Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, October 2, 2020

Bridging the Trust Gap With A Collection Agency


In Scott Stratten’s book, Unmarketing, he talks about drawing in clients by bridging the trust gap – something that’s resonated with me, and I’ve repeated it for years.  I think especially in credit and collections, it’s incredibly important – for prospective clients, for consumers that we are contacting, for potential hires.
No One Likes Us Anyway
No one wants to trust a collection agency.
And let’s face it the amount of trust needed for anyone to work with a collection agency is a pretty wide barrier.  Potential clients, consumers being contacted, potential employees, no one looks forward to working with a collection agency.
And the trust gap we need to bridge is huge.  If you go to Tim Horton’s for a coffee, you pay $2.00, hope it’s hot and no one has spit in it.  That’s pretty simple.  But when a sales representative for a collection agency contacts a potential client saying “No collection, no fee!” or “We’re amazing, trust us!”, would you as a credit manager want to entrust them with thousands or even millions of dollars of your receivables, and your brand reputation?
Collection agencies don’t help their cause either.
Collection agencies don’t talk about their collection process in an open manner, even with many of their clients.  They don’t share their success stories.  For the most part, they don’t participate in social media.  When they post a “review” of their agency on their website, it’s something they typed and stripped of a person’s real name or any believability.  A subpage on an agency website that states “Most effective collection agency I have ever worked with in my 20 years of credit management – Terri S.” is pointless.  Who’s Terri?  Who does she work for?  The agency doesn’t want to tell you.  And there are decades of horror stories by creditors, consumers, and businesses everywhere that permeate our shared culture.
But the act of debt collection is repetitious.  Many creditors write off and assign hundreds or thousands of files every month to a collection agency.  The agency then has collectors reach out to consumers and businesses, notify them of their balances, and collect the past due balance.  This repeats hundreds and thousands of times a day.
Now the problem is usually no one enjoys paying a collection agency.  No creditor usually brags about their collection agency.  And even if they did, most collection agencies probably don’t want to share a positive experience with the world, because competitors might see it.
Except, there’s this thing called the internet, and social media.  Some agency owners don’t understand it, but it’s a fundamental game changer.
The Truth Is Out There
Which collection agencies represent which creditors in the marketplace is no secret.  Go Google “collection agency cogeco reviews” or “collection agency cibc reviews”.  You’ll find the names of the collection agencies they partner with pretty quickly.  And you’ll notice a lot of the social media content out there is confusion, frustration, anger, and fear.  Like I said earlier, no one usually enjoys paying a collection agency.
So what can an agency do?  A lot.  It’s hard work on the part of your collectors (those people working with consumers every day), and it takes time, but there are hundreds and thousands of collection transactions every day, and a good number of those will be positive experiences – someone didn’t understand their bill, and the collection agent explained it.  Someone was financially strapped, and the collection agent worked out a payment plan.  Someone had a valid dispute, and the collection agent told the consumer what their rights were in a fair manner.  And at the end, the consumer ended the call with a “thank you”, with relief, and with payment.
Getting out from under a debt owing is a relief.  When I started in collections in the early 90’s, I’d get Christmas cards in the mail in December, with post-dated cheques enclosed to make payments, and a little thank you note.  We can translate those positive experiences into modern, shareable stories.  We can invite consumers to post on our Facebook page or Twitter or our Google Business site.
And when consumers start leaving positive social media reviews (or even mixed or negative reviews that the agency responds to, listens to their concerns, and tries to make it right), then creditors will follow.  All of us leave social media reviews for restaurants, auto repair garages, accountants, and lawyers, why not collection agencies?  It makes us legitimate.  It makes our process understandable.  And it’s not some anonymous soulless testimonial on the agency’s website, that an agency could have typed up themselves, it's something written by a real person who has no vested interest in upselling our brand, it's something that you can click on and see.
No one wants to trust a collection agency – but if the agency tries to be trustworthy, and even a fraction of the consumers they work with say they are trustworthy, and they show that they can be responsible on social media in the 21st century, it is possible to make that trust gap a little narrower.
Send In The Sales Manager! 
That’s the other problem.
Big creditors get dozens of collection calls a year – hundreds of collection agencies are cold calling, pitching their services, saying the exact same thing to credit managers who might actually pick up the phone, that they are great, but without any real meaningful proof (but the power point presentation is certainly flashy).
Part of Scott’s book says you can bridge the trust gap by displaying expertise – not arrogantly pretending to be the absolute expert, but being an expert in some things, in areas of your field.  That means marketing your agency isn’t just about a fancy elevator pitch and a power point presentation how you are the greatest collection agency in the entire country.  It’s about displaying your expertise over time – we live in a very small world, and many of the credit managers and collection agency owners know each other, or cross over to work in each others’ industries, so be authentic and passionate about what you do.
So, talk about contact ratios, talk about testimonials, talk about CMS software, talk about training and culture – do it at conferences, over coffee and working lunches, in social media, with competitors, with existing clients, and even with people who don’t work in the credit field.  From those conversations on Linkedin or in person calls you can build relationships with creditors and extend your business network.  Relax, slow down, you don’t need to jump to the presentation pitch in the first 30 seconds of connecting with someone.  Talk shop, talk process, share positive and negative responses – be transparent -- and if you do it right, the creditors will eventually approach you.  Or they may refer someone else over to you.  The idea is, let people get to know who you are, what you do, and how you do it, and if you do decide to gently pitch them down the road, the trust gap has narrowed a little bit and they may take a chance on your agency.
When a creditor tries a new collection agency, they are trusting them with their financial well being, their customer’s data, and with their brand reputation.  It’s a very big ask.  When someone does trust you, don’t take it for granted.  Earn their trust, and keep earning it every day.
Want to read any of Scott Stratten’s amazing books?  Head over to his blog at  You can also follow him on Linkedin.  I like his blunt honesty, his humor, and his out of the box thinking, and recommend his books Unarmeting, Unselling, The Book of Business Awesome and QR Codes Kills Kittens.
Want to talk about making collection agencies trustworthy?  Drop me an email, happy to share what I've learned over the years and help you.
Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Gatineau, QC

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