Collector - August 2020 - 52

LASTWORD

Working Together
This interview is an excerpt from a recent episode of ACA's podcast discussing consumer hardship programs.

T

he COVID-19 crisis has brought out
the best in humanity as individuals,
communities and corporations
have helped people feeling the weight of
the pandemic. On a recent episode of ACA
Cast, Kim Coghill, former vice president of
communications at ACA International, spoke
with Kenlyn Gretz, CEO of Americollect, and
Scott Hearn, president of Universal Fidelity,
about consumer hardship programs.
Gretz: I think so many times consumers
and regulatory bodies think that collection
agencies, our idea of resolution is simply
collecting money. And that's just not so.
When we talk to consumers on the phone,
they need different types of resolutions. And
for one person, that resolution might be a
payment plan. For another person, it might
be charity care or financial assistance. For
another, who knows what? They're so far
in debt that bankruptcy might be the right
answer for them. It might be an installment
loan for others.
I pulled this data just last week. In 2019,
our organization canceled more accounts for
charity care than we did for bankruptcy. So
in 2019, I think we canceled 69,000 accounts
for charity care and 63,000 for bankruptcy.
And then you look at the dollars that were
canceled: $33 million for charity care and
$21 million for bankruptcy. And so those
charity dollars wouldn't have come through
to the consumer if the collection agency,
Americollect, wouldn't have been involved.
This resolution isn't just collecting money, it's
the right situation for the right person. And
without them communicating with us, they

52

wouldn't have that idea or understand how
to resolve an account.
Coghill: What kinds of changes have you
seen in the past couple of months due to
COVID-19, in terms of consumers being in
more trouble financially? Are you having to
develop more hardship relationships?
Gretz: We're seeing a great deal of
consumers be responsible. When you
listen to [the] phone calls, the consumers
are extremely thankful that we're there to
help them resolve these accounts, get their
credit filed, mark the account as paid in
full, add disputes, add conditions. So one of
the things we do is, if the consumer tells us
that they're experiencing some sort of harm
or economic hardship because of this, we
add a particular specialty comment code
to the credit file to explain to the credit
grantors in the future that this person told
us that they were harmed. We don't ask for
any verification or anything like that. It's as
simple as [them saying], "Hey, listen, I'm
struggling right now because of COVID-19."
And so we add the comment code AW to the
account and go from there.
Hearn: Around the middle of March,
we experienced a significant reduction
in inbound communication, but toward
the second week of April, that kind
of picked back up to normal. And I'm
quite surprised myself that the negative
effect that we had been feeling was very
short lived, and it seems like things have
gotten back to normal.
With so many people being confined to
their homes and being asked to quarantine,

the thing that we've asked our agents to do
is, if you're talking to someone and [they]
want to talk about the weather or they want
to talk about anything that's going on, give
them that extra few minutes of conversation
because you may be one of the only people
they talk to that day. Because not everybody
has a big family that they live with or has
a large social network of people that they
communicate with often. So if you can be
the little ray of sunshine in that person's day
via communication, then do it because that
can really go a long way, not only for the
reputation of our industry, but it can go a
long way for that person as an individual.
To listen to the complete interview, visit
www.acainternational.org/acacast.

TM

Podcast Title: Answer the Phone
so a Debt Collector Can Help
Participants: Kim Coghill, former
vice president of communications
for ACA International; Scott Hearn,
president of Universal Fidelity; and
Kenlyn Gretz, CEO of Americollect
Air date: 6/2/2020

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.acainternational.org/acacast http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

Collector - August 2020

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