Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, October 25, 2019

Avoiding A Punitive Collection Environment

In some collection agencies, if you can’t collect your target revenue for the month, you are gone.  Even if you were there for three years, and every other month you generated reasonable amounts of collection revenue.

In some collection agencies, if you are behind target you have to put in a mandatory Saturday or second late night (and because you are on salary, there’s no extra pay).  Never mind that those collectors can’t actually reach a lot of people on Saturday, and it doesn’t fix their revenue.

In some collection agencies, staff who are failing are publicly berated, passively-aggressively shamed with a white board showing the daily numbers, and the agency has a rotating door of staff coming and going constantly.

I recently attended a conference where the speaker Joanne Marlow ( talked about reducing staff turnover, and afterwards she and I talked about positive environments and how to build them.  I have been thinking about our conversation for the last week, and this seems timely for a blog article.

Don’t punish your staff.

Really, it’s that simple.  You hire people, who come in to work, and want to be appreciated, supported, trained, and ultimately, paid.  If someone is consistently failing at their job, some of that blame rests with the employer, for insufficient training, a poor work environment, or ultimately, hiring the wrong person.  If someone is temporarily failing at their job, it’s possible they have had some life events outside the office that are distracting them, they’ve failed to retain some of their training, developed bad habits, or become unengaged from their work – these are all solvable problems.

And whether the problems are solvable with the failing employee or not, they deserve their dignity and respect.  They deserve an employer or manager who can look at the problem objectively and either come up with a plan to work together with the failing staff member, or a plan to transition the failing staff member out of the company (and if it’s the latter, evaluate where things went wrong, so it can be avoided with future employees).

If a staff member is forced to come in on a Saturday, without pay, because they are failing to generate revenue, the question that should be asked is ‘why?’.  Are they not making enough calls?  Are they not reaching enough right party contacts?  Are they failing to present an outstanding debt in the way they should?  Are they failing to respond to objections or obstacles from the consumer as they should have been trained?  Why are they failing to collect Monday to Friday, in 40 hours, where others on your team (hopefully) otherwise succeed?  And how does hauling them in on a Saturday help?

By punishing your staff, you create a tiered employee environment – staff that succeed, and staff that fail.  And in a collection agency environment, where every month comes with it’s own targets, staff can flip between the two tiers, and it creates an unbalanced, chaotic environment.

Try properly evaluating your staff.

Create some sort of big picture – average their collection revenue over 12 months, to see how they do overall.  Create a point system for positive and negative months and keep a running score.

If someone is failing, ask them what the problem is.  Compare their monthly, weekly, or daily results to succeeding staff, and look at numbers.  Sit and listen to their calls and see if they’ve deviated from the training manuals.  If you identify a problem or bad habit, keep an eye on it and see if it’s eliminated, if results improve on a daily basis.

Try rewarding your staff.

If you focus on things that go wrong, staff that fail, targets that are failed to be met, all that time you could spend instead on the staff that are quietly, competently succeeding.  Make time to thank people for being reliable, for giving you years of their lives, for contributing to a positive environment where people don’t loath coming to work.

And as your company grows, if you can’t make time to thank everyone, build in mechanisms or a management team that allows others to thank people for doing a good job.  This could be peer commendations, monthly scorecards, Christmas bonuses, team lunches, or staff-wide emails.

Then maybe your turnover rates will improve.

If anyone has opinions or suggestions for building a positive work environment, I am always open to suggestions.  By all means write or call me, and we can build a better collection industry together.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Brantford, Ontario

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