Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Call Management and Collections

So, aside from knowing what to say on a call when you are speaking to a consumer or business, it’s important to know how to manage your calls – both inbound and outbound.  How you attempt to communicate, and how you make yourself available is crucial to getting to the point where you are talking to the consumers or businesses that are outstanding.  You need to manage the calls so you are available, it’s not onerous to reach a human being, and it presents the right image of professionalism.

This means having the technical structure set up, and the strategy in place for what to do when someone calls you, or how you call out.  It doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  Whether you are a credit manager for a company of a few people, or you are an operations manager for a collection agency with 100+ staff, these ideas are equally applicable.

Outbound Calls

It’s more than just ‘smile and dial’ like it was in the old days, it’s about making your calls at the right time, advertising your company’s number on call display, and leaving the right messages. 

We’re not going to address the content of calls so much as the strategy of calling.  Now, I believe that manual calling is best, not because it’s the most efficient for call volume (it’s not), but because it creates a professional image, and consistent contact between one collection staff member and one consumer.  It also elevates the external image of the collector to a credit professional that you can reach directly, not just a drone employee in a cubicle hellscape.

So let’s start with call display (which ties later into inbound calls).  Your collection staff should be showing a toll free number when calling (which is required in a few provinces and states for third party collections).  Now, it shouldn’t be the same number on display for 100 staff.  Ideally, it should be a unique toll free number for return calls (a DID, ‘direct inward dial’) for each staff member.  So an outbound call that needs to be returned, because the collector talked to someone who will call back, a return call from someone who saw a number on call display, or someone heard a voicemail message or got an email have a direct way to communicate with that same unique collector.

Assuming you are making manual calls, rather than a predictive dialer (which I believe is just a brute force engine), you can leave a voicemail if necessary from a real human voice, tailored to the account.  The collector can schedule timed calls, diaries the file turnover appropriately to the note history of the file, and so on.

And aside from your call attempts, if someone Google’s your number (to see who you are), search your company’s name and find your website, or respond to an alternate communication channel (calling you from an SMS or email or mailed letter), you want to have the right numbers advertised.

Inbound Calls

So, as a collector you spend 100% of your time to hopefully generate somewhere between 1% to 30% of your attempts resulting in a response, ideally you receive a return call.  You need to answer the call, and if you can’t, you should do everything you can to get back to them immediately.

So, if it’s a DID, and the collector is there during business hours, and available, great, they get the call.  But what if they are on the other line, at lunch, or have gone home for the day?  A missed call is missed opportunities for recovery.  But having a call spillover to a hunt group or spillover group (ringing to multiple lines) has it’s own challenges.  

What I would recommend is a custom spillover group.  I’ll post the Asterisk coding below as an example of how to use a limited group of support staff that work in the same collection group, department, or or support team, so other people can answer the call, but by using a small spillover group it can be limited to staff experienced with the customer details, or are on different work schedules, and so on.

If someone calls when everyone is busy, it's after business hours, and everyone has gone home, ideally it goes to the one dedicated collector’s voicemail, so even when a message has to be left, a consistent person gets the message and calls back in a timely fashion.

If someone calls your collectors off advertised information advertised on your website, that too can be challenging.  You may have a main inbound line, or a line where creditors, employees, debtors, or vendors all call into – this may require a reception staff member, inbound call menu, or general voicemail box.  It may not be preventable to have someone call your general business line, but if you can set up your website with direct lines advertised in relation to your staff, it builds trust that you are a legitimate business, and the collector’s name is clearly associated with your company.

As for staff hours, I’ve seen third party collection agencies require staff to start at 7:00 am and work till 10:30 pm, trying to cover all reasonable hours for all North American time zones.  It burns staff out.  Running split shifts doesn’t send the best message (how can you project the image of credit professional if your company makes you work at 10pm at night?), and you don’t want to burn out your staff and let them enjoy their life outside of the office – serving East and West Coast time zones can be challenging.  I prefer a flex time schedule, that I talk about here:

Call Frequency and Length

A lot of collection agencies spin up a predictive dialer, use phone systems not necessarily built for collection strategy.  This can result in an inconsistent call frequency.  How often you call, and the time between calls sends a message as much as the voicemails you may or may not leave.  Imagine you call a consumer every day (if it’s allowed by the collection laws in your province or state) for 60 days, and then the calls just stop cold.  The consumer, who may have a siege mentality from owing multiple creditors, may think when the calls stop, the debt goes away and they’ve outlasted the collection.  That is an example of poor call strategy.

I have always found that a default call frequency of 3 business days is an appropriate frequency to stay within debt collection statutes, and still create urgency.  If a consumer is avoiding contact or refusing to pay, you don’t necessarily want to continue calling every 3 days, but not cease entirely – either increase the time between calls, or give the collection file a cool off period of somewhere between 30-90 days before resuming collection calls again.

The Technical Stuff

So, rather than just offer philosophical advice, I’d like to share some of the tools and coding we use at our company to plan our call management.

First, our company uses a couple VOIP service companies, but one in particular is Vitelity (now Voyant).  Not only can they provide SIP and VOIP carrier services, they have a reliable online service portal where you can order a local or toll free DID from anywhere in Canada or the US, and with provision them to a VOIP server or forward them to an existing phone service.  You could set up a toll free number that forwards to a cell phone, a local PBX service, or a proper VOIP server, all for a very inexpensive price that can scale with your company.  Their website is at

Next step, build yourself an Asterisk phone server.  You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars, or hire a VOIP company to pay a heavy monthly service fee, a free software, in the form of a Linux ISO file you can download can be found at, and if you have someone with a couple years experience with Linux CLI you can have a phone server up and running within a day that does call recording, call menus, VOIP carrier and phone registration, and more.  It has a predictive dialer and IVR functionality, but it is an option not a requirement.

Once you have your VICI or Asterisk server set up, you can set up custom call routing.  Rather than having a DID ring to a physical phone or an Asterisk extension, you can build a virtual extension.  The example below logs the call in a log, shows a custom inbound display of 281 plus the inbound number (so we know how to answer it), stores a call recording of the call on our Asterisk server, plays an automated greeting that all inbound calls are being recorded, rings for 15 seconds or three rings at the primary staff member’s desk, and if it isn't answered, plays another automated recording saying we are looking for someone else to assist, rings a spillover group of four other people for 15 more seconds or three rings, and if that doesn’t get answered, goes to the original collector’s voicemail.  Relatively easy to add to any standard VOIP server.

exten => 3281,1,AGI(agi://
exten => 3281,n,Set(CALLERID(all)=281${CALLERID(num)})
exten => 3281,n,Set(DYNAMIC_FEATURES=OutPauseMonitor#OutUnpauseMonitor)
exten => 3281,n,Set(filename=${STRFTIME(${EPOCH},,%Y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S)}_${cmethod}_${src}_${dst}.wav)
exten => 3281,n,MixMonitor(/var/spool/asterisk/monitor/MIX/${filename},ba)
exten => 3281,n,Wait,2
exten => 3281,n,Playback(/var/lib/asterisk/sounds/44048020)
exten => 3281,n,Wait,2
exten => 3281,n,Playback(/var/lib/asterisk/sounds/85100075)
exten => 3281,n,Wait,2
exten => 3281,n,Dial(SIP/281&SIP/1281,15,Ttr)
exten => 3281,n,Wait,2
exten => 3281,n,Playback(/var/lib/asterisk/sounds/85100031)
exten => 3281,n,Dial(SIP/281&SIP/283&SIP/502&SIP/503&SIP/803,15,Ttr)
exten => 3281,n,Wait,2
exten => 3281,n,VoiceMail(281@default)

Next, set up your website to advertise these staff-specific DIDs.  Here’s an example of one of our staff members’ pages at  The advantage of having a dedicated subpage set up properly is if you Google Cheryl Fraser’s direct line our page comes up as a top hit allowing us to communicate who she is and where she is calling from.

Remember if you are making collection calls and gathering credit card data as well as recording calls, you may run afoul of PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance.  Ensure you are either editing your call recordings to eliminate card data, or storing them on a separate encrypted server.  There are dozens of consulting sites describing PCI compliance, but here is a company-neutral initial overview:


In short, think about what do to when collection staff call out, and consumers call back in.  Have some empathy for the folks receiving your calls, and their experience when they call you.  Have a plan, and if you are seeing too many missed calls, frustrated consumers, lost payments, or your team members not working efficiently, don’t be afraid to tweak the plan.  In the last ten years, I've improved my process, and I am on my fourth VICI Server setup, my third VOIP service provider, and our virtual extensions and call management is tweaked about once a month.  Now that we have opened an office in BC, we’ve altered our spillover group to include a Pacific time zone extension for each DID.  This is always going to be an ever-improving process.

I hope this gives you ideas on how to structure you call management, and if you have questions, I’m always happy to share what I know.  Feel free to give me a shout at my direct line, between 8:30 and 5:00 Eastern, and I’ll try to make myself available for your call.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Brantford, Ontario

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