Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, February 19, 2021

Senior Collectors and Junior Collectors Could Be Poisoning Your Agency Culture


Since I am on a rant from last week, why not continue it?  I was talking to a colleague yesterday and he referred to ‘senior collectors’ in his agency.  This is a trigger for me, because I have seen this title in action in previous work places, and nothing good has ever come from it.  As our company grows and thrives, I see other collection agencies advertising for ‘senior collectors’ all the time … and that wouldn’t be horrible, if it weren’t for the underlying culture problems that can cause.

n accounting firm might have a junior partner.  A law firm might have a senior lawyer.  It reflects their experience and role in the company, and that’s okay.  And a senior collector or junior collector, if used that way might be okay … but it’s not.

What ends up happening is a ‘senior collector’ is told ‘you don’t have to work this portfolio, it’s not important enough for your time’, or ‘you don’t have to trace your own files, we have other people for that’ … and if you were maximizing an experienced collector’s skill, sure, that makes sense.  But what ends up happening is you create a tier of second class citizens in your agency … the ‘junior collectors’ end up working aged paper and doing manual trace work, watching the ‘senior collectors’ sail by their targets.  They don’t see the skill and experience, they see the preferential treatment.

Titles matter to people.  They shouldn’t matter as much as they do, but a lot of people pin their career progress or standing in the company on a nameplate or email signature line.  What should matter is the trust and role they fulfil, and if they are appreciated. 

Our collection team members are all fighting the same battle – representing our clients well, recovering what we can, and helping keep the company running.  We don’t need to pin a special title on who does what.  We have staff working bank paper who can hit their monthly target with 5 payments, but those files require herculean efforts, and we have other staff working low balance commercial paper or retail credit paper that generates dozens of payments per collector per day, which cover the costs of the company and keep everything running so the collectors covering bank paper don’t have to sweat bullets.  On top of that the sales and marketing folks help and support the collectors, and keep focus on projects and client needs, not dictate from an armchair general position.  It’s all a symbiotic relationship from a revenue standpoint.  We can recognize staff in meaningful ways other than titles -- recognition, bonuses, responsibilities, things that don't require a new business card.

Sometimes a collector might be horrible at one kind of industry paper, but excel at another.  Many, many years ago I hired someone with no collection experience and a heavy accent – in the interview I saw drive in her, and an amazing work ethic.  We started her on video rental and telco trace collection files (that tells you how long ago this was) ... but we gave her new opportunities and within six months, she was collecting circles around me on landlord-tenant paper, and became a team lead I heavily relied on – we built the role to suit the individual over time, and leaned into her skills and abilities, not just pinned a title on her and demanded results.  I believe that everyone, regardless of seniority or experience level, should be given opportunities to grow and improve, and take on new responsibilities.  That's how this was a success story with a new staff member, not someone who was stuck in a cubicle, labelled a 'Junior Collector'.

Every leader should be someone willing to roll up their sleeves and do the same work as their team.  Every role model should be a person willing to share their skills.  Every project manager should be willing to maximize their team’s effectiveness, pairing the right work with the right person. 

It’s for this reason every collection staff member in our company has one title – Receivables Manager.  It projects an image of professionalism, and tells the world they are part of managing our company in some way.  That title doesn’t change, and doesn’t have ‘Junior’ or ‘Senior’ in front of it – it isn’t necessary, and doesn’t convey a message internally that one staff member is valued with a different measuring stick than another person.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Drop me a line.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Cambridge, Ontario

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