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In Focus Collections

A Sharp Edge – ‘Learn to listen; listen to learn’

The modern collections industry has witnessed a return to putting an emphasis on listening to the customer; a welcome trend that should be encouraged

Anthony Sharp Proprietor, Anthony Sharp Associates

What is both interesting and positive about collections over recent years is that the art of listening has been both encouraged and returned to its rightful place in the art of collecting debt. I can vividly remember collecting

debt over the telephone before full computerisation took place towards the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s. With the advent of full computerisation came the belief that, with more and more sophisticated forms of power dialling – as it was then known – the collector could be given just a short calling time for each call. I have known the target to be 2 minutes

and 39 seconds for any one call, as this would apparently increase the call rate and improve profitability – at the end of this it would be time to wrap up the call and move onto the next. Woe betides the collector who could not give a proper justification for having a longer call! This nonsense, which, of course,

completely discouraged all proper engagement – and that includes listening – only really died away when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) became the regulator a couple of years ago and started strongly implementing the Office of Fair Trading’s Debt Collection Guidance carried over into their rules and more. I think it is fair to say that, even in the

non-FCA regulated sectors, in many cases things have improved in this area. Now, thank goodness, together with the correct focus on vulnerability, the collector ceases

February 2016

Together with the correct focus on vulnerability, the collector ceases to be an automaton and can start having proper conversations, helping the consumer as well as collecting the debt

to be an automaton and can start having proper conversations, helping the consumer as well as collecting the debt and, above all, listening to what the consumer has to say. Not everyone is a good listener, but the

professional collector should be! Oh, we know that there are plenty of calls where the consumer ‘bores the pants

off’ a collector, recounting their life history. But, quite often, within that ‘history’ is that golden nugget that either acts as a trigger or provides important information to enable the collector to pursue the debt more successfully. Collectors should train themselves to

learn how to listen – what is being said, how it is being said, and, above all perhaps, what is not being said – and thus they will train themselves to listen to learn. Gone are the days, to a great extent, of the collections ‘sausage factory’, and back has come the need for the intelligent and thoughtful collector. Many commentators are saying that the

skills of the collector are changing; indeed they are and, in many cases, it is a change for the better. The job is the same, but how you do it is making the work of a collector far more interesting and worthwhile. What goes around comes around – how

true! CCR 33

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