Collector - December 2017 - 33

tells us that the person was impacted by a
hurricane, and the agent is able to put the
account on hold for 30-60 days," Brown said.
Just like Wells Fargo, in light of the
financial difficulties people faced after Irma,
The Preferred Group of Tampa stopped
reporting new accounts to the consumer
reporting agencies until Oct. 10, though it
still reported payments and cancellations.
"We just felt that doing that might help
consumers in Florida who suddenly found
themselves in a situation where they were
taxed financially and trying to rebuild as a
result of damage," Kelley said. "We wanted to
have a positive impact on their lives, and we
got the OK to do that from our clients."
Before your collectors start making calls
to consumers again, it's important to coach
them on how to handle the conversations.
Some people will have just spent a ton of
money evacuating or otherwise preparing
for the storm. CBS News has estimated that
it costs $4,000 to fully lock down a home to
protect it from a hurricane.
Brown said he advised collectors to take
a soft approach to their calls, starting with
general questions about the consumer's
well-being and asking how they were
affected by the storm.
"If consumers tell us they are struggling,
we encouraged our collectors to say, 'I
understand, this account can wait. When
would be a good time to call you back?'"
Kelley also developed a new talkoff for
collectors at The Preferred Group of Tampa
and role-played different scenarios with
collectors so they felt comfortable having
these conversations. He noted that talking
to consumers in situations like this is often
more art than science, but while collectors
should be encouraged to be empathetic, they
also need to know what they are allowed to
offer consumers.
"If someone tells us they have 2 feet
of water in their house and they don't
know what they are going to do, we say, 'I
understand. I'm extremely sorry. Here's what
I'm going to do. I'll put a hold on this right

COLLECTOR 12.17

now. What would be a good day to reach
out to you later?'" Kelley said. "Sometimes
we'll put a freeze on the account, or if it's a
payment plan we may push it out 60 days.
We don't leave it open-ended-we want
them to feel secure because there is a plan
in place. Our goal was and is to offer them
help, hope and solutions, not just pile more
difficulty onto their problems."
Hearn said Universal Fidelity's collectors
also took into account that due to the mail
interruption, many Texas residents couldn't
get their Social Security and Veterans Affairs
checks they needed to pay their bills.
"We've always been a very compassionate
agency, so at all times-no matter if it's a
disaster or not-we're always willing to work
with consumers," Hearn said.

TAKING THE LONG VIEW
Any interruption of standard business
practices-be it a temporary closing,
a hold on accounts or a glitch in a
previously relied upon communication
system-can have a negative effect on a
company's bottom line. With potentially
profitable accounts sitting stagnant day
after day, you'll need to be prepared for
the possibility that you will finish the
month in a crunch.
Kelley acknowledged that both the credit
reporting and consumer communication
freezes he issued after Hurricane Irma did
have some negative affects on his company.
"As an agency owner, when you walk
out onto the collection floor and nobody
is making phone calls, that's when the
red flags go up; it's not a good feeling,"
he said. "But I believe that this business
is a ministry for us. We just knew that
what we were doing was the right thing
to do. While I wish it didn't have to come
this way, I looked at it as a wonderful
opportunity for us to make a difference
and to really help people."
Anne Rosso May is editor of Collector
magazine.

KEYNOTES

1

Break out your research
skills so you can find out
what's happening in areas
affected by the disaster
and draft communication
recommendations for your
clients.

2

Debt collectors subject
to the FDCPA cannot
assume the intended
recipient will receive
validation notices sent to
suspended ZIP codes until
the mail delivery suspension
is lifted.

3

Before you start making
calls to consumers
again, coach collectors
on how to handle the
conversations. Encourage
empathy and make sure
they understand what they
can and can't offer the
consumer.
33



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector - December 2017

President’s Page
Industry News
Best Practices
FYI
Collection Tips
Stronger Together
Taking a Layered Approach
Lines of Communication
Calendar
Honor Roll
Collective Intelligence
CFPB Issues Final Rule for Small Dollar Lending Market
Ask the Experts: Training Advice
Court Rules Voicemail is a “Communication" and Disclosing Name of Collection Agency Provides “Meaningful Disclosure” Under FDCPA
Compliance
ACA SearchPoint
Last Word
Collector - December 2017 - Cover1
Collector - December 2017 - Cover2
Collector - December 2017 - 1
Collector - December 2017 - 2
Collector - December 2017 - President’s Page
Collector - December 2017 - Industry News
Collector - December 2017 - 5
Collector - December 2017 - 6
Collector - December 2017 - 7
Collector - December 2017 - Best Practices
Collector - December 2017 - 9
Collector - December 2017 - FYI
Collector - December 2017 - 11
Collector - December 2017 - Collection Tips
Collector - December 2017 - 13
Collector - December 2017 - Stronger Together
Collector - December 2017 - 15
Collector - December 2017 - 16
Collector - December 2017 - 17
Collector - December 2017 - 18
Collector - December 2017 - 19
Collector - December 2017 - Taking a Layered Approach
Collector - December 2017 - 21
Collector - December 2017 - 22
Collector - December 2017 - 23
Collector - December 2017 - 24
Collector - December 2017 - 25
Collector - December 2017 - Lines of Communication
Collector - December 2017 - 27
Collector - December 2017 - 28
Collector - December 2017 - 29
Collector - December 2017 - 30
Collector - December 2017 - 31
Collector - December 2017 - 32
Collector - December 2017 - 33
Collector - December 2017 - Calendar
Collector - December 2017 - Honor Roll
Collector - December 2017 - Collective Intelligence
Collector - December 2017 - 37
Collector - December 2017 - CFPB Issues Final Rule for Small Dollar Lending Market
Collector - December 2017 - 39
Collector - December 2017 - Ask the Experts: Training Advice
Collector - December 2017 - 41
Collector - December 2017 - Court Rules Voicemail is a “Communication" and Disclosing Name of Collection Agency Provides “Meaningful Disclosure” Under FDCPA
Collector - December 2017 - 43
Collector - December 2017 - Compliance
Collector - December 2017 - 45
Collector - December 2017 - ACA SearchPoint
Collector - December 2017 - 47
Collector - December 2017 - Last Word
Collector - December 2017 - Cover3
Collector - December 2017 - Cover4
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