Is Your Payment Website going To Penalized By Google?

Google wants the web to be traveling over a secure channel. That’s why in the future your Chrome browser will flag unencrypted websites as insecure, displaying a red “x” over a padlock in the URL bar. If your payment site is not secure your site can be labeled as non-secure by Google and this could stop your revenue stream.

Lighthouse Consulting provides marketing services to many companies in the ARM industry and we have many programs to make sure your technology is advanced and able to handle todays consumer actions with ease and securely. This is why we felt it important to notify the rest of the industry as we now most of you have no idea of these types of changes till they have been impacted by the changes.

With this upcoming change in Chrome, Google makes it clear that the web of the future should all be encrypted, and all sites should be served over HTTPS, which is essentially a secure layer on top of the usual HTTP web protocol.

Starting in January with Chrome 56, password or credit card form fields on non-encrypted sites will be labeled “not secure.”

In following releases, those warnings will be extended by labeling HTTP pages as “not secure” in Incognito mode, where users may have higher expectations of privacy.

Eventually, all HTTP pages will be labeled non-secure, and the HTTP security indicator will change to the red triangle/exclamation mark that Google uses for broken HTTPS.

If your current website host or marketing team needs a professional edition then call Lighthouse Consulting today and ask for Phillip W.Duff at 904-687-1687 X 101.

Hey Phillip, How do I become successful in the collections field? This was a recent question posed to me recently.

Years ago that was easy for me  to answer and hard to do, now its hard to answer and even harder to do. But there is a clear path to success in 2017 in the debt collection industry its just a big wide, steep road with lots of pot holes that can swallow your whole company so pick the correct lane and do not just follow the car in front of you.

So as a consultant to the ARM industry people ask me often why I do not open my own collection practice and the simple answer is people. Managing people is the biggest problem of every client I have ever had with more than 2 people. But I do believe I have the blueprint to  be successful in 2017 in the ARM industry as a collection agent.

The first thing imperative to success is the people, second is the technology and lastly is the consumer experience. Yes, the debtors experience dealing with your agency or law firm is very important these days.

The People

The staff in a collection operation are very important even though in most cases they are not highly paid. The staff that are actually talking to the consumers are task with producing all the revenue in the old collection strategy. A company of 20 had 12 collectors who had to generate all the revenue to pay the 20 staff, overhead, vendors and the owners profits.

In a newer strategy the collection staff are still burdened with producing most of the revenue but now there is a silent collector who ask for no wages, the payment website. (More about this in Technology)

The collection staff are also task with compliance which is a big task these days one that technology can help immensely. But the support staff are very important in the new and old strategies as every dollar spent by the support staff must be recovered 5 fold by the collection staff and technology.

The biggest problem I see with companies is a lack of training and development programs by the company. The second biggest problem is a person with a golden umbrella within the organization. This can fall into two categories 1) the person is a relative, friend or some connection that the owner refuses see all the faults in and even when confronted with the damage they create still refuses to even discipline the person, much less fire them. 2) Or is a person who is making much too much money due to the length of service to the company. This is stopping the company from hiring 3 new hires, or buying new technology, or just making money.

All the above equal people problems.

The Technology

This is now the new compliance officer and the silent non commissioned collector. If you have a modern software package you should be using it to create compliance by only showing accounts to staff when it is proper to call them, to count contacts, limit letters, to create automation of many tasks and much more. Technology from collection software to your IVR all all now very important to the multichannel collection strategy required in todays electronic world.

You must be sending emails, texts, voice mail drops, calling, letters, IVR and pushing the consumer to self cure at your payment site with every channel. So technology becomes the 24/7 collector as the pay site gathers revenue at Midnight and beyond.

The Consumer Experience

This is a part of the business that is overlooked or over focused in recent years. This includes both the clients experience and the debtors experience dealing with you. As you see from the technology section we are trying to drive that consumer to self cure at our payment site so that consumer experience is very important. You must build a comprehensive pay site that is easy to authenticate for the consumer and then easy to navigate to payment, usually a <6 click navigation.

Also the tone and look of the letters, pay site, voice mails, callers, company website and emails have to create a positive consumer experience.

If you can get the right people, working the right technology and creating the right consumer experience you will succeed in the ARM industry, if you need a guide please call me.

I Wish I Knew How To ———

Do you ever say this to yourself? Being the leader of a ARM company these days is a challenge and most great leaders look to others for advice. How are you getting your advice?

Presidents have cabinet members, pilots have co-pilots and air traffic controllers, doctors consult other doctors and in fact most hi stress positions have assistants or advisors. As a leader of a ARM company where are you getting your advice from?

First lets answer a more important question; what kind of advise do we need and who would be best positioned to have that knowledge and lend that advise? Well in the debt collection business the main questions seem to relate to either compliance, profits, technology, business development or staff development. So that means you need a very rounded and connected person to advise you on these topics. This is the power of Lighthouse Consulting and Phillip W. Duff it’s CEO, he knows the answers!

Lighthouse Consulting works with debt collection agencies, creditors, law firms, first party, early out, third party, debt buyers and debt settlement companies daily. The knowledge obtained by this diverse business is what we are selling and what our clients need most, solid advice. We have seen hundreds of ways to do the same task and we have learned what works and what does not. Often the answers are easy to describe but achieving the tasks seem unobtainable until someone says have you tried this?

Lighthouse has been providing its clients advice since 2001 and we can provide lots of references but here is a sample.

Phil has impressed me with his ability to listen to concerns and find a solution. His unique approach gets the desired result accomplished with effectiveness. Phil Stenger, Esq. 

We no longer waste time and money wondering what we are missing. There is a greater comfort level, increased excitement amongst our staff and a genuine sense of greater things to come. James B. Atkins, Esq.

Phil has the ability to understand a collection process, see its value and suggest an improved version of the process that can be more productive. Stuart Wolpoff

At Lighthouse Consulting we have seen and fixed every problem known to the ARM industry so why not take advantage of that history and knowledge. For more info on our services and costs call Phillip W. Duff at 904-687-1687 X 101

Jamacian Call Center News

One of the services provided by Lighthouse Consulting is near shore call center management, consulting and agency set up, particularly on the island of Jamaica. So in order to better educate my US call center operators I will start providing information about call centers that are involved in debt collection, debt settlement or other ARM services in Jamaica.

an overturned boat on the beach in the Caribbean. Boat is painted "Rasta" colors.

an overturned boat on the beach in the Caribbean. Boat is painted “Rasta” colors.

Let’s start by giving you some information. Jamaica is a major call center destination receiving and making calls around the world to English-speaking countries. Call centers handle everything from Pizza delivery orders in Montréal, Medicaid healthcare products sales, Cable TV sales, debt collection and many other projects. There are tens of thousands of trained call center workers in Montego Bay and Kingston. Vistaprint has they’re only worldwide call center in Montego Bay and is one of the major employers of the city. Delta, Fingerhut, American Airlines, Insurance companies and many more all use call centers on the island.

I first came to the island as an auditor for collection accounts that were placed in there with Alliance One in 2000. So as you can see the island has a long history of debt collection. In future articles I will provide information on some of the call centers that currently exist on the island and how they may Bring value to your debt collection operation. With the average wages for a trained bill collector in Jamaica equaling half that of the US and similar results, the ROI is easy to caculate.

Reasons to use a Call Center in Jamaica

English is the primary language 

Accents are mild and pleasant

Jamaica is a call center hub

Favorable wages 

ROI is high VS USA staff

Close to manage (1 hour flight from Miami, 2 hour flight from D.C.)

Work lower unit yield accounts at a profit

Data entry and admin functions

Insurance reps

Transfer agents

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“¡Me pica qué, me rasca aquí! Translated “It itches me here, but you are scratching me there.”

The Quote above is from Judge Million of People’s Court. In the court case, the judge quoted this Cuban phrase, describing a defendant’s avoidance in answering her question, by answering a different question.

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Question avoidance, intentionally or unintentionally, is a common issue in the debt collection process. The agent is seeking specific information that will help him or her collect the debt. Yet they ask a question that leaves the door open for a variety of answers. The individual on the other end of the line ends up providing useless data to the agent.

A debt collection call is much like the job interview process. Many common questions are looking for specific answers, even though the question is vague. For example, it is common to ask an interviewee to, “tell me about yourself.” The manager wants specific work history that relates to the job in question, helping the interviewer to evaluate their work experience. If the applicant responds with places they have lived and their growing up years, this information does not provide valuable insight regarding the type of employee they are. Employers are fortunate that most job applicants understand the questions intent and give the manager what they want, even when questions are obscure.

The collection industry does not work with customers educated in the debt collection process. Consumers require more guidance and handholding, in the form of the right questions. Customers are not typically experienced with the debt collection process, and may be hesitant to cooperate because they don’t want information they provide used against them.

It is the agent’s job to ask quality questions that provide clear guidance on the information they need, and this comes with proper training. Staff training is essential to your business because the agents must remain compliant with regulations, obtain valuable information about the consumer’s financial situation, and bring them into an agreement on a payment arrangement. Those are not the skills of a rookie.

In order to avoid the situation faced by Judge Million, agents must have the grace of a Gazelle with the questioning skills of a lawyer. They must lead the consumer to the conclusion that the agent will help them pay off the debt within their financial constraints and move the collection process forward. Lawyers much like debt collectors must phrase each sentence in a specific manner to increase the likelihood of gathering useful information.

Lighthouse Consulting has almost two decades of experience working with companies just like yours. Their industry experience can train your staff to quickly and efficiently obtain the information required to collect on the debt.

Contact us today to learn how we can increase the efficiency of your staff through proper training.

Do Not Utter The “F” Word

Debt collection is a high stakes game centered around high emotions on both sides.

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The trouble is, when emotions get out of hand, you lose control of the debt collection process.

Always remember Failure is not an option. Uttering the “F” word in this industry spells trouble for your business. However, success is dependent on finding creative solutions that address the many industry issues companies face.

When emotions get high self preservation kicks in quickly, creating defensiveness and instincts resembling the fight or flight response to danger. Consumers are keen to preserve income by failing to pay, and debt collectors must extract payments to stay in business. Compromise and cooperation can be hard to come by, with so much at stake.

Collection agencies are in a tough business right now. We face issues created by regulations, which largely favor the consumer. We face issues created by the debtors, who refuse to pay their obligations or follow through with payment agreements. We face issues created internally by staff or infrastructure. To succeed in this environment companies must refuse to accept Failure as not an option and find innovative ways to succeed.

As a consultant in the industry for the last two decades, I have seen a major industry shift in compliance making it more difficult and expensive to operate your business. The result is the cream rising to the top. The very best collection agencies and law firms are spending the time and money to ensure failure does not occur. They are finding success by aligning with vendors specializing in the industry, improving training for staff, hiring industry consultants who understand the challenges you face, and improving their procedures and processes. The cream rising to the top will lead the collection industry for decades to come.

As a consultant in the debt collection industry, I see both sides of the fence. On the one side are aggressive agencies seeking out improvements, training, automation and better processes. On the other side are agencies doing just the minimum to get by, hoping the regulatory environment will change before they have to spend the money on upgrades. It is very obvious to an industry veteran, like myself, which strategies are the most successful.

Most owners and managers are burdened with daily operations tasks to keep the agency or law firm profitable and in compliance. They do not have the time to investigate the necessary improvements required to maximize efficiency and stay on top of new compliance rules. This reactionary response is more expensive in the long run than taking a proactive approach to legislative changes. As CFPB enforcement increases, it makes more sense than ever to hire an outside consultant to provide innovative solutions for your agency or firm. Changes in both compliance and technology are creating both roadblocks and opportunities for those on the leading edge. Identifying which is essential to an agencies success.

Lighthouse Consulting has been a beacon of knowledge in the debt collection industry for almost 20 years. If you are looking for reliable advice and an intimate understanding of your needs, contact Lighthouse Consulting for information on our services.

My Recap of the Denver ACA Conference 2016 and Comic Con 2016

The 2016 ACA conference in Denver was refreshing, to say the least. It was apparent from the moment I arrived that this was going to be a different conference. Not only was it an educational event full of enthusiasm, but the week also coincided with Comic-Con and Denver gay pride week. The city was lively with activities and fun events, creating many memorable moments.

Even though the Costumes from Comic Con were very distracting, (not to mention FUN), my biggest takeaway from the ACA conference, is that the industry is alive again.

27674227832_85dde03242_bOver the last few years, with all of the compliance issues and a decline in placements, the industry has experienced a theme of doom and gloom. This year, Denver’s conference reflected an optimism and upbeat attitude towards the future. Companies were anxious to find solutions that would stimulate growth and a bright future for industry leaders.

Compliance, which was the main topic over the last few years at ACA, DBA, and NARCA, was a secondary topic, rather than the primary focus. It seems the industry has gotten used to dealing with the compliance issues of today’s collection environment and are now looking for ways to perform business at a higher level that still produce acceptable profit margins.

The decision-makers I met with were looking for technological and operational improvements for their collection agencies or law firms, rather than just moaning and complaining about the increase in regulation. It appears the mourning period is over, and now we are ready to morph into a new life. Companies are focused on opportunities for automation, process flow improvements, more profitable vendors, and advances in technology opportunities that can improve their bottom line.

Vendors like Vo Apps have been around for many years and are now getting traction as the industry is ready to try something new.

There was a lot of buzz at the conference regarding the merger of Columbia Ultimate and Ontario Systems. The two vendors set up booths next to each other and took advantage of all the questions and interest regarding the recent merger acquisition. I expect it to take a year or before we will fully understand the direction of the new company.

There was a smaller number of vendors in the exhibit hall, but that has been a trend at each of the conferences in the last three years. Several new vendors to the industry were represented, and a few from the old guard were noticeably missing. Based on the vendor selection custom programming, contact management, data append, and software development made up the bulk of the service providers.

Overall, I believe the industry has turned the corner and is looking forward instead of backwards or just looking down at their feet. Even though the industry is very challenged by compliance and a lack of placements, it appears that providers who are forward thinking will lead the industry for many years to come.

To learn more about my thoughts or recommendations going forward, or if you just want Comic-Con photos, please give me a call at 904-687-1687 X 111.

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The Truth About Debt Collection Emails

Email vendors have become the used car salesman of the debt collection world. They are more focused on dated platforms and strong armed sales tactics to scare collection companies into buying their services, than providing meaningful solutions.

notification-of-new-message-on-smart-phone

Common tactics include convincing debt collection companies that you must send an encrypted email with a PDF of your collection letter to be compliant. They claim that you have privacy responsibilities that stop you from doing it any other way and the BEST delivery method they offer ensures the delivery of the email. These companies offer minimal reporting that confirms an email was delivered but shows no record of whether it was actually received or read. For example, if you send an email to John@debtors.com, who is to say it did not wind up in the consumer’s spam box? Most email vendors tell you this is all the reporting that is available.

Well, guess what? Most email platforms can only complete the above tasks because they have not invested in the newest available technology. It is easier to convince you nothing else is available than to update their platform to more useful technology.

The truth is that you can deliver emails to the consumer’s inbox. Dynamic reporting paradigms are available, but the service costs extra to vendors, so they avoid offering the additional services. Reporting can tell you when and where the email was delivered, read, opened, deleted, saved and much more. The technology available identifies if the consumer clicked a link and visited your payment site. We can track how long they were on your payment site and what the outcome was.

You can send emails with no consumer ID info or ID to the debt and not encrypt them! We can set up triggers in the email platform that send an email based on the consumer’s actions. Let’s say the consumer gets the email and clicks to the payment site and then authenticates himself. They view a monthly payment offer and then abandon the pay site without completing the transaction. We can set a trigger that sends them an email asking if he needs help paying or wants an agent to call?

With the use of Message Transfer Agents (MTAs) you can communicate via email, through a secure connection, authenticate the user, and provide repayment solutions to the debtor, through their preferred communication channels. This technology is available today, and SoftVu specializes in helping debt collection companies streamline collections in a cost effective way.

Email communication is the future of debt collections. Other vendors are way behind in their technology. But I have your back! Reduce your costs of collection and regain control of your collection strategies through today’s latest technology.

Call me for more info at 904-687-1687.

Resist Technology, Not On My Watch

This spring I decided to start exercising more. I want to get in better shape and remain healthy as long as possible. After all living a longer life is no benefit, if I’m sick all the time. Unfortunately, all this wanting, wishing, and determination to exercise more was not producing any real results.

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The trouble is meaningful activities already filled my days, and I was not able to achieve progress until I changed the way I saw exercise and made it a part of my daily routine.

New technology can be like adding exercise to your current busy schedule. You want the benefits, but it’s hard to embrace it. New technology means investing money in new programs and sometimes charting untested waters. You currently have a certain way of doing things in your business, and even if it isn’t really working for you, changing course takes effort and planning.

As a consultant, I find clients struggling to embrace new technology even though it will make their lives better and their businesses more profitable. Currently, the industry is undergoing a massive change towards electronic communication using text, emails, and the web. Consumers prefer to deal with debt repayment and even debt negotiation online, without the embarrassment of talking to a stranger about how far behind they are or their inability to pay the balance in full. Studies show the average consumer is more likely to pay a late bill online than from a cold call.

There is improved technology on the market that encompasses collection software, cloud vendors, and SaaS vendors. Automation is the NEW collection theme for leading edge collection agencies. Advancements allow agencies to accomplish more with less staff than traditional collection methods, which drive down costs and increase profitability. You can now drive inbound calls instead of focusing on outbound calls, using technology to respond to consumer needs.

New technology is the answer. 

Payment sites are available which can now authenticate consumers, negotiate for settlements, accept payments and gather information, 24/7. IVR, emails, texting, agent calls and letters must become an integrated strategy going forward. All of these features must tightly integrate with your system of record. So there is no way to resist technology in today’s new collection environment.

Embracing new technological advancements will reduce company costs, improve collection stattistics, and move you to the front of the industry, increasing demand for your services among results oriented lenders.

Call me for ways your company can embrace these new technologies and improve your bottom line at 904-687-1687.

What Does The Famous Poem El Dorado And Compliance Have In Common?

My favorite poem has been Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe since I was in elementary school in the late 60’s. At that point in my life I was a poor, only child of a single mother in Southern Georgia and thought the idea of travel seemed so exciting we had only traveled to Tennessee to see family and Summers I spent time at my Grandparents house which was only 60 miles away. The time at grandmas was half child labor as I had to shuck bushels of peas, can vegetables and tend the garden and half a great leaning experience. But I wanted to see the world not just places with relatives. I wanted to find a spot of ground that was perfect, I was in search of Eldorado.

conquistadors

The poem speaks of a gallant Knight on horseback who is searching for Eldorado for most of his life and is finally told its there, just over the mountains and over the moon. Well Compliance is also there just over the moon in the valley of the shadow. Compliance like Eldorado is about the search, the horse ride, not absolute compliance.

In 2016 finding compliance to all the regulations and state requirements requires a long ride over the mountains and over the moon. So lets discuss how most of the agencies and law firms I run across are handling the compliance journey. ….

Gaily bedight,

   A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,   

   Had journeyed long,   

   Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado.

   But he grew old—

   This knight so bold—   

And o’er his heart a shadow—   

   Fell as he found

   No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.

   And, as his strength   

   Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow—   

   ‘Shadow,’ said he,   

   ‘Where can it be—

This land of Eldorado?’

   ‘Over the Mountains

   Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,   

   Ride, boldly ride,’

   The shade replied,—

‘If you seek for Eldorado!’