Developing an Effective Collection Team
Putting together an effective collection team is an ongoing process requiring constant attention. The credit executive needs to continue to pay attention to the following key elements in developing their collection team:
- Selection. of the right people for the job.
- Training. Providing an opportunity for employees to learn and improve their collection skills.
- Motivating. Creating an environment in which the talents and skills of the collection team can be maximized.
In this edition of Collage, we will look at the selection process and training. The Fall Issue of Collage will have articles on motivating collectors for improved performance.
It is axiomatic that putting the right people in place is central to developing an effective collection team. However, the selection process is more of an art than science. It is not always possible to be one hundred percent effective in the employee selection process. This "lack of perfection" leads to turnover, either initiated by the employee, or by management. It is important to learn from past hiring decisions, both good and bad, and build on those past good decisions and avoid repeating past bad hiring decisions.
When selecting collectors it is important to recognize the talents and skills that have been demonstrated in the past as essential for an excellent collector.
Those talents and skills are:
- The collector should be people focused. They should enjoy dealing with people, be outgoing and not introverted. Past job experience gives the interviewer an idea of the proclivity of the applicant. Has the applicant been involved in detailed type jobs that require little contact outside or inside the organization, or jobs that require a great deal of interpersonal contact both within and without the organization?
Collectors are continually dealing with people and deal with them in difficult situations. They must be persuasive as they attempt obtaining money from companies that invariably are short of money. Your collectors need to convince your customer to recognize that a debt is owed, give it priority and make payment in full now, or enter into an acceptable payment arrangement to liquidate the debt.
- Collectors need to be results oriented. They must be focused on their job; the number one objective of which is to obtain payment of an outstanding debt. If the collection applicant has had past collection experience, did they meet the objectives that were set for them? How much of their income was earned from incentives? These are questions that need to be asked and the interviewer should probe for specific answers and not vague generalities.
- Collectors need to have organizational skills. In today's business environment, most collectors are handling a high number of accounts that are more complex because of the shortage of cash flow in many companies. Not only has the volume of files or accounts a collector is handling increased; the time given each account has also increased.
Has the collection applicant had previous collection experience? What are the workloads and types of collection accounts that they have been handling? By types of accounts, we are referring to whether they are handling initial delinquency call accounts, which are slightly past due, or seriously past due accounts. If the former, workloads in the 800 to 1,000 file or account area is considered a good guideline. If seriously delinquent accounts, workloads in the 350 to 450 files or account area is considered a good guideline.
Obtaining information on the past experience of the collection applicant will give you some idea of their organizational abilities and how they might fit into the collection environment within your company.
To hire someone with experience or someone without experience for a collection position is a question that often comes up. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Hiring someone with experience means that you immediately obtain the benefits of that experience. However, it is important that when hiring someone with "experience, "that it is the right type of experience. Because someone has spent two or three years in a collection position does not mean that they have all the talents and skills you are seeking. Hiring someone without experience means that an investment needs to be made in training that employee and there is a learning curve.
The ultimate question you are addressing in your employment interview and need to answer is; "Does this applicant fit the profile you have of a collector that will be an asset to your collection team?"
Whether you hire someone with or without experience training is always an issue. Those hired with little or no experience will need more extensive training. Those hired with experience will still need training in the way your company operates. They may also need some remedial training.
Given today's tight budgets, costeffective training alternatives are always being looked at.
Usually companies use existing collectors to help in the training. In addition there are many on-site seminars, collection manuals and on-line seminars that are additional tools available to you in training your collectors.
The Credit Research Foundation and the Commercial Collection Agency Association have joined to produce an excellent on line and cost effective collection seminar called the Principles& Methods of Collection. You can obtain more information on this program by clicking on the following link:
Emil Hartleb is the Executive Director Commercial Collection Agency Association. The above article originally appeared in the Summer 2010 Issue of the Commercial Collection Agency Association's Collage newsletter.