Perhaps we will find as an industry the hidden value of these trying times of 2020. There will be a new found commitment to understanding one another and the collections calls of tomorrow will forever take on a new and positive tone.  We will see and recognize the value of the human spirit. We will listen more carefully to the messages that come our way. And, we will channel our feelings into productive calls, successful negotiations and the formation of meaningful relationships.

            We continually welcome thoughts and best practices from our readers. Feel free to send us your feedback for possible inclusion in a future column. 

Harry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and at 570-336-7056.

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