Empowerment As A Management Skill In Collection Agencies

By Dean Kaplan+

Good management skills help collection agencies and companies in general to stay competitive and successful. The term “management skills” is a broad category which includes motivating, delegation and a newer term called “empowerment.” This is the final article in a five series dealing with how excellent management skills lead to increased success for collection agencies and credit departments.

Empowerment is delegation, but goes even further. While delegation of responsibility involves passing responsibility and some attached authority onto collectors, empowerment goes beyond. When a collector is delegated a responsibility, his or her manager still remains the person ultimately responsible for the completion of the task. When a manager empowers a collector, the total task or process is unmistakably passed onto the collector including the required authority, and the ultimate responsibility.

Recently, at our collection agency, we went through a process of identifying ways to streamline and improve efficiency in our day to day operations. One of the big discoveries we made was that we needed to empower our collectors. For one collector, we empowered them to be responsible for the claim from start to finish. When a claim comes into our collection agency, it is assigned a specific collector. That collector is then responsible for setting up the files, collecting and organizing all documents, researching the claim to determine the correct contact information, making all collection calls, inputting all information into our claims database, follow-up calls, e-mails, faxes, etc., negotiating terms with the debtor, communicating with the client including month-end status reports and keeping management at our agency appraised of progress made. This has been an incredibly successful change for our collection agency. By empowering our debt collectors, they are able to process the claims faster, more accurately, and more successfully than ever before. The authority they have been given has made them feel trusted and valued. Morale at our agency has never been better, and our clients are extremely happy too.

Photo by: Tara (No last name given) http://www.flickr.com/photos/taubuch/2513042998/
Empowerment makes the empowered person feel wanted and appreciated.

Empowerment and a solid functioning work environment go hand in hand. When collectors are empowered the way that our collectors have been, they need to know that all the tools they need are available and at their fingertips. They need a state-of-the-art claims data system. They need to have been trained in all facets of the debt collection process and have a well-defined system to follow. All of these things require that management take the time to really understand the collection process and train all collectors to perform the process the same way. If the systems are in place and management is committed to empowering collectors, then collectors have a very good chance of being successful. In our case, we did the hard work of developing a well-defined collection process. Our systems are up-to-date and our collectors have been well-trained. Taken together, we were ready to empower our collectors, and they were ready and eager to be empowered. It is not surprising that so far the change has been successful.

Agencies, like any operating business, need capable managers and debt collectors to promote profitability. Managers who can empower collectors will be better able to promote productivity and good morale within their departments. Click here if you missed the first article in this series Motivation Is A Key To Success For Collection Agencies. Click here if you missed the fourth article in the series Delegation Strategies for Collection Agencies.

The Kaplan Group is a boutique collection agency specializing in large (over $10,000) debt collections due from businesses. Founded in 1991, the company has a stellar reputation (A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau) and is recognized as one of the leading collection agencies for results on large and complex matters.

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