Collector - August 2017 - 6
Starting From Scratch
The upsides of hiring someone with no previous collection experience.
By Anne Rosso May
hen Beth Wolters joined North
American Credit Services as a
collector four years ago, she had
no previous collection industry experience.
But she set a company record for collection
results in her first 90 days on the job that to
this day no other new hire has beaten.
What was Wolters' secret? CEO Dallas
S. Bunton Sr. attributes her success to a
wholehearted embrace of NACS' new-hire
training program and an unwavering focus on
consumer engagement. "At the end of a call, she
would ask the consumer, 'Did I answer all your
questions? Did I give you good service? That's
really important to me before we hang up.' She
did this on every single call," Bunton said.
As the credit and collection industry
moves to embrace more consumerfriendly customer service collection
techniques, hiring and training managers
are increasingly focused on how to mold
newcomers into enthusiastic and effective
debt collectors. Here, collection professionals
share what's worked for them.
THE ADVANTAGES OF
Veteran collectors are invaluable team
members, bringing years of knowledge and
skill to the table. These are the people who
you trust with your biggest accounts and
skiptracing projects, the people who can step
into a managerial role with minimal fuss.
But applicants without collection industry
experience are valuable in other ways. These
new collectors are usually fairly malleable,
open to learning your company's specific
policies and procedures and developing
their skills. They are less likely to have
preconceived notions or prejudices about the
job or how to do it, and may find it easier to
adapt to the customer-service approach the
industry is adopting.
"This person will be open to learning and
will want to take the opportunities you offer
because this is a new direction for them,"
said Cortney Fleming, hiring and training
manager and junior compliance officer with
Wilber & Associates P.C. "With a career
change, they may have a lot on the line.
They will give 110 percent trying to make
this new career successful."
Another bonus for employers is that more
experience typically equals more pay, which
means newcomers to the industry naturally
get lower hourly rates of pay initially than
more senior collectors.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
While good collectors can come from all
walks of life, often those with previous
experience in industry-adjacent fields
hold the most promise. Any role in a
restaurants, call centers-will give the
new collector tools to help consumers
resolve their debt.
Bunton's company shares a hometown
with a T-Mobile call center, and many of
those former employees turn to NACS in
search of new opportunities and benefits
their previous job didn't offer, such as a set
schedule and weekends off.
"These folks are used to dealing with
consumers and solving problems," Bunton
said. "If you think about it, there are probably
100 things that can go wrong with your cell
phone, and these customer service reps have
to calm you down and make sure when the
call ends that you are happy with your phone."
Even parents reentering the workforce
after years of staying at home with their
kids bring unique abilities to the role-
negotiation skills, for example, not to
mention experience dealing kindly with
people who may be upset or confused.
ASSESSING THEIR POTENTIAL
Your hiring team should have a different
process for evaluating applications from
inexperienced candidates than it would for
those coming from another collection agency.
In addition to reviewing resumes for job
stability and checking referrals, you should
also assess the applicant's collection mentality.
You could use an aptitude or personality test
from a third-party vendor or require a phone
interview early in the process to get a sense of
the applicant's phone demeanor.
Prior to working at State Collection
Services Inc. as an account executive,
Beth Conklin was involved in hiring and
recruiting at other organizations, which
would sometimes play scrubbed call
recordings for potential candidates.
"We'd have the candidate listen to the call
and score it alongside our call calibration
parameters to help determine if their thoughts
on how the call was handled fit with what we
were looking for," Conklin said. "It also helped
to determine if the candidate was too fragile
or maybe even too assertive for the position."
If the applicant got to the third interview,
Conklin said it was sometimes beneficial to
have the person role-play a surprise mock
"The phone would beep and we would
inform the candidate it's a mock collection
call from one of the collectors," Conklin
explained. "Some candidates simply refused