Did the birth of the “consumer” and the death of the “debtor” kill the debt collection industry?

As the debt collection industry has tried to be more consumer friendly we changed our vocabulary from “debtor” to “consumer”. How has that also changed the industries mindset? Is it a good thing?

I think not.

It was hard for me to change my vocabulary a couple years ago but it was willingly I did so. As the market started using the word consumer over the word debtor it seemed appropriate. But the longer this has been in effect the more and more I see it affecting the mindset of collectors, managers and owners in a negative way. Consumer lawyers (maybe we should call them debtor lawyers) are why we changed our tune but I think we should have kept the word debtor, its not a bad word.

Somehow the word debtor became a bad word and I am not sure why?

Wikipedia defines a debtor as “If X borrowed money from his/her bank, X is the debtor and the bank is the creditor. If X puts money in the bank, X is the creditor and the bank is the debtor.” and defines a consumer as “The consumer is the one who pays to consume goods and services produced.”

If this is the definition to both words they are debtors not consumers, consumers “pay to consume”,

So why did a whole industry change its vocabulary?  

The truth is we did it from pressure we created on ourselves as an industry. We thought its would make us look more consumer friendly in the eyes of regulators, clients and potential clients. But was this a good thing? I think it has gotten too many collectors and even managers in a mid set that the debtor is right and the collection strategy is the bad factor.

The truth is that debt collection has been getting more and more consumer friendly since I began collecting in 1979. But it has gotten to a high point in 2016 in my opinion. Debt collection has changed to accommodate the consumers’ habits by moving to self-cure websites and IVR systems.

The birth of self-cure 

The birth of debtors curing their debt online with no human interaction is a positive result of the consumer mentality of debt collection. It has allowed agencies and law firms to reduce its compliance exposure and collection expenses by letting the debtor pay online. Most debtors do not really desire to talk to a debt collector when it comes time to pay they just want to make the transaction online. So the use of a payment site is the obvious answer and a best thing to come from the consumer friendly era created by consumer attorneys.

Now what? 

I think as an industry we need to remember that that are both debtors and consumers. Actually our job as an industry is to turn them from debtors into consumers. We have to treat them like consumers but remember that they are debtors till they pay the debt and they need to be handled like debtors.

The fact that our industry has made the effort to allow the debtors to self-cure by creating elaborate payment sites shows our ability to adapt to the consumer model but we still have to remember that most debtors need help to pay their obligations. They need financial counseling, just the push a call makes or they need a payment arrangement that the website cannot approve for them.

Lets remember they are debtors and need our help to pay their bills and become consumers.

My thoughts and observations from the recent DBA conference

Well it was the 20th conference for the debt buyers and it was well attended and was upbeat for a change. As I usually do here is my thoughts and observations firm the conference.

People

Well the players are changing along with the name of the association. As new debt buyers emerge the look of the DBA will also evolve into something that can survive in today debt purchase marketplace. The attitude of the people attending was much more upbeat that the last few years and this I will attribute to Trump.

Many of the people I have talked to during the conference have confirmed that they are much more optimistic than past years just due to the change in Presidents. People who I know had gotten out of the business and not attended the conference recently were back with smiles.

New

There was lots of talking about changes in the industry like Discover requiring partners to take payments away form the call recording devices to reduce the possibility of that call recording system being hacked and credit card info being available in the recordings. Patient financing for the healthcare agencies and buyers in the new thing as well. I meet a guy who is buying medical debt and forgiving it. The company is a charity and takes donations.

There was lots of talk about self cure processes and near shore shops. Both vendors, agencies and debt buyers are now moving processes and agents to near shore call centers with Jamaica being the prime location.

Vendors

The overall vendor attendance was low but the main players were all there. Stratics had the oversized booth that stuck out like a red headed step child. This proves there is a war for clients coming in the ringless voice mail segment currently owed by Vo Apps. This contact method for cell phones is defiantly the cheapest method to reach cell phones.

The vendors all seemed to be busy during the cocktail hours and lunches but not much traffic otherwise.

Conclusions

The debt purchase industry is reinventing itself and the people involved are positive it will work. The old school debt buyers are retiring and moving on to their next career or golf game. The vendors are all suffering as the overall volume of business is down 20%. The industry will continue to embrace technology and reduced labor costs to collect money and the industry will evolve to meet the challenges.

How do you create and sustain increases in efficiency and performance in todays ARM marketplace?

When a business starts up it’s generally amazingly efficient, you must be as they do not have the resources and client base to survive in any other manner. Growth leads to decreased efficiency and performance. There are three principal reasons for these changes.

Changes in the business environment- competition, technology and market changes all affect the way you do business.
 Increased complexity- the more employees systems and services after the confusion levels.
And resistance to change- which is a normal human reaction.

Each of these conditions reflects the same core issues, performance is deficient and improvements or not sustainable. To solve these problems we need a new structure to sustain the changes and produce the desired results.
If you want to sustain change you will have to develop a structure that can deliver the preferred results in a natural outcome of the improved processes. This can be obtained with a few leverage techniques in the buy in of your management team.

The processes are the problem and the solution

A business as a sole of it’s processes they are complex and often need improvement processes create results good or bad and your processes may be the solution to increased efficiency in your business the question is how to create sustainable changes.

Desired performance versus actual performance

How we create the desired performance daily? This can be obtained by creating sustainable changes within the process of your business. This changes difficult to achieve but with the correct balance within the management team and employees preferred performance can exist.

Your existing processes of the solution and when improve in a manner that creates the results solve automatically or as a byproduct of the processes the results will then be sustainable. The processes have a structure defined by the interaction of its components the structure is more powerful than any employees ability to impact it. Structure and processes drive to your performance.

The best way to achieve this change of structure is with changes in your current processes. These changes must be planned in developed it before messages I her levels. In order to achieve this you may need to improve or re-create your current processes and this may take an external force to help create new structures as changes are more difficult to sustain without the correct procedure in place.

How can technology create sustainable improvements?

Since processes are a big part of todays work flows we need to be able to control those processes and technology can do that. By using a platform that can help you define and control the business processes you have defined as best practices you will be able to sustain those improvements. Technology can block users from using another process and guarantee your process is adhered to.

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.

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.

Which star from “Gold Rush” best describes your management style, Parker Schnabel, Tony Beets or Todd Hoffman?

beets

Is it like a Hurricane?

Tony Beets was described as a hurricane manager by his son in the show Gold Rush on the Discovery channel in a recent episode. So what is a hurricane manager? Its a manager that likes to arrive unannounced and immediately begin to question everything that has happened that was not his or her decision. They tend to be loud, look or dress in a manner that is unconventional.

Tony’s son stated that all you can do to weather a hurricane is duck and wait till the high winds subside or it moves on to reap havoc on another location. You try not to get blown away by the storm.

So how do you deal with a hurricane manager? Well from experience I can tell you what happens is the team become a team against the manager not a team with them. The team feels they all have one thing in common, the hurricane as it hits everyone without prejudice so they tend to band together. This is probably how unions got formed.

The staff work well together when the hurricane manager is not present as they have formed a strong alliance and work as a team well. In the long run the hurricane has created the team so the system works but it is all filled with stress.

The largest issue with the hurricane is that all the good things the hurricane blows over and sees improvements in are overshadowed by the team as they huddle together in the corner while the water rises and the wind increases. In many cases the hurricane is very smart and sees the solutions easily but the delivery is so bad the point never gets properly delivered.

If you are a hurricane manager try to reduce the damage by becoming a tropical storm instead, the damage is much less and the staff are much less scared. The best way to do this is to just stop and listen to the staff.

todd_hoffman_gold_rush

Is it based on faith in the leader?

Todd Hoffman’s crew is called 316 Mining because they share a faith in God. Todd’s management style would also be best described as faith based. The 316 crew seem to have many issues just like all the other crews featured on Gold Rush but they do have one clear direction and that is to get gold and they have faith that they will find the gold. They have faith that God is really leading them to the gold not Todd Hoffman, not that they believe he is hearing words directly from God, just that God is in charge of everything and it will all work out if they keep the faith and be good followers.

So when the team disagrees with Todd they tend to be less likely to revolt as they have faith. They have faith that Todd is the leader for a reason not known to them but their faith leads them to follow the leader.

Faith is about followers and a team that follows the leader is great until the leader gets in over his or her head or leads the group off the path. This makes for a great team as long as the leader is truly a leader and can lead without the help of his crew. But most leaders are truly great because they have a great team of advisors.Like a President that has a group of advisors the best leaders also use this method to lead.

A leader like this will be very successful because he or she has a great team that will follow them anywhere.

parker

Is it a bit risky?

Parker Schnabel is very well liked by his crew and the watchers of the TV show Gold Rush. He has a likable personality that is laced with a high level of risk taking, something inherent to the idea of gold mining and with his young age. His management style follows that same flow as he is constantly trying a new machine or a new piece of ground believing that each will be better than the last.

Parker leads by example he will do any job on the gold mine and in fact prefers to do it himself it possible. He has almost driven equipment off a cliff and had many close encounters as he pushes the limits of the ground, his crew and his equipment. But his crew want to follow him because he is so hands on as a manger. The crew just follow his lead to push the equipment, ground and themselves to the breaking point all to make Parker proud of them.

This is a great management strategy as long as you don’t actually fall off a cliff. The team is one that needs little direction to get motivated they just need to follow the leader. The issue is when the leader is absent the team is lacking that level of motivation to make the leader happy.

The ONE reason you can’t lose with a Jamaican BPO

Most people first think about near shore or off shore BPO when they are looking for better labor rates but they may be missing the biggest reason to use a BPO in Jamaica.

When you begin to look for better labor rates you are first lead to off shore options like the Philippines or India and when you get further into your due diligence you discover the labor rates are not as good as you were looking for, even though much better that what your paying in the USA.

As your research leads you to near shore operations you see more value for your dollar with the Caribbean workers. You find many English speaking countries with nice Universities and a labor force that desire to have a job not a labor force that feels entitled to work and benefits.

St Lucia, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Puerto Rico all have BPO operations and the BPO call center crown jewel is Jamaica. Why Jamaica? The biggest reason is the exchange rate, yes the exchange rate. Yes the workers are priced appropriately, they are effective and experienced, they have excellent verbal skills and work ethic but the largest reason is the US$ to JD$ exchange rate.

“The value of the Jamaican dollar has depreciated by 4.8 per cent for the financial year to date compared with a depreciation of 3.2 per cent for the same period last year.” See reference 

There was also a notable increase in the employed labour force by about 40,100 people. Overall, GDP at best is projected to grow at anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent on average for the entire year”. See reference

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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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Debtors prefer to deal with debt online according to Experian

Here is an article recently printed HERE but it clearly shows how the industry is moving to self cure.

A growing number of people seem to be turning to the internet, with research from Experian highlighting the fact that people increasingly want to settle their debt without having to talk to anyone they owe money to.

According to the findings, traditional methods of debt collection can increase customer stress, which is why so many prefer to create repayment plans online to help manage their borrowing commitments. This allows them to avoid confrontation and take back control of their finances, without needing to worry about unwelcome phone calls keeping them up at night.

The figures show that the three most popular options when it comes to dealing with unmanageable debt are an online solution (32%), with a far lower proportion wanting to go into a branch to discuss repayments face-to-face (23%). The least popular option is to deal with things over the phone (20%), which is perhaps understandable considering that most people want to avoid stressful phone calls and conversations.

The top reasons for seeking an online solution include the convenience and ease of online planning (cited by 62% of respondents), the ability to take control of debt more easily (56%), and the fact that branches aren’t open at convenient times (17%). However, 49% said it was because they don’t want to be hassled by phone calls and overdue letters, while 26% said that having to talk to someone would only add to the stress about the debt, so it’s no wonder that online solutions have become so popular.

“The majority of people struggling with debt actually want to regain control of their finances,” said Nick Grant of Experian, “but during what can be a very stressful and emotional time, the fear and embarrassment of speaking to someone about their debts can be barriers to taking those first steps to recovery.”

It’s for this reason that online options are so popular, but he also pointed out that online solutions increase the likelihood of a payment arrangement being kept. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved – not only will companies be less likely to bombard you with debt-related communications, but if you stick to your repayment plan, you’ll be building up your credit score at the same time.

Lighthouse Consulting has created SoftWave collections contact us for more info.

SoftWave Collections which is a electronic communication strategy that sends soft waves of pre-written set of messages to consumers over time.

These messages often take the form of emails and texts, although other media can also be used.

Soft Wave campaigns are distinct in two ways: (1) the timing of the messages follows a pre-determined course; (2) the messages are sent in an automated fashion applicable to a specific behavior or status of the consumer.