Do you want to control your companies online reputation on all the top consumer review/complaint websites?

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.

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

Your positive reviews are auto-published to Facebook, Twitter, website, custom review site and 50+ consumer site.

You can generate a steady flow of positive reviews from your happy customers, via mobile, check-in, SMS & email campaign. And all the aggravated reviews are sent to you in real time so you can take action immediately.

With the Lighthouse Reputation Beacon, your business is found by search engines — accurately and up-to-date — across all the major consumer sites.

Lighthouse Reputation Beacon will generate and download ROI reports showing growth in reviews, ratings, traffic and ROI to support business decisions.

This service is very affordable, to learn more call Phillip W. Duff at 904-687-1687 X 101.

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.

“¡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.

judge-milian-photos-i18

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.

Everyone Has a Smart Phone Why Don’t You Have a Smart Collection Strategy to Match?

Max McKeown famously said, “Adaptability is the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”

Eniac_Aberdeen

The debt collection industry has found itself facing increased regulations as the industry adapts to new laws and legal precedent regarding collection practices. These changes have led to exploding compliance budgets, as companies scramble to meet ever-changing standards. Strategy changes within your company must match new compliance requirements, enabling your company to rise to the top of this dynamic industry.

One of the more difficult regulations that have evolved revolves around contacting debtors on their cell phones, TCPA. As more consumers ditch landlines, and nearly 2/3rds of adults rely on smartphones for both personal and business contacts, accessing this communication channel has become a high priority.

What you need is a smart strategy that will work with all of your consumer’s smartphones. 

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

The best strategy a company can incorporate is enticing customers to “opt-in” to email and text messaging. By communicating with the consumer via their smartphone, you will have higher contact rates and stronger results. I recommend that my clients use every opportunity to get the consumer’s permission for both cell phone and email messages. The successful implement of this strategy requires the company to add verbiage to all current communication methods, providing the customer with ample opportunity to approve additional channels. With every phone conversation and every collection letter sent, additional contact methods should be requested. Even hold music, and payment site visits can promote the benefits of opting in by providing a pathway for the consumer to sign up for your Smartphone strategy.

Once the customer has accepted communication through their Smart Phone, we can create a strategy around both texting and emails that drive the consumer to self-cure at your payment site or drive a compliant inbound call.

These are the smartest strategies to adopt because they remain fully compliant and offer the lowest cost per transaction.

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.

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!’

Contact Automation Software is the New Uber

The SoftWave Contact Automation program delivers a rules-based email contact strategy that replaces human, manual work with machine logic to control the sending and receiving of compliant email messages.. This reduces the amount of time an agent spends on each account. By sending the consumer measured email and text messages and not just dunning notices, the collection experience is softened. Messages can include a number of different types of content including text, audio and video messages which can effective for consumer education purposes. Providing an unattended channel, this allows the consumer to respond on his or her schedule, 24/7. Properly developed processes and decision automation can significantly change the economics of the collector by reducing staffing and increasing compliance and liquidation rates.

An agent ends up on average handling 200-500 accounts. But, with strong process and decision automation, this number increases dramatically. By utilizing automated and electronic communication channels, the program can follow up with consumers in shortened cycles, allowing them to work with larger portfolios of accounts compliantly. Once an agent can handle larger volumes of accounts using automation the cost and risk will reduce accordingly.

Using Soft Waves of electronic messages, relevant settlement opportunities are presented to the consumer the way in which they prefer to engage, and provide data on when those offers might be accepted. Over time, we can learn from the customer’s behavior to become Uber effective.

The debt collection process isn’t a driver of customer satisfaction. If anything, it’s a high source of risk. The thousands of calls you make daily are more likely to create risk today than ever before.

But when you automate debt collection, many of these problems will disappear or be significantly reduced. Once the risks are diminished, more opportunities will arise.

3 easy steps to get more profits from your debt settlement accounts

Do you have a defined strategy for accounts that are been debt settlement programs? If you don’t, you may leave money on the table. Debt settlement companies are here to stay and debt collection agencies need to work together with the debt settlement companies for both companies benefit and the benefit of the consumer.

As you begin to work your portfolio you will find accounts that have been working with a debt settlement company via your interaction with the consumer, a power of attorney from the debt settlement company or any direct contact with that debt settlement company. The question then becomes do you have a defined strategy that is in process to work these accounts or is that strategy being defined by your collection staff.

In many collection operations there are very smart Bill collectors who have aligned themselves with negotiation agents at the various debt settlement companies in order to collect more money each month. That’s smart bill collector is creating the strategy for your business behind your back. In addition, you may be paying large commissions on those payments. That smart bill collector is getting an email from the debt settlement company with a unsecure spreadsheet consumer information which he is using to determine accounts that match within your system. Once the Smart collector as a debt has identified the matches he negotiates with the debt settlement company for payment. All this without the knowledge of the manager in most cases.

In contrast the companies that have a defined strategy for all debt settlement accounts are likely paying a much smaller commissions to the staff in charge of those accounts and it is likely involved in a much more compliant process. The debt settlement companies are not as concerned about the security of the consumer data as the collection agents need to be. This is a strong reason for your company to have a defined strategy as opposed to hey smart collector strategy.

So the first thing you need to do to increase your profits from the debt settlement accounts is to create a defined strategy for all accounts identified as in a debt settlement program. The second step to increase your profits from this segment of your portfolio is to assign a low or no commission employee to work the accounts. The last step is to make sure you are working with as many of the aggregators as possible.

There are several companies that are aggregating debt settlement company data in order to make it easier to scrub. It is advantageous to include these aggregators in your defined strategy.

Lighthouse Consulting has been building these strategies for many years and can help you to create the most profitable debt settlement strategy available.

Predictions for the Future 2014

Debt Collection, Legal Collections, CFPB and Debt Buying 

What does the future hold for the debt collection industry? Well, it’s not clear but there are many factors that seem to be providing insight into the future of the industry.

Embrace Technology

The first thing that will change is technology and how the industry uses the technology. As the industry slowly moves towards electronic communication, technology will be more important to the process. Many collection agencies have begun to invest in technology that allows them to use email and text messaging to help them collect bills, provide documentation and maintain payment schedules. I believe that the use of electronic messaging will become more prevalent over the next 2-5 years and will replace the phone call sooner than later.

Fewer Buyers…Bigger Buyers

One of the next things that will happen is the loss of the debt buying industry as we have known it. As debt issuers move to “No Resale restrictions” and some issuers move to insource their debt collection, debt buying as we know it will radically change or disappear altogether. Only a few major debt buyers will be left and their profit margins will be fair but low due to the compliance costs associated with the issuer and CFPB guidelines. This is evinced today by the expansion of debt buyers, like Encore Capital’s movement into other countries and the many statements to investors in the regulatory filings of publicly traded debt buyers about the changing industry.

Collection agencies will face many changes as those placing debt for collection will continue to add more and more onerous burdens on those collecting to ensure regulatory compliance up and down the vendor chain. Technology will be the way bills are collected in the future as text messages, emails and online payment sites become the norm.   Staffing levels will continue to decrease and more and more debt will be collected though the use of technology. This will allow the agencies to reduce fees and stay compliant but it will reduce profit margins to single digits. This will also drive larger agencies to grow and smaller ones to decline in numbers.

On a side note; if you still don’t have a way to take and process payments from debtors on your website, you are at least a full decade behind the curve and leaving substantial revenues on the table.  News Flash…This internet thing has finally caught on and it looks like it’s here to stay.  Get on board!

Issuers are Moving to do More and More Internal Collections

Law firms will be especially challenged as issuers move to better control the collection process and tie their hands to pre-suit collections. Many issuers will be spending lots of internal resources to manage any outsourced debt and this will highly impact the legal collection market. As the issuers reduce the volume of placements by only placing pre-qualified accounts, the legal collection marketplace will be squeezed by a reduction in fees and this will result in single digit profit margins in the legal space.

The struggles created by the CFPB as evidenced by the Fred Hanna acquisitions will also make the legal space a difficult one, larger firms are needed to meet the large compliance requirements of issuers.  Yet, the CFPB seems to be pushing for smaller firms. The smaller firms that have to meet the strict issuer requirements cannot make money due to the cost of the compliance department. Most law firms have a lawyer assigned full-time to meet compliance requirements.  This department usually has one employee for every 20 staff as well. This leaves the small firm with 40 staff and 3 lawyers with a compliance department of one full-time attorney and two full-time staff or $200K annually in staffing costs alone.

Ok, so what will the CFPB do? Whatever they want to do, they are like the 500 pound gorilla; he can do whatever he wants to do. I believe they will embrace electronic communication in the next 3 years and they will continue to expand their focus and begin to drill down to more agencies and law firms starting in late 2015. As they investigate bigger entities they will follow the collections to the agencies and firms used by the same entities. So if your agency is small but has large clients, you are going to be in the line of fire.

So what does the future of collections look like?  It is based on electronic communication and online payment sites resulting in single digit profits for several large companies and firms. My recommendation is for you to move toward better technology so when the times change, you are not struggling to learn new technology…you’re already a master of it.

Will the CFPB Get Rid of The Consumer Lawyers?

The CFPB and the consumer lawyers are on the same side.  They’re both fighting the same battle the question is who will win?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is there to protect the consumer from bad actors that offer financial products. They state Our mission is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.” http://www.consumerfinance.gov/the-bureau/

The consumer lawyers state a similar goal. “National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has worked on the most urgent problems affecting families in financial distress. NCLC is at the forefront in the fight for economic justice. Our work stops unfair and predatory business practices that affect millions of people across the nation.” – See more at: http://www.nclc.org/about-us/support-our-work.html#sthash.CMkYRx0P.dpuf

So it begs the question who will win?  Of course the first thing would be that both would combine forces but that’s not going to work as the lawyers are small businesses throughout the United States and the government is, well…the government.

The CFPB is very well-funded and would seem to be the dominant force. Let’s pretend that they are able to complete their mission and make sure that all consumers are safe when applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, are using any number of consumer financial products. This would leave no need for the consumer lawyers in the financial space. They would have to go back to working consumer product liability cases such as poorly made baby cribs or automobile recalls (ala Ralph Nader).

How would that affect the ARM industry? What’s the cost of absolute compliance to the CFPB? These are interesting questions to which I do not have the answer. Only time will be able to tell us what the effects of the CFPB will be. I do know that we are just beginning to see what the affects are of the work that is currently being done by the agency. Most of the “Churn” going on in the industry today is actually knee-jerk reactions to directives from the agency by agencies and debt buyers in an effort to reduce risk across the board.  When industries go through this type of paradigm shift in regulatory oversight, many times the pendulum swings too far in one direction.

It’s very obvious that compliance will be a large portion of any collection agency or law firm’s budget in the future. The players that are able to understand and embrace the future by creating, purchasing and using compliance tools and technology will be able to be a big part of that future. Whether it is process driven compliance, technology driven compliance or good old-fashioned training,  the future is compliant, compassionate collections.

The CFPB and the consumer lawyers are both on the same side and so is the ARM industry in 2014. This is the reality that we must all face; regulation is now in charge of the industry and we must comply as business owners and operators. Since many of the regulations are directed towards the people performing the work, i.e. the debt collectors, the CFPB is actually attacking your business strategy. You must learn to create a new business model based upon the new marketplace in order to succeed in 2014.

Don’t let the ever-changing marketplace overrun your business model contact Lighthouse Consulting for a free online evaluation of your collection agency our law firm at 904-687-1687.

Don’t miss this informative session at the Upcoming National Collections & Operational Risk Conference, March 24-26, Miami, FL

BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE COMPLIANCE STRATEGY FOR SMALL TO MID-SIZED ARM COMPANIES

Phillip W. Duff Founder, LIGHTHOUSE CONSULTING
Michael Thurman Partner, LOEB & LOEB LLP

Tuesday March 25, 2014  |  3:45 – 4:30 PM