Collection agencies perform a valuable service. If you work for a collection agency, this is not new information, but if you do not, read on, this is important. Helping an individual rebuild their credit, improve their financial standing, and be more in control of their finances are powerful endgames for any consumer. Not having a debt hanging over your head is likely to reduce the amount of stress in your life and make you more optimistic about your future. Those are not small things and there's actual data behind the assertion.
Collection agencies should be as proactive as possible in seeking anecdotes or testimonials from consumers who they have helped get back on their feet. Those testimonials and anecdotes serve a number of purposes. They can improve morale in the office by helping collectors feel better about themselves when doing their job. They can help show the value that the collection industry provides to the economy by educating the public. They can help an agency's online profile, which is important whether you like it or not. Let's face reality, self-described consumer advocates are very good at showcasing the stories of individuals who have been harmed by unscrupulous or unethical collection entities.
Just like any industry, those bad apples have made it tough for everyone in the industry and stigmatized everyone who works in collections. Most of the regulatory burden on the industry is a reactive, direct result of poor business practices by bad actors in the industry - that's a fact. What's more, the vast majority of those entities are gone because they never went about their business the right way and respecting the consumer is an industry norm now.
Testimonials from consumers can be an effective umbrella against the showers that consumer advocates seek to inflict upon the industry through mainstream media outlets. At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Town Hall meeting in Philadelphia in May, one lawyer stood up and told the story of an elderly couple who were victimized by scam collectors. That couple almost lost their house. That story became a soundbite for the whole meeting.
What the industry needs are stories to fight back against the bad actors. Everyone in the industry knows that the overwhelming majority of collection agencies are upstanding companies seeking to conduct business legally and professionally, with courtesy and empathy for everyone. Unfortunately, that story never gets told and it's probably because the industry is waiting for someone else to tell it. You know the cliche, "nature abhors a vacuum", and it applies here. In the absence of the truth, the media will feature what they have, which are stories of those who have been victimized, promoted by an industry that benefits from maintaining the perspective that the debt recovery industry is predatory.
Testimonials can help. It can be tough to get an individual to talk about their financial situation because few consumers like to admit that they were in financial trouble — which is typically where people are if they end up on a collector's queue. That said, many collection agencies across the country receive notes and cards thanking them for working with individuals to get out of debt and those instances should be celebrated and promoted. Consumers who have benefited from the collaborative effort of a debt recovery professional should be encouraged to tell their story.
If collection testimonials are not part of your business process, it should be. Think about adding a one-question survey at the end of your collection calls, asking the consumer if he or she had a pleasant experience. Make sure you have somewhere on your website for people to send in their commendations. The CFPB is collecting complaints, it's time someone collected and promoted the compliments.