Economies are cyclical. For every upturn, there’s a downturn. When there is a downturn, unqualified collection agencies tend to spring out of nowhere. In 2011, during the Great Recession hundreds of un-trained collection agencies entered the market. Predictably, complaints about collectors’ abusive practices reached all-time highs. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2011, the Federal Trade Commission saw a record-high number of consumer complaints about debt collectors. I bring this all up, because sooner or later (some people think sooner) our economy will experience a downturn and once again subpar collection agencies will flood the market. These inexperienced collection agencies can make life harder for those of us who have been in the field for decades.
Collections can be a stressful job. As a collection agent you’re dealing with intimate details of people’s businesses and their lives. You occasionally hear disturbing stories, and are faced with difficult decisions. Few people are happy to get a call from a collection agent and some are downright cruel or threatening. All of this is made 20 times worse if you are not properly trained and do not have confidence in your tactics or your right to collect. We reduce stress for our staff by insisting on ethical practices.
Our ethics are visible from the minute we first speak with a client. We don’t accept every claim. We carefully assess claims to ensure that they are legally owed and sufficiently documented. Although we work exclusively with commercial collections, we know that businesses are made up of people. We strive to treat every employee, every client, and every debtor as a person.
When we approach debtors, we do so person to person. Other collection agencies make computerized calls, determined by a predictive dialer and handled by telemarketers reading scripts and making just over minimum wage. This approach is not respectful of either the caller or the debtor and leads to stress and quality control problems.
I’ve mentioned before that I learned a lot from the book The Four Agreements. I try to apply lessons I’ve learned about interpersonal communications and relationships to my business relationships, because at the end of the day, every relationship is personal. So much of the stress and nastiness that debtors direct toward debt collectors could be avoided if people were approached as humans first and an account second. This isn’t just our theory, recent research out of San Diego State University shows that managers who demonstrate ethical leadership help reduce employee stress. Being kind and treating people like people doesn’t mean that we aren’t strong, aggressive, and persistent when needed. It just means that we don’t start from a position of anger.
At The Kaplan Group, we are here first and foremost to serve our clients. But we also want to help our industry. Collection agencies provide a valuable service to companies. Whether you’re running collections for your company or working for a collections agency, conduct yourself with integrity and honesty and you’ll reduce your stress and have better results.