Talent Is Largely Personality In The Right Place

Do you have your employees in the right position? Or worse yet are you not providing your staff the tools they need to succeed?

As a consultant to the debt collection industry my clients open up to me about all of their problems and often what I see is that that the company is not giving the staff everything they need to succeed. Often its because the staff are not interested in what the business owner is saying and the training they are providing. Often the problem lies in the delivery of the message not the actual message.

Many companies do not know how to communicate with their staff in 2017, the style of communication has changed so drastically that many operators are teaching to the deaf and blind because they are teaching the wrong way for the staff they are employing. They need to hire differently or teach differently.

If you desire to teach your staff the way they learn you will get superior results but if you continue to teach the old way you will be teaching to a brick wall. Lighthouse has found that if you can taylor the message that you deliver to the staff to is better consumed. Lighthouse Consulting has developed many channels to teach your staff and we know that using many channels is the correct process. In addition we have proved many times that using a third party to train like Lighthouse Consulting the message is better absorbed.

Call us to discuss our training programs and get that lift you deserv

Do You Need A Better Solution To Your Labor Issues?

The debt collection industry has changed drastically over the last 40 years and today one of my clients biggest issues are hiring and retention of good staff. The biggest issues I see in my consulting practice is my clients constant staff turnover. That’s why I have expended so much time finding and designing solutions to these same issues.

When I entered the debt collection business things like letters and long distance charges were the big line items on the P&L for most collection agencies. Then, as the marketplace changed it became technology and now it’s progressed to labor. The issues of letters and technology are much easier to fix as its cost related but staffing is dealing with personalities and that’s much different.

When my consulting is focused on saving money with technology or vendor costs it is an stress-free engagement as its just improved processes and superior vendors that are required but when you add the people into the equation it all changes. People are much more problematic to change than a process or vendor. Part of the problem is we have no power over the peoples values, rearing or past experiences so we have difficulty creating the behaviors we desire for a great staff member.

A great staff member is one who aspires to learn, can be taught, has values aligned with the company, is loyal and comes at a reasonable cost. The issue is 80% of the current staffing pool throughout the US does not meet any of those requirements. So that means that 80% of the people you hire will not still be employed with you in 6-12 months because they do not have what it takes to succeed. This is causing collection agencies in the US to hire 3 people for every seat they own annually and its also keeping most from filling their seats or increasing their staff size to grow. A client in Atlanta recently told me he had 20 seats and sends 80+ W-2’s at the end of the year.

So here’s your solution; move your staff to Jamaica.

I have built a turnkey solution to these concerns and its priced at 1/4 of what your paying today. In order to create a turnkey solution for my debt collection clients I have built your call centre, hired your staff and jumped thru all the government hurdles for you already.  Now you just have to log in to your collection system in the cloud and we are off to the races for around $10 an hour including everything. Yes Everything, Internet, computers, cubicles, staff and everything all for around $10 hourly.

Call me to learn more. Phillip W. Duff 305-853-8773

How Do You Pick Out The Great Negotiators In Your Staff? By Their Personality Traits Of Course.

What is it that makes a great negotiator? Why does one person always outperform the others in the staff? Its their personality!

Many articles and books have been written about how to negotiate more effectively but the advice they offer is often difficult to apply.

Research in personality traits provides help in predicting an individual’s ability to negotiate effectively but often the traits are both a benefit and a hindrance at the same time. That isn’t to say people can’t get better at it, but their success will depend on their ability to understand their own and the other party’s personality.

The most influential trait is emotional intelligence. Despite emotional intelligence’s relatively recent appearance in personality traits its one of the highest googled traits today. A recent study by Wharton and MIT professors states that people with higher emotional intelligence are more likely to create  positive mood states in their negotiation counterparts and leave them more satisfied with the outcome of the negotiation.

Emotional intelligence also translates into a favourable  outcome regardless of the objective result. Even more important, emotional intelligence is linked to higher levels of likeablity and self awareness a powerful combination when it comes to difficult negotiations.

Another trait that has shown a strong indication to negotiation skills is a higher IQ.  While one would obviously expect IQ to boost negotiation performance, the research also revealed a more surprising finding: People with higher IQs tend to approach negotiations in a more collaborative way, treating their negotiation counterpart as a partner and embracing win win strategies that lead to both parties satisfaction.

Self-centered people who believe they can “just be themselves” and disregard other people’s needs and desires of them are often praised for their confidence and self-belief. The reality is that those people will miss out on social clues, negative feedback, and the ability to connect. All of this will highly handicap them during a negotiation.

Machiavellianism, a dark-side personality trait associated with a tendency to manipulate and exploit others and behave in risky and antisocial ways, motivates individuals to initiate negotiations and predicts strong negotiation tactics. Evidence suggests that Machiavellians actually do worse in negotiations, perhaps for being overly aggressive.

In order to control our personality, we need to be aware of it, so it is pivotal to understand what our default negotiation tendencies are if we are interested in changing them, or at least inhibiting them during negotiations.

Being aware of your personality will enable you to leverage your own style in situations that are a good fit for it, for talent is largely personality in the right place.

These are all things I teach in training classes with advanced collection agents and lawyers. If you desire more info on the Lighthouse Training and Development Programs contact Phillip W. Duff at phil@lighthouseconsultonginc.com

Anatomy Of A Call Centre Worker In Jamaica

Anatomy Of A Call Centre Worker In Jamaica

The island of Jamaica in the Caribbean houses the largest group of English speaking call centre workers in the Caribbean. The number 2 business in Jamaica is Call centres. Tourism is the number 1 industry but there are an estimated 150,000 call centre workers on the island of just 3 million people. So let me tell you more about that average worker here on the island.

Jamaica is the home to many large call centres and lots more medium and small centres. There are large global call centres like Vistaprint, Xerox, Sutherland Global and many more. They are servicing clients  in English speaking countries all over the world and doing all types of phone campaigns. Technical support, sales, customer service, debt collection and more are performed for clients like AT&T, Amazon, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Fingerhut and even international pizza joints. If it’s a phone and the English language Jamaica is the best place to do business.

Lets look at the average employee of these call centres. 80 percent or more of all call centre workers are female and a high percentage of those females are single parents. Historically women have been the primary call centre workers as the men have cultural differences that make it more difficult for them to conform to the standards required by working for a centre. The women have children to support so they, like most mothers across the world will do whats required to support their family. The majority of the men resist the culture change required to stay employed as a call centre worker. Uniforms, time clocks, and lots of rules and regulations deter the average male from the centres but that is changing drastically in the last 5 years. I believe this adoption by males to work at call centres will continue.

The average call centre worker enters the work force after high School so the average age worker is probably 21-24 years old. Many of the workers are 18-19 years of age. Call centres require lots of pre employment screening and testing as well as “good scores” or high grades in High School in related classes and skills. The high schools have curriculum that directly relates to things like english language proficiency, math skills, reading and more to better serve the call centre industry. The island is aligned to serve the tourists and the call centre as its accounts for a large percentage of the total economy.

The average worker does not have a car, in fact most Jamaicans do not have a car its a society of taxis and buses. The average worker lives 45 minutes to one hour away but may require a 2 hour commute daily with multiple taxis involved. Transportation is cheap because its all shared rides so the taxi is always full with other workers but the average worker spend 10-20% of their daily income on transportation.

Call centre workers are generally started at a entry level pay rate. Once they are trained and productive they can easily make much more than that. Most call centres have bonus plans and good benefits like day care, insurance and more. One of the issues that is experienced on the island is late or sick staff but it can be managed if you understand the staffs motivation and work to teach them better habits. It’s cultural to be late so it takes some work to overcome, Island time is the mentality.

Lets talk attitude and dreams. The average worker has a great attitude and dreams of owning a home and car. They want a better life for their children. They see so many things getting better, they see opportunity, they have a vision of a better island. Remember that they have only been governing themselves since 1962. Its a young government and young country.

Overall the workers are very trainable, have great attitudes and want to work and grow as employees and as citizens.

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.

My Life In Jamaica And The Heat Of Summer

Well its July in the Caribbean and its hot, not as hot as it’s been in the Western US but it is hot. In Jamaica air conditioning is a luxury not a expectation. Homes here traditionally have AC units only in the bedrooms. Most locals have no AC as electricity is one of the more expensive things on the island. There are no natural resources to burn to run electric plants so Jamaica ships in natural gas from the US to run its plants.

So since my last post lots has happened and a lot more has just gotten delayed in government circles. I have been trying to get all my local docs such as a drivers licence and it is just a big circle of bureaucracy. So to get a new bank account open I needed to register with the NIS office, the National Insurance Scheme. I gathered my local friend/guide and proceeded to the NIS office to get the simple doc which I was told only required proof of your birth to get. I had had my guide go to the NIS office the Friday before to make sure what was required so as not to waste a trip. The following Tuesday we went to the office and it had moved and no-one knew where the government office had moved to. We kept asking people in Sam Sharpe square in Downtown Montego Bay where the NIS office was located a couple days earlier and got a lead as to the new offices location.

Upon arriving at the address given we found a hardware store that reminded me of a big Ace Hardware or a small Home Depot. We abandoned that search and moved on to the next thing on the list buying a TV that I will use as a computer screen at my home office. While we were there we called the NIS office and got no answer. But the guy in the store had a cousin that worked there and called her cell phone to find out that the office was really inside the hardware store from before. We proceeded back to the hardware store and located the temporary office, they are remodelling the one in Sam Sharpe Sq. but they had no phones or computers and could not help me get a NIS card, they suggested I return in a week or so. Welcome to Jamaica.

I was able to get the card in just 20 minutes while visiting Kingston the next week but the drivers license is still in the works. I am getting used to all the delays and hurdles as well as its now my expectation it will take a long time to complete anything so when something happens easily I am surprised and if it takes all day I am prepared as I blocked out the whole day and brought water and snacks.

I spent lots of time last week listening to recordings of the collectors for a particular project that is about 6 weeks into production and was very impressed with the staffs skills. They are performing very well kudos to the clients trainers that came down from the US.

Well Sumfest http://reggaesumfest.com is starting, its the biggest Reggae event in the world, 7 days of music and partying. Its based in Montego Bay so I expect lots of traffic and crazy US and Canadian tourists. Its good for the city in many ways but I like that everything is getting cleaned and painted for the event. It seems like some of these areas only get this attention annually but it really helps the look of the city. All the businesses have new signage, streets are cleaned and curbs have fresh yellow paint. This years festival is the biggest ever.

So if your following this blog your likely interested in agents in Jamaica and this blog shows how valuable my program is by guiding you through all the government hurdles and keeping your costs level even if things like the electric bill increases drastically. No matter what happens your costs are consistent with my program. Call me to learn how you can have staff and overhead in Jamaica at just $10 hourly.

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.