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Survey: Debt collectors aim to focus on compliance issues, customer service in 2012

Feb 25, 2012 Mike Garretson

With regulatory pressure mounting across a wide swath of business verticals, finance and risk management leaders are moving to develop corporate compliance and customer service controls in 2012. According to a survey released this week by Firstsource Solutions, nearly three-quarters of debt and collections industry executives - 70 percent - expect to face added challenges following the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Survey participants were questioned at the 15th Annual Debt Buyer's Association International Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Forty percent of respondents say these changes will greatly increase their focus on developing compliance controls throughout their organizations. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of surveyed debt leaders agreed that addressing compliance-related concerns will be the industry's top priority in 2012. "The CFPB will undoubtedly create new rules and regulations for the collections industry," said Tim Smith, senior vice president of banking financial services and insurance at Firstsource. "Instead of simply bracing for these changes, collections industry executives are moving compliance to the top of their agendas and developing compliance controls and initiatives that will allow them to better navigate this new regulatory environment." Aside from regulatory and compliance challenges, industry leaders also expect to revamp their focus on client and customer service. More than 60 percent of respondents claimed their organizations plan to broaden or expand their debt collection training programs. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of industry executives agreed that delivering a high quality customer experience is as important as the actual collections process. "We're seeing a real sea of changes in the industry in terms of making the customer the number one priority," Smith noted. "Our findings show that collection executives are making customer experience just as important as collecting itself." "This is not just lip service but a true commitment to making real changes to ensure customers are more satisfied and have a better overall experience," he added. Consumer debt has been on the rise since the recession began, thereby driving up demand for collections services. Last fall, the New York Federal Reserve even reported that the total volume of student debt is now greater than that of credit card balances.