Collector - March 2018 - 10
Party in the Back
How to celebrate a collection agency's unsung heroes: support staff.
By Anne Rosso May
ebt collectors are often invited
to participate in office contests,
commission opportunities and
recognition programs because their fee
generation drives a collection agency's
bottom line in a very tangible way. You
might ring a bell to recognize a collector's
accomplishment or give a collector a bonus
for reaching a weekly goal-things you
might not do for the person who answers
the phone at your front desk.
But your behind-the-scenes support
staff is a critical part of your company-
opening mail, entering data, posting
payments and working with clients to
ensure collectors' work translates into
revenue. Determining the best way to
reward their efforts and keep their morale
high, however, can be a challenge.
"If they start getting disenchanted, they
may not pay as close attention to their work
and could input errors that ultimately hurt
collectors," said John Smith, general manager
for American Collections Enterprise Inc.
"Years ago, we had a support staff person
who felt slighted and started putting
everything into the database in the wrong
folders so things weren't where they were
supposed to be."
To prevent disengagement issues like
this, we asked Smith and other ACA
International members to share what
they've learned about rewarding and
incentivizing their support staff.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Back in 2010, Tom Varnum, president
of Stevens Business Service Inc., started
hearing whispers around the office that his
support staff members were unhappy.
"People would say that they were
working hard-just as hard as the
collectors-but they weren't getting the
same kind of bonuses," Varnum said.
"Initially, I thought: 'Well, that's because
they aren't generating any fees.' But the
more I thought about it, the more I
realized that without them our collectors
wouldn't be able to generate fees either!"
That epiphany spurred Varnum to
make some changes. Now when Stevens
Business Service holds contests with teams
of collectors, managers always include a
customer service representative or two on
each team. They support the collection
teams during the contest-for example, if
the collectors need itemized bills or have to
follow up with the client. The winning team
members each get the monetary reward or
they split it equally among themselves.
The result? "Everyone is very happy,"
American Collections Enterprise once
tried the one-on-one "buddy" approach:
each support staff member pulled a
collector's name from a hat, and if the
collector hit their quota that month both
employees got a bonus.
"But that ultimately created havoc,"
Smith said, noting that the admin staff
members who got paired with the superstar
collectors were thrilled, but staff who drew
names of more "hit and miss" collectors
Today when American Collections
Enterprise collectors hit a monthly goal,
everyone in the office gets rewarded. "It
seems to be working out well," Smith said.
Some agencies opt to give support staff
higher base pay from the beginning just to
head-off any feelings of inequality. American
Collections Enterprise gives larger annual
bonuses to support staff than it does to
collectors to help keep each group roughly
even in the long run.
Smith suggested tying financial rewards
to support staff performance expectations,
and setting goals so they have something to
reach for beyond their stated job duties. For
example: "We'd like to see you input at least
X new accounts in an hour."
The support staff at American
Collections Enterprise also gets a perk
that's not offered to collectors: the ability
to work remotely.
"There are particular tasks we've said
our clerical and admin staff can do from
home when needed," Smith said. "We don't
allow them to do everything from home,
but for certain projects they can access
our system from home. And they love it,
because it allows them to craft a schedule
that fits their life, working around doctor's
appointments, school conferences and
things like that. They don't feel like they are
always asking us for time off."
Smith noted that you do have to monitor
remote workers closely. "If we find that