People are always surprised to hear that our group regularly provides Quality Assessment (QA) services for our clients’ collections team(s). The mental picture we all seem to have in our head is that of low rent thugs beating up the poor customers of loan sharks on television. We think of collectors as nasty, hard-boiled agents who know how to threaten, hoodwink and cajole customers into paying up. There are, no doubt, collection agencies who operate with such tactics. Our clients, however, have learned over time that collecting from customers with respectful professionalism and a consistently high level of quality is worth the investment. Here are four reasons why:
- Better collections. Customers will often write the first check to the creditors who treat them respectfully. If a customer owes your company money, it’s likely they owe money to other companies as well. When the next paycheck or windfall comes in, that customer is going to decide which creditors to pay and which creditors to put off. When a collector treats a customer with empathy, professionalism and respect, we often hear customers state that it factors heavily into their decision to pay that company first.
- Customer loyalty. Our research team has quantified in some of our clients’ CSAT surveys that “willingness to work with me in tough times” can drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Not all customers who owe money are dead beats. Quite often, and especially in a tough economy, good customers fall on hard times. When a company is willing to work with that customer through their difficulties and provide quality service on each call, customers tend to remember it. “What goes around comes around,” they say. When you stick by your customer in tough times, that customer will often stick with you for the rest of their lives.
- Employee satisfaction. Even collectors feel the weight of people’s misperceptions and I will never forget speaking with the manager of our client’s collections department a year or so after we’d been working with her team. She was ecstatic. She reported that her team had never felt so empowered and equipped (after long feeling like the company’s “red-headed step-child”). And while there will always be difficult customers to deal with, her collectors were more satisfied with their jobs knowing that the company wanted them to treat customers well. The fact that the company was willing to invest in our Service Quality Assessment to benchmark their service and help them improve was a boost for the team’s morale.
- Peace of mind. Even the best of collections departments can run into extreme situations. The collections effort can be some of the more contentious conversations any company has to manage. If you have collectors with short fuses or situations that need management’s attention, our clients tell us that they sleep better at night knowing there’s an objective third-party listening in (and occasionally sending them an e-mail saying, “you better look into this one.”).
It’s a mistake to assume that “collections” and “service quality” don’t go together. In fact, measuring and improving the quality of service your collectors consistently deliver on the phone can be a win-win-win-win for you, your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.