It’s Good To Be Crazy, It Opens Up So Many More Options

I have been called many things in my career and crazy was included. I have always looked at problems differently even when I was a child. My first job at age 15 was in a donut shop and I told the owner on the second day of my employment that he should move the machines closer together to reduce the mess on the floor and reduce lost icing which is what was all over the floor that was my job to clean. Of course he looked at me with the eyes of an adult being told what to do by a snotty nosed kid that was working for $2.25 hourly. But two weeks later he moved the equipment just as I suggested.

It was quite crazy to tell your boss how to run his business but thats what I have been doing ever since. As a consultant to the debt collection industry my job is to tell successful business owners how they can be more successful. To tell them how they can improve their processes and strategies to reduce costs and increase collections. You have to be crazy to tell a collection agency owner how he has left money on the table, how he has failed in spite of his success. Its a fine line.

But the truth is doing debt collection the way we were all taught by the masters will no longer work. The business has changed so much that just making the calls will not result in the best results. You have to have a strategy and and great technology in place.

What I find in most engagements is that the agency has the view of the technology they need but they do not have the expertise to set up the strategies. For example most agencies have realised that a self cure strategy must exist so they spent lots of time looking at online payment sites and then picked one because of some features they saw in the demo. But when they set up the technology and begin to use it they do not get the results they are looking for. The problem is in most cases the way they set up the technology. The most common mistake I see starts with the login for the debtor. Recently when looking at a new clients pay site records I noticed that 45% of the people who came to the site abandoned because they could not log in. They agency was requiring that the debtor have the account number to login and many debtors did not have the letter in front of them. Also most of the debtors were on cell phones and the site was clunky on a cell phone interface. I had them change the login to their last name and last 4 of their SSN and the abandonment rate reduced to 8% from 45%.

So todays strategies are outside the box we were taught by the masters. They also include things that the old school collectors never imagined, emails, voice mail drops, messages on hold music, text messages, social media and so much more. Creating all these stratagies to get the debtor to login and pay online are new to the industry and do not fit the methods of normal debt collection. What should the email say and not say? Is it best to dunn the debtor with an email or just lightly push them to login and explore payment options? This is where you need a professional.

I practically invented self cure and I have been helping agencies to set up the surrounding strategies that drive that debtor to the payment site. The wording and timing of emails, voice mail drops and other communications that follow a specific strategy are the most effective. I have been doing this longer than anyone so my failures have now driven my success in this field. I had to get crazy to figure the best strategies as the traditional collection tactics I was taught decades ago were not effective.

The second biggest mistake is not setting up the reporting to evaluate the strategies. If the debtor was sent a letter, received 2 phone messages and a voice mail drop which one was the strategy the made them go online and pay the balance in full? You need to know that to evaluate the strategies. Most pay sites are not connected to your system in a manner that these straggles are identified to a reporting system. I can help you cover those gaps so you can get the data.

Are you getting the best results you can from your self cure strategies? Need a tune up? Lighthouse Consulting is the answer. Just a 5% increase in online payments can mean thousands of dollars of profit more each week for most agencies.

Give Phillip w. Duff a call at 305-853-8773 for more info my services.

Where’s the elephant hiding in your business?

When I first began helping my clients open up their collection offices in Jamaica it became apparent that that the obvious is often hidden. The problem its hidden from us by our own prejudices and things we have always been told. About a year ago a girl on the island said to me in answer to simple question something that has stuck with me and fits so many situations on the island. She stated “It’s cheaper to buy 50 paint brushes than a paint machine”.

What was meant by the statement? Well in Jamaica labor is cheaper than a machine and it does not require gas, maintenance and does not break down. As Americans involved in the debt collection business we know that the biggest line item on your P&L is labor. We have always been taught this and we believe it but the truth is “Its the Elephant hiding in your business strategies”.

hidden elephant_4ac1e49e108f3.jpg

Labor is cheap and ultra effective in Jamaica. The call centre industry is booming and has been the number two industry on the island for decades. Tourism in number one of course but Xerox, Vistaprint, AT&T and many more American call centres are based in Jamaica. There is said to be 1 call centre worker for every 10 people. The Jamaican staff that I can help you hire are very trainable unlike their US counterparts. The staff being hired in the US as collectors these days are difficult at best but you already know that.

If you own or run a collection operation in the US you should call me to discuss how you can reduce that labor line item and gain a better staff member at the same time. I can help you set up seats for as little as $10 USD per hour, per seat. That means you just need to recoup $400 in fee to pay the costs for a weeks work and facility charges. After that your in the profits on the total costs. The great thing is that for the $10, I’m including the internet connection, computer equipment, IT, HR and cubes in that cost. It is all inclusive!

Come down and look around. Let me show you other shops. Look and you will be doing business in Jamaica. Ya Mon!

Silence Is Golden And Duct Tape Is Silver

As a consultant to the debt collection industry one of my duties is to create and perform collector training classes. I have been doing this for many years and a few years ago I came to a realization which lead me to change my training.

It was hard to get collectors to embrace this new technique as it was revolutionary to them. They resisted and would revert quickly to their old habits but the first few that listened and got the concept were seeing the results in increased liquidation, more debtors would agree to pay and it reduced time on the phone and frustration.

What was the new thing that was so hard to teach collectors, SILENCE. Yes to try to teach a collector shut up and listen is not an easy task but what they will hear will change the direction of the call quickly. At times when I first started teaching listening skills I wished I could put duct tape over their mouth right after they finished the Talk off. Instead I began to teach them to use the mute button. The real trick is not to get them to push the mute button but to LISTEN.

It was listening skills I was trying to teach but collectors are hired to talk and most can talk your ear off about nothing.  So I had to first just get them to shut up so they could listen and hear. What I had learned many years ago from both my experiences and from others in industry is that if you will listen long enough the debtor will suggest a solution.

Here is what I learned, If you tell the debtor that the balance in full is due today and then hit your mute button the first thing is awkward silence, then the debtor will say he cannot pay the bill in full its impossible, then more awkward silence and the debtor says why he can’t pay “I am out of work” or “I am on disability”. This is followed by more excuses and more silence till finely the debtor says “Well I could pay you $5 a month if that helps”. OK now you have achieved the desired results and now the collector can begin to talk and negotiate an arrangement to repay the debt.

What happens is amazing as most people will follow this pattern if you can listen long enough. Remember your last statement was “The bill is due in full today” so thats starting strong. Even though the debtor is starting very low he is now ready to make arrangements and the skills of the debt collector will get the BPA or best possible arrangement.

So teach this method and try this when you hear the staff not listening go by and put 4 inches of duct tape on their cube to remind them to listen.

Silence is golden and duct tape is silver but listening is where the money comes from.

Does The Santander Supreme Court Decision Change Everything? I think so!

Ok what does the recent 9-0 Supreme court decision in Henson V Santander https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-349_c07d.pdf mean for the debt collection and especially the debt purchase industry? It means it could be the wild west. Does it mean that a convicted felon in N.Y. can buy a spreadsheet of debt for $5k and collect it as first party with no fear of the FDCPA and no need for licensing?

Here is how InsideArm explained the ruling “In this unanimous decision, the Court determined that Santander Consumer USA, Inc. did not fall under the plain meaning of the term “debt collector” in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when it purchased defaulted loans originated by another lender and proceeded to collect on these loans because it was not seeking to collect the debts “owed another”. The act of purchasing the loans meant that the debt was owed to Santander—not another entity” . https://www.insidearm.com/news/00043001-industry-association-urges-caution-when-i/

So will this change the face of debt purchase and therefore the face of debt collection? Possibly! So if your a debt buyer and you want to reduce your exposure to the FDCPA then you would have to collect the money yourself in-house. The collection agencies that have always done the work for you are now a possible FDCPA lawsuit liability. Will the third party agencies disappear and be replaced by in-house shops? Will this spur debt purchase again to be a big business? Will the Supreme Court amend the decisions to say something different or re interpret the meaning?

There are many questions and possibilities but on the face it looks like this to me based on the decision. I believe this will change the debt purchase industry by allowing it to grow. If the decision allows for someone to buy debt and collect it as first party then the need for third party agencies will diminish for the debt buyers. The debt buyers who in most cases were already increasing there in-house shops due to the no resale provision in most sale contracts, making the buyer keep the debt forever, will now build those in-house shops bigger and bigger. They will expand offices, build payment sites, buy software, increase head counts and embrace nearshore operations to reduce costs.

What will this do the average collection agency out there? Not too much because only a few agencies are dedicated to working debt buyer business, most are healthcare or banking type collection shops and these accounts will not be effected in the same way as debt buyers. Hospitals will continue to hire agencies, banks will still place the debt with agencies prior to sale. But it will have an effect on the agencies that are dependent on debt buyers for business as they lose market share to the in-house shops.

Many debt buyers will also go on with business as usual because they hold themselves and their third party agencies to standards similar to the FDCPA whether they are required to or not. The biggest debt buyers will continue to place accounts but they may increase their in-house staffing and reduce the outsourced debt volume. But look at the Square2 model which did not work well before this ruling. They had franchisees not third party agencies to collect there debt.  Now this decision makes their in-house shops first party and the franchise idea has much stronger legs.

There are many scenarios but this will have some impact and it is likely to be big in my opinion. Call me if you want to discuss this and how you can protect yourself or find opportunity in this decision.

It’s not how you skin the rabbit, it’s how the rabbits fur grows back.

Well first of all I do not suggest you try to skin a rabbit thats alive so don’t send me letters. But there some meaning in this statement like many folk sayings across the US. If you are in the debt collection industry this relates to your business like this.

The biggest change in the debt collection industry over the last few years are the strategies used to collect the money. In the past the industry had 2 clear channels to get payments from, mail and phone so they sent letters and made phone calls. Well anyone in the industry today knows that letters do not collect near the numbers that did even 10 years ago and phone calls have so many compliance issues its hard to justify making that outbound call to a debtor.

So we have created more ways or channels for the consumer to pay. We have changed how we skin the rabbit because we need a sustainable business model. The debt collection industry has adopted self cure options to allow the rabbit to skin itself. So with a website that allows the consumer to go online 24/7 and pay their bill without any human interaction has allowed the consumer to skin themselves. And if we have done a good job they will continue to enjoy the experience of self skinning and will do it again and again. The self skinning allows the consumer to grow back the fur and then come back again for a trim without all the phone calls and letters.

So now if you want to be the most successful you can be you must perfect your self cure strategies so the consumer returns or so the consumer completes the transaction. Your payment site and all leading up that first consumer log in have to all be the best strategies possible these days as you may only get one chance to get this consumer to self cure.

Lighthouse Consulting created self cure and has the industry embrace it. If your interested in how to build a best rabbit self skinner in the industry you must talk to Lighthouse Consulting. Call Phil at 904-687-1687 now.

Lighthouse Consulting Goes International

PRESS RELEASE June 1, 2017

Phillip W. Duff, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lighthouse Consulting, is pleased to announce the appointment of Karl Graham as Vice President of Caribbean Operations.

Mr. Graham has a long history of Call Center success in the United States and the Caribbean having worked in executive positions for major US Fortune 500 companies and also working in Jamaica for the last 10 years as Vice President to the Caribbean’s largest call center.

Mr. Graham will be tasked with managing call centers and creating partner relationships for the clients of Lighthouse Consulting. Mr. Phillip W. Duff the CEO of Lighthouse Consulting stated “As our clients are more and more using the options provided by Lighthouse Consulting we saw the need for quality management and I was able to convince Karl to come on board.”

Mr. Graham stated “The offer from Mr. Duff to help Lighthouse Consulting manage their seats in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean was one I did not have to consider very long. This is a great opportunity for me, Lighthouse Consulting, their clients and all the Caribbean people we will bring quality jobs to.”

Lighthouse Consulting would like to announce the opening of its new International offices in Jamaica, West Indies. In an effort to meet its client’s needs, Lighthouse has opened offices that will handle all Caribbean operations and allow Lighthouse to better serve its International clients. Business offices in both Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica have been recently opened. Lighthouse Consulting is helping International companies to reduce labor rates and increase levels liquidation. The initial interest has been from ARM companies, debt buyers and creditors but Lighthouse Consulting is also servicing first party clients.

Lighthouse Consulting provides near shore consulting and seat management for its clients looking for reduced labor costs. By managing the island labor as a value added service for its clients the ROI stays high and the clients stay satisfied. As profits get squeezed in the US near shore labor becomes a better option for many businesses but managing the process is a learning curve straightened by Lighthouse Consulting and it’s near shore operations.

Self pay healthcare accounts should be self pay collection accounts. Your how to guide to self cure.

As the world of collections changes and healthcare has taken over as the primary business line over credit cards the way we do collections has changed also. Self Pay healthcare is defined as “Selfpaying is a term used to describe someone who choose to pay for their treatment directly rather than using private health insurance. It is an option if you don’t want to pay a monthly premium, have a chronic or pre-existing condition or fall within an insurer’s list of exclusions.” Here is your 3 step guide to make those accounts “self cure”.

Self cure is defined by me as “communication channels that allow the consumer to pay or cure their debt online or by use of an IVR.” So how do we get the self pay patients to self cure? Here are three steps to drive payments to those self cure channels.

The first step is to get the technology in place. You will need a great payment site and an IVR tree. Not just any old technology, not the cheapest pay site either. You need the site to be very easy to use and to drive the consumer to make that payment now. This site must be easy to authenticate as well as easy to navigate. The site should collect opt ins and provide all the proper compliance. But most of all the site needs to drive the consumer to pay.

An IVR needs to be in place for the consumers who are less tech savvy or just prefer to use the phone. This system also needs to be easy to use and provide all the opt ins and compliance as well.

Step two is to drive the consumer to the technology. This can be done from several channels such as letters, phone calls, text messaging, emails and more. Just because you have the technology in place does not insure success as you must get the consumer to interact with the technology to get paid. How you use the channels to drive that interaction is very important. The message must be clear and the channel must be open and easy to navigate. This is where most companies fail. They think that just because they put the pay site URL on their letters thats all they need to do. Wrong! This is now direct marketing not debt collection, the message needs to be clear and friendly, like a Billy Mays ad for Oxi Clean.

The last step is to keep improving the channels and technology. In order to do this you will need lots more technology to track the current technology. Google Analytics will help but you will need to be able to attribute each online payment to a particular channel. Did Jane Doe pay her bill online because of the letter she received, the email, the voice mail drop or was it from your hold music at the 800 number after-hours?

As you can begin to see trends in consumer behaviors to your channels you can do some A/B testing with slightly different messages to see what is most effective.

So the conclusion is you need the best technology and the best channels to be the best at self cure. Since you have just one chance at this call an expert to help you get it set up. Lighthouse Consulting has worked with many companies to set up self cure programs, we know more about this subject and the technology that anyone. Give us a call to get some guidance when setting up or improving your self cure process.

Your clients reputation is at stake! How do you protect it?

Online reputation is everything today. No-one really ask live people for references any more they look at various sites online to see reviews and complaints. Ripoffreport.com and pissedconsumer.com as well as Google.com are the new reference providers to the web save consumer. The problem is when you as a collection provider get a complaint in most cases the original creditor is named in the content of the complaint. They may be complaining about what your agent did or did not do but the consumer relates it as ABC collections who is collecting my Oak Hospital bill. How do you protect your client as well as yourself? I’ll show you.

Online reputation management is not new but it is new to debt collections, here is how it works. Lighthouse Consulting aggregates your good and bad consumer reviews from over 100 websites like Facebook, BBB, Twitter, Pissed Consumer and Google so your company can easily monitor what your customers are saying about you — in real-time!

You can hear every word stated about your business on Social media. Lighthouse Reputation Beacon is a service that automatically sends a review request to your company or the CEO’s cell phone, scoring new reviews for your business directly on Google and Facebook. Imagine a collection agency asking for consumer reviews, thats new! It will make your agency stand out.

Google your company right now, I’ll wait…… and if its indexed by google you’ll see google reviews which you can click on and see whats posted about your company. Most of you have never done this.

Lighthouse Reputation Beacon aggregates your reviews from top review sites. See what consumers are saying about your agency or law firm, in real-time.

With Lighthouse Reputation Beacon, your business can manage negative reviews with easy-to-use tools to address customer feedback quickly.  Your companies great reviews are collected from major sites are indexed by search engines for higher search ranking.

Watch a video here https://youtu.be/KrUNnJLocUk or Contact Phillip W. Duff at phil@lighthouseconsultinginc.com for more info

Maybe You Can Join Me In Cleaning Up The Collection Industries Online Reputation

Lighthouse Consulting wants every collection provider to make an effort to not only clean up their online reputation but actually create good reviews. And best of all we have a cost efficient way to do it. 

There are two parts to reputation management the first is to quickly respond to and negative reviews and second to create positive reviews. Lighthouse Consulting created a service that aggregates your good and bad consumer reviews from over 100 websites like Facebook, BBB, Twitter, Pissed Consumer and Google so your company can easily monitor what your customers are saying about you — in real-time!

You can hear every word stated about your business on Social media. Lighthouse Reputation Beacon is a service that automatically sends a review request to your company or the CEO’s cell phone, scoring new reviews for your business directly on Google and Facebook.

Google your company right now, I’ll wait…… and if its indexed by google you’ll see google reviews which you can click on and see whats posted about your company. Most of you have never done this. You will see something like this:

Lighthouse Reputation Beacon aggregates your reviews from top review sites. See what consumers are saying about your agency or law firm, in real-time.

With Lighthouse Reputation Beacon, your business can manage negative reviews with easy-to-use tools to address customer feedback quickly.  Your companies great reviews are collected from major sites are indexed by search engines for higher search ranking. And we can show you how to request and collect more positive reviews.

This service is priced less than $300 monthly! 

read more https://www.lighthouseconsultinginc.com/do-you-want-to-control-your-companies-online-reputation-on-all-the-top-consumer-reviewcomplaint-websites/ or Contact Phillip W. Duff at phil@lighthouseconsultinginc.com

Q: Why are you holding your company back? A: Its your limitations, the ones you set for yourself and your staff.

Where did you get these limitations from? 

Unfortunately you were taught these limitations by your bosses, the industry and your even your mentors. From the first day you entered the industry people told you what you can’t do or what was not allowed by regulations and seldom have they told you WHAT TO DO.

And there is a deeper layer here also, you have taught all the staff that work for you where the ceiling is. By your actions and reactions to suggestions and new ideas you have stifled the staff with your limitations. In fact you have ingrained them with all the same faults you have. If your successful you have likely done a great job at your brainwashing your staff to see the ceiling.

But aren’t boundaries a good thing? 

Yes but not ceilings. This is not a boundary issue its a issue that the decisions you are making are creating a ceiling that you cannot break through because you will not let yourself do so. You have created a false sense of well being knowing that you cannot pierce the ceiling and since you bump up against it often you must be doing a great job, but no.

Just because you are hitting the limitations you created for yourself and your staff does not mean anything but that. You have created and installed limitations that are hindering new ideas and strategies and its now a issue.

How do I break thru the ceiling? 

Find a better mentor. There are many ways to learn new behaviors but doing it with the help of an industry veteran that understands how to break through ceilings will be the best route. See you have to remember that you taught all the people that work for you where the ceiling is and they also believe they can’t pierce the top either. So changing the behavior of the company is a culture change that requires a professional.

How can someone else change the culture in my business? 

Professional consultants like myself have learned that culture change is what consulting is all about. Its not really about the changes in process or procedures its a change in the mindset of the company. I have told this story many times but my first consulting job in 2000 scared me to death, I was not sure if I was going to have better collection strategies than they were using. As it turned out the improvements were the easy part, they were staring me in the face, the idea of how to tell the owner that his business practices suck was the hard part.

I learned that day that culture change, from the CEO down is what consulting is all about. And it was about how to change the mentality of the company that made it work not the actual process and procedures that I suggested changing. The processes made the company more efficient and profitable but the change in culture was what made it grow and break through the ceilings it created for itself.

If you have created ceilings that are hindering you today give me a call.