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Following the rules key for successful debt collection

Mar 20, 2013 Philip Burgess

You'd likely be challenged to find a debt collection agent who claims his or her job is an easy one. Even the most skilled collectors are tasked with surmounting major challenges on a daily basis, and most of those obstacles are rooted in communicating with debtors. Especially because of the way the media often portrays the collection business, working effectively can be difficult. You may find some customers hesitant to speak to you at all, let alone hear what you have to say. Unfortunately, many stereotypes are based on a grain of truth, and collection officials who violate compliance regulations have a big effect on the field as a whole. In order to be successful, it's important to know the law and practice the principles of great service.

Oregon struggles with unlawful practices
Recently, according to the Portland Business Journal, the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) took action to rally consumers against unlawful debt collection practices. A statement on the DOJ website claimed that the offending agency is based in Virginia, and has been using threats and bullying tactics to coerce people into payment.

"We're going to use all our resources at the Oregon Department of Justice to protect consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said.

The Journal reported that approximately 770 official complaints have been filed against the firm.

While many consumers may not be aware of the legal requirements that debt collection agents must adhere to when seeking payment, those rules are available to them, making it even more important for firms to ensure that employees are staying compliant. Oregon's DOJ advised debtors that it lists the standards set forth by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the state on its website.

Managers in charge of collectors should keep a close eye on workers to make sure that they are not committing unlawful acts, such as misrepresenting themselves, calling consumers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. or contacting them at their jobs more than once per week. It is important for higher-ups to emphasize that rules do not present roadblocks to efficacy and that following them actually improves the likelihood of success.

Going above and beyond
While it may not be as obvious as in some fields, debt collection is customer service. Employees may be attempting to gain something, but they also offer an important opportunity to debtors, the chance to pay back what they owe. Both the agency and the customer can experience gains, which are more likely to materialize if collectors prioritize great service.

On her blog, collections professional Ranka Cvetkovic recommended enforcing several simple rules when it comes to working with customers, and the advice followed some important themes. First, it is important to connect with debtors on a more personal level and to demonstrate genuine understanding of their circumstances. Just because you want to receive owed funds does not mean that their current financial circumstances will allow them to comply. Instead of playing hardball, it can be helpful for collectors to work together with the client to help them devise a payment plan that works. This is often more successful than pressuring them to promise to meet demands.

Most importantly, debt collection agents must respect debtors. Not only should they speak to them respectfully, they should avoid shaming them or overpowering conversations. Cvetkovic noted that by allowing those who owe a chance to explain themselves without jumping to make demands, it is possible to get a better sense of an individual's situation and develop a tailored course of action. Not only will the client be more likely to pay, but they will be left with positive feelings about the debt collection process.