Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, February 19, 2016

Collectors Building A Better Environment

I recently recorded a webinar for the Receivables Management Association of Canada, and one of the questions brought up in the Q&A afterwards touched on the collection environment – and that’s a whole topic on its own.  Let’s face it, collections at it's worst can be a horrible job – small cubicles, angry customers, angry managers, revenue targets to hit, and sometimes fear and mistrust within the company.  Doesn’t sound pleasant does it?

I’ve written a couple articles about how managers and business owners can make a better environment, and how collections doesn’t have to be a sweat-shop mentality in this day and age, but really there’s a lot collectors can do as well, and some times they create a negative environment without thinking about it.  Let’s look at some of the possible ways to make a better environment.

The Story That Never Ends?

Once in a while, you run into an amazing account that painlessly pays tens of thousands of dollars, or the account where you convinced a  lawyer to remit after they originally refused, or even a funny or entertaining call that brightens your day – those are great things to share with your co-workers.  Sometimes, however, you run into a collector that has a story for every single call.  It’s distracting, not just to them, but everyone around them, and makes the day drag on and harms the team environment.  Be a story teller, but limit your stories to the good ones.

Doom and Gloom?

When you have a painless experience, like a consumer or business paying promptly after a single call, you might get a small feeling of positive reinforcement or a job well done, but it’s quickly forgotten – the bounced cheques, the consumers using their small children to screen calls, the broken arrangements, the promises that never come true, or even a bad day a the office where they didn’t hit their goals build a sense of negative reinforcement over time that is more memorable – so it’s very easy for a collector to have these negative experiences ‘taint’ them, and they become mistrustful of all debtors, or carry a negative attitude around them, being brusque with fellow collectors or new consumers who don’t deserve the negative attitude. 

It’s very important – paramount, in fact – for anyone who is going to remain in the collection industry for an extended period of years and make this their career to keep a positive attitude, and remember the good things about their role, and the positive experiences they have with debtors and co-workers, to be pleasant to work with and be around.

Every Man For Himself

In some environments, every collector is personally responsible for their revenue goals, and an environment can be cultivated where staff are directly in competition for commissions, Job security, promotions, or even a day where they aren’t being yelled at for being at the bottom of the heap.  This is a pretty extreme example, but to some degree probably exists in many collection agencies.  It causes resentment of co-workers’ success, people fighting over ownership of files, perceived favouritism by management, and a lack of teamwork.  Who wants to work in that kind of environment?

We had a case last month, where one of our Receivables Managers, Jenna Missen, had almost doubled her revenue goals for the month – she collected a large payment, and passed the commissions to another staff member who was struggling.  That’s exactly the kind of team environment you want to foster, where trust is built up and everyone sees the big picture of a group effort.  Help your co-workers, coach them, encourage them , and make it a better environment for everyone.

Packed Like Sardines?

In a call centre environment, agents are often packed and racked tightly as possible to maximize manpower – small cubicles, small desks, and crowded conditions create stress, noise, and confusion, and it’s really easy to aggravate co-workers because of a loud and disruptive call, the smell of their pastrami sandwich eaten at their desk, less-than-stellar hygiene,  or even just ego or personality.

Be sensitive to your fellow team members, and apologize for a loud call, or take a few minutes to grab them a coffee when you go to the cafeteria, or handle a calls for them while they are away on vacation.  Really, it’s the little acts of kindness that make working with others a pleasure, even if it’s a cramped office with aggressive management and the odd poor team player on the collection floor.


Ultimately, the environment is the responsibility of the company management and owners, and they have a great opportunity to build a positive work environment – in general, business has come a long way in how they treat employees and the credit and collection industry is also improving over the past few decades.  But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much vacation time or how large the salaries and perks are if you work with are inconsiderate, competitive, or distracting.  We are in the business of communicating with others for satisfying solutions, so we shouldn’t forget that when it comes to our environment, or the people who work with us every day.

If you have any questions about work environment, or ways we can improve the collection industry from the collector’s position, by all means drop me an email or give me a call.  I was first and foremost a collector for many years, and I believe we should build an environment where the collectors have the environment they need to be successful and happy.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Cambridge, Ontario

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