Collector - January 2021 - 28

Jeffery Gartland, chief operating officer
for Hunter Warfield Inc., acknowledged that
while the overall push toward self-service
started prior to the pandemic, he's seeing a
larger influx of consumers who want to use
these tools.
" We'd already invested in an online
payment portal that allows consumers to
negotiate payments, but now we're layering
in additional strategies, leveraging SMS text
messaging and chat to empower consumers
to drive the conversation in a channel that
is convenient and comfortable to them, " he
said. " We started with SMS-just simple
push messages-but now we're exploring and
testing two-way communications. Chat is
something we just introduced a few months
ago. Right now, we're using it for basic
question-and-answer interactions, but we

expect that it will grow to full negotiations.
As consumer behavior changes, we want
to have the resources available to them to
support their needs. "
Communication technology to enhance
right-party contacts is more valuable than
ever. Robert King, vice president, loan
servicing, said TMX Finance doubled its
direct drop messaging and expanded its twoway text program to enhance its consumer
communication efforts.
" In April, we had an 'Oh crap' moment
when we realized that we had good

28

collections, but our contact rate was lower
than we wanted, " he said. " We came to
realize through testing that people were
more willing to communicate with us if a
message was left that they actually listened
to without seeing the call come in via caller
ID. So, we segmented the people who weren't
calling us back or responding to our manual
voicemails and put them in the group who
received voice drop messages. We found that
it helped. "

UP YOUR DOCUMENTATION GAME
Many agencies have had to tweak their
policies and procedures to keep up with
pandemic-related changes, like credit
reporting issues, settlement parameters and
work-from-home expectations. For some,
this helped drive home the realization
that policies and procedures are living
documents that need regular updates.
In a session at ACA International's Virtual
Fall Forum & Expo, Porter Heath Morgan
IV, general counsel at Morgan Financial
Group and partner at Malone Frost Martin
PLLC, encouraged agencies to review any
new policies they may have rushed out back
in March. Are the changes you made then
still relevant? For many companies, remote
work, at least in some capacity, may be a
permanent reality.
" We need to be looking at long-term
solutions, " he said. " Now is a great time
to look back and see what's working and
what's not, especially from a compliance
perspective. What do we need to tweak a
little bit and what have we not touched that
we didn't even think about in March? "
Case in point: Did you let work-fromhome employees use their own equipment
when you closed your office last spring? If so,
it might be time to reevaluate that approach.
" From a compliance perspective, I think
you're much safer if you have the means to
supply your own equipment, especially if
you're looking at work-from-home from
a long-term perspective, " Morgan said.
" If you haven't already, I think it's time to
get with operations and look at a plan to
supply equipment for them. Plus, you're
going to want to have signed agreements

with your employees that really address
the care of the equipment, what they can
use that equipment for off hours, and
even how they will return it if they are
terminated or quit. "
Have you written your COVID-19 safety
policies and procedures? It's essential to have
a policy in place for managing communicable
diseases and enabling employees to return
to work. In a recent Collector magazine
article, Issa Moe, ACA International's
general counsel, advised members to keep
their plans as simple as possible. It might be
helpful to start with a basic policy that covers
compliance with state and federal guidelines
and build from there.
Emerton said Asset Recovery Group has
been focused on building a strong COVID19 playbook from day one. " We created
schedules for surface cleaning in the office
and how we were going to handle social
distancing way before it was required, " she
said. " Our documentation and personnel
handbook have both been continually
updated as things change. They also inform
how we document OSHA issues. "

BE OPEN TO A NEW MINDSET
There's nothing like a pandemic to put
consumers' lack of fundamental financial
knowledge in sharp relief. Several ACA
members have recognized this need and
done their best to pitch in, a trend they say
will only get stronger in the coming year.
One of these companies is Capital
Collection Management, which offers free
financial literacy and education courses
through an accredited third-party resource
called EverFi.
" Often these things are not taught in
classrooms, so many people are just flying
blind, " said CEO Jacob Corlyon. " When we
see there is a need, we can direct people to the
consumer resources page on our website. "
Similarly, Account Management
Resources recently rolled out a process
to ensure agents are offering constructive
support and resources when needed.
" The consumers we talk to, they want
someone to help them, " Willis said. " They
want someone to take them by the hand and

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

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