The intelligent, client-branded product for delinquent accounts uses a patented, machine learning-driven decision engine to engage customers and boost recovery rates
Lenexa, KS – Sept. 16, 2021 – TrueAccord Corporation, which offers intelligent digital recovery and communication products and services, today launched Retain, a new, client-branded product that addresses early-stage collection challenges for lenders and other organizations with customers with past-due delinquent accounts. Using the company’s patented, machine learning-based and self-optimizing decision engine, Retain uses engagement data from individual interactions to optimize the consumer experience while increasing recovery for clients. The client-branded product enables clients to improve collections, maintain customer relationships, and offer solutions to their customers that improve financial fitness.
Powered by TrueAccord’s industry-leading tech stack, key benefits of Retain include a simple, intuitive and effortless-to-use digital platform leading to great user experience, constant A/B testing and optimization to reduce friction and boost conversion rate, infinite scalability, and second-to-none channel deliverability. Retain implements ecommerce-based innovations like the focus on digital experience and outreach, machine learning-based personalization, and deliverability at massive scale for early-stage use.
“After seeing success with our late-stage collection solution, Recover, we identified an opportunity to apply the same customer-centric approach to early-stage collections. Our data and machine learning-driven engine proved unmatched for late-stage recoveries. Clients asked us to expand our product suite to address early-stage delinquency while keeping their customers in their brand ecosystem, and we were happy to oblige,” said Mark Ravanesi, CEO of TrueAccord Corp.
Retain prioritizes customer engagement and preference, which is critical to preserve the lender-borrower relationship, with custom communications, timing and channels and a self-serve payment platform that empowers customers to easily manage their accounts. Unlike traditional call-to-collect early-stage collections, which require increased outbound call center volumes, Retain engages users more effectively and efficiently with a digital-first approach and can reduce costs by transforming call centers into productive inbound operations.
“Retain takes all the innovative customer engagement processes we’ve built and adds a brand-focused retention toolkit for our clients to easily plug and play to engage with their delinquent customers,” added Ohad Samet, co-founder and CEO of One True Holding Company, TrueAccord’s parent company. “Retain adds to our product and service offerings designed to improve the experience for consumers in debt and actually help them find a path toward a better financial future.”
For more product information or to request a demo, please visit the product page at www.trueaccord.com.
TrueAccord is the intelligent, digital-first collection and recovery company that leaders across industries trust to drive breakthrough results while delivering a superior consumer experience. TrueAccord pioneered the industry’s only adaptive intelligence: a patented machine learning engine, powered by engagement data from over 16 million consumer journeys, that dynamically personalizes every facet of the consumer experience – from channel to message to plan type and more – in real-time. Combined with code-based compliance and a self-serve digital experience, TrueAccord delivers liquidation and recovery rates 50-80% higher than industry benchmarks. The TrueAccord product suite includes Retain, an early-stage collection solution, and Recover, a full-service post-charge off recovery platform.
About One True Holding Company
One True Holding Company is a technology company providing business- and consumer-facing solutions in the consumer debt space. Subsidiaries include TrueAccord, which offers machine learning-based, digital- and mobile-first servicing for debt in collections and recoveries, and True Life Solutions, which offers a SaaS platform that consumers can use to contact collectors and creditors digitally.
Digital-first debt collection fintech readies for continued B2B and B2C expansion with strategic leadership reorganization
TrueAccord Corporation, a debt collection company offering digital-first and consumer-centric solutions for resolving debts, today announced changes to its executive leadership team to support a planned expansion of products and services. The changes include Sheila Monroe, who previously served as CEO, moving to a new role as chief growth officer for TrueAccord’s parent company, One True Holding Company, with Mark Ravanesi, formerly chief revenue officer (CRO), filling the role as newly appointed CEO of TrueAccord. One True Holding Company also named a chief marketing officer (CMO), Naama Bloom, to drive integrated marketing as the company looks to engage new and different clients.
After two and a half years building and growing TrueAccord as CEO, Monroe takes on a new strategic role as chief growth officer for One True Holding Company, allowing her to tap into her vast global network and industry knowledge. She will focus on strategic opportunities to grow the organization through partnerships, regional expansion and other tactics. With more than 20 years of financial and recoveries experience, along with her ability to navigate complex regulatory environments, Monroe has been a key driver of TrueAccord’s growth and execution.
Assuming the role of CEO at TrueAccord, Ravanesi will manage overall operations and resources while leading the development and implementation of the company’s strategy and mission. Since joining TrueAccord in 2019, Ravanesi has served as vice president of client success and CRO, playing integral roles in growing the sales organization and leading the company’s analytics and client-facing teams. He is a seasoned industry leader with more than 20 years of experience in the collections space, focusing on strategy, analytics, policies and strategies. Ravanesi’s previous roles include director and leadership positions at Barclays Bank, Discover Financial Services and GE Money.
“This is an important step in the evolution of TrueAccord and the whole OTHC group of companies. We will leverage Sheila’s industry expertise in a new, strategic capacity to continue our overall growth trajectory,” said Ohad Samet, co-founder and CEO of One True Holding Company, TrueAccord’s parent company. “Second, we get to apply and expand Mark’s successful mission- and results-oriented leadership in sales to the larger TrueAccord organization, accelerating the tremendous growth we’ve seen in the past years.”
One True Holding Company will continue its long-term success with new products and services targeted to a broader client and customer base, offered by TrueAccord’s sister companies. In alignment with its growth plan, One True Holding Company named Bloom as CMO to create and oversee a comprehensive marketing strategy that will promote brand recognition and deliver offerings that have value for customers, clients and business partners. Bloom brings more than 20 years of marketing experience as a brand builder, entrepreneur and business leader for Fortune 500 companies and startups.
“One True Holding Company has introduced best in class machine learning and digital-first debt collection solutions that consumers love with TrueAccord. Adding a marketing leader to our organization is an important step in doubling down on our trusted brand with clients and consumers alike,” added Samet. “Naama has tremendous experience building marketing teams and building iconic brands that consumers can trust as part of their everyday lives. I am thrilled about bringing in her leadership and expertise to connect the TrueAccord brand, among others, to our business as we move into new verticals and markets.”
The One True Holding Company leadership team also includes Gene Linetsky (chief technology officer), Noah Barr (chief financial officer), Laura Marino (chief product officer), Courtney Graham (chief people officer) and Nadav Samet (chief innovation officer), with Charles Deutsch serving as general manager of the financial services subsidiary True Life Solutions, which launched the game-changing consumer product, Engage.
Over the past year, One True Holding Company and its subsidiaries added more than 200 new hires with plans to continue expanding through 2021, with open positions across engineering, product, sales, client services, marketing, legal and operations. See all open positions and apply here: https://www.trueaccord.com/about-us/careers/
Founded in 2013, TrueAccord’s data-driven debt collection platform is disrupting the collection industry by helping businesses collect more debt online than traditional methods. TrueAccord’s platform is powered by machine learning with a decision engine that analyzes consumer behavior and delivers personalized and empathetic consumer experiences. By communicating at the right time in the right channel with payment options that meet consumer needs, TrueAccord provides exceptional recovery rates for top 10 financial institutions, debt buyers, lenders and technology companies. TrueAccord empowers many of the estimated 77 million consumers who are in debt every year to get on a path to better financial fitness. To learn more, go to http://www.trueaccord.com.
About One True Holding Company
One True Holding Company is a technology company providing business- and consumer-facing solutions in the consumer debt space. Subsidiaries include TrueAccord, which offers machine learning-based, digital- and mobile-first servicing for debt in collections and recoveries, and True Life Solutions, which offers a SaaS platform that consumers can use to contact collectors and creditors digitally.
In a recent report by the Aite Group, TrueAccord was featured in the inaugural edition of the “Retail Banking & Payments Fintech Spotlight”, which highlighted disruptive fintechs with a strong focus on technologies that improve the customer experience. Analysts from Aite Group selected the six featured fintech vendors exclusively based on their level of innovation and their interesting approaches to wider business challenges facing the retail banking and payments market from both bank and customer perspectives.
The key differentiator making TrueAccord an innovative fintech disruptor? Not just taking an old system and making it digital, but using a customer-centric approach and machine learning engine that caters to each individual’s needs and seeks to fundamentally change the way consumers manage their debt.
TrueAccord directs consumer focused messages to their preferred communication channel at the right time, all in line with federal and state requirements. With automated communications and the consumer’s ability to self-serve, TrueAccord collection agents can service 80,000 accounts at a time, compared to the typical 1,000 to 2,500 accounts that a traditional agent manages on behalf of the financial institution client. In addition, TrueAccord has found that allowing the consumer to propose their own payment arrangements within the institution’s approved parameters makes it 50% less likely that they will break that payment agreement.
“Taking an existing process, especially one that is historically not consumer-friendly, and overhauling it from the ground up to actually benefit consumers is disruptive in the best way,” said Leslie Parrish, Senior Analyst, Aite Group. “While many companies focus on the consumer experience during the loan application process, very few bring that same attention to providing a consumer-friendly digital-first experience to the collection of that debt. TrueAccord’s unique approach to debt collection serves as a catalyst for transforming the collections industry.”
Excerpt from “Retail Banking & Payments Fintech Spotlight”:
The process of collecting on consumer debt is in need of a serious update, and TrueAccord distinguishes itself as a true stand-out in this industry. Together, the company’s three offerings provide a comprehensive solution set for both financial institutions and consumers. Consumers have significant pain points in dealing with unwanted collector calls and would much prefer to deal with these unpaid debts without having to speak with an agent. TrueAccord’s Recover and Retain platforms collectively provide financial institutions with a way to effectively communicate and collect on accounts at varying stages of delinquency in a way that is hospitable to consumers.
To read the full TrueAccord spotlight, download a copy of the report here.
Back in 2019, TrueAccord pledged to hire 50 new Lenexa team members every year until reaching our goal of 150.
But thanks to a huge growth in business, TrueAccord has accelerated its hiring, adding 84 employees working remotely across the nation and from its Lenexa, Kansas office since the beginning of March alone.
Overall, the Lenexa office has grown from 12 employees to over 118 people in under two years, and we’re still actively hiring across many functions. Lenexa is home to many team members across various roles, ranging from customer engagement, finance, operations, legal & compliance to engineering.
TrueAccord has been particularly well positioned to adapt quickly when it came to shifting our employees to work from home by being a technology-forward company. Like many companies across the nation, our employees had to undergo major changes in their daily routines when adapting our workforce to operate during COVID-19. The majority of Kansas-based employees work from home, while those who need to come into the office are able to do so with appropriate social distancing.
“While the pandemic has disrupted so many people’s livelihoods across the country,” says CEO Sheila Monroe, “I continue to be proud of TrueAccord’s commitment to change the experience for consumers in debt for good. We’re driven by our mission to improve the customer experience for everyone throughout the credit lifecycle, and recent events have only strengthened the need for the way we do business.”
TrueAccord is hiring across the board—in Lenexa and remotely. Check out our open positions here.
The LendIt Fintech USA 2020 conference is just around the corner on September 29 through October 1, with an exciting lineup of industry experts from leading traditional banks, fintech platforms, and tech companies discussing innovations in lending, digital banking, embedded finance, and more. Here are the three sessions we’re most excited to attend:
1. The Next Level of Fintech: Building your Customer Ecosystem
When: September 29, 11:30am-12:00 pm EDT
The speakers: Craig Boundy, CEO of Experian North America, and Peter Renton, Chairman at Lendit Fintech
Why we’re excited: Customer loyalty and meaningful engagement matter more than ever as the landscape of consumer fintech products and services becomes increasingly crowded. Experian North America CEO Craig Boundy will discuss how his team leverages data and technology innovation beyond just customer acquisition but to also earn consumers’ loyalty for the long haul.
2. New Approaches to Collections in Times of Crisis
When: September 29, 4:20-5:00 pm EDT
The speakers: Ohad Samet, CEO of TrueAccord, Jacob Corlyon, CEO of Capital Collection Management, Hersh Shah, Sr. Director – Transaction Advisory at RSM US LLP and Praveen Kombial, Global Product Head of Business Applications at EdgeVerve
Why we’re excited: As the economic ripples of the pandemic continue, the collections industry is facing unique challenges. We’re looking forward to our CEO Ohad Samet sharing how TrueAccord has adapted to consumer needs during these times as well as learning from the other panelists on how they’ve rolled out new initiatives spurred by this crisis.
3. New Insights into Consumer Financial Resiliency Amidst Current Market Dynamics
When: September 30, 2:00-2:30 pm EDT
The speaker: Dave Shellenberger, VP of Product Management, Scores and Analytics at FICO
Why we’re excited: While we have insight into our consumer behavior in response to COVID-19, we’re interested in learning more from FICO on how they’ve developed a new analytical framework that can be used across the consumer lifecycle to better understand consumer financial resiliency.
As the US is starting to understand the impact of COVID-19 and its aftermath on our economy, more consumers are expected to default and find themselves dealing with debt. Banks, lenders, and other financial players are accelerating their digital transformation roadmaps, shortening years’ worth of development into mere months, in an attempt to service consumers at scale while managing the complexities of our new normal and the limitations of outdated infrastructure.
This push to digitize rewards market leaders, and as a result TrueAccord is growing, and every month we serve more consumers and more financial institutions than we ever did. Growth attracts clients, funding, and world-class talent, and the latter is what we’re excited to announce today.
Laura Marino joins TrueAccord as Chief Product Officer. We work with some of the most sophisticated financial institutions in the world, and they require outstanding innovation, speed to market, and high-quality execution. Consumers need delightful experiences and a helping hand on their way back to financial stability. Laura’s experience at Lever and other enterprise-facing technology companies will be instrumental in upleveling our product offering, meeting our clients needs, and articulating a roadmap that combines an understanding of regulations, robust architecture, and an ever-evolving, high-performing servicing capability that supports financial institutions and consumers alike.
Charles Deutsch joins us as General Manager of Financial Services. TrueAccord offers low-friction, easy-to-use repayment tools for consumers who are ready to tackle their debt repayment journey and improve their financial stability. Regardless, many consumers can’t pay their debts because of financial difficulties. Charles will draw on his vast experience in running fintech businesses to build tools to help consumers improve their financial situation, and as a result, their ability to repay debt.
Laura Marino and Charles Deutsch join a world-class team composed of company Founder and CEO of TrueAccord Group, Ohad Samet, Sheila Monroe as COO and CEO of TrueAccord Corp, Gene Linetsky as CTO, Noah Barr as CFO, and Nadav Samet as CIO and General Manager of True Life Solutions, which launched the game-changing consumer product, Engage.
Today, TrueAccord released Consumer Debt in the Age of COVID-19, a report exploring how debt repayment and other consumer behaviors have changed throughout the coronavirus crisis. Based on aggregated, anonymized data from 12 million U.S. consumers, the report highlights that consumers choֵse to pay off debt when provided with an infusion of cash, even during a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. Despite an initial slowdown as the crisis worsened in the U.S, debt repayment volumes hit a record high on April 15th, the day the first wave of CARES Act checks hit bank accounts.
Key insights and trends from the report include:
Consumers chose to leverage their CARES Act cash to pay down debt. On April 15th, there was a near-instantaneous increase in debt payments as the first wave of checks hit bank accounts. Payment dollars were 25% higher than the previous tax season peak.
One-time stimulus changed consumer behaviors. With stimulus checks in hand, consumers flocked toward paying off their debt in full — the rate of lump-sum payments was 50% higher than the same period last year. The ones who did sign up for payment plans chose shorter payment terms with higher monthly installments.
Payments will continue to be irregular. In early March, nationwide panic led to decreased engagement and payment activity from consumers. While stimulus payments and unemployment benefits empowered consumers to pay off debt in record numbers in April and May, that trend won’t remain constant over the coming months.
“TrueAccord has always known that consumers in debt aren’t villains or victims — they’re caught in a difficult situation, trying to optimize for day-to-day survival while managing their obligations,” says Ohad Samet, CEO of One True Holding Company, the parent company of TrueAccord. “So when presented with an unexpected windfall and fewer spending opportunities, many of these consumers chose to repay debt. This trend was especially clear for a company like TrueAccord, which puts consumers in charge, by providing self-service tools, rather than coercing them into making a payment.”
With an uncertain economy and the possibility of additional stimulus packages, debt collectors must be prepared for unusual spikes in engagement and payment in the coming months. In order to best serve consumers, they must streamline their processes to make it as easy as possible for consumers to pay their debts when they choose to and to modify their plans when they can’t. The report includes four recommendations that companies collecting debt can implement to update their operations for this unusual time.
“Consumers have learned to expect digital-first solutions from their financial service providers, and the collections industry needs to keep up,” said Sheila Monroe, CEO of TrueAccord. “Our systems and processes empower consumers to engage when they want to, where they want to, using their device and channel of choice, and provide the flexibility to set up payment arrangements that fit their irregular schedules.”
TrueAccord is bringing together industry experts to continue the collections revolution. Today, we’re joined by Mike Walsh, TrueAccord’s Vice President of Enterprise Sales. With over twenty years of experience in the collections industry, Mike has been an active part of the evolution of collection practices and standards. His more recent work has been focused on helping drive technological and customer-focused change, and we discuss what those changes look like for collectors and consumers alike.
What can you tell us about your background in collections?
I got started in the industry in 1996, right out of college. Everyone’s dream is to go into collections and sales, right? I started in a position primarily handling client servicing. Even back then I saw that people have a negative view of the industry, but my experience has been really positive. I’ve met a lot of great people in collections and continue to build great relationships.
This really is a relationship-oriented business. The industry is based on trust, and I learned early on that your reputation is really what you’re selling. Whether you’re in client services or on the phone with consumers, you have to constantly build a reputable brand.
I’m thankful that I have been able to work on teams where I really believed in the product and the people. Your reputation and your company’s reputation are directly tied together, and it’s great to feel confident in both.
You were directly involved in the collections process for many years and more recently, you’ve turned to working with companies that aim to optimize and customize others’ collections processes. Can you talk a bit about how you feel your experience working in collections management has shaped your perspective on these newer tools and services?
More than anything else I’ve seen customers change. It’s gotten more and more difficult to reach consumers over the phone; people just aren’t answering phone calls anymore. It’s part of what I call the “Amazoning of America”—consumers don’t call in to order a product or a service, they pull it up on their phone, press a button, and they’re done.
Understanding how we as an industry help the customer in light of these changes is tough. Adjusting to these needs efficiently in an effort to provide a better user experience has always been my focus. Giving people the ability to choose is more important now than ever. You hate to tell someone “oh, we don’t do that” when they request a specific way of doing business with you.
In order to adapt to this changing customer, I always keep my eyes open for new tools with enhanced efficiencies and use that to help guide my professional pursuits. If a product or service benefits the customer, that benefit will trickle up to the client. This is how I found VoApps, and it’s part of why I joined TrueAccord. Both companies focus on how to improve the customer experience in a way that is less intrusive to the consumer.
Even social media channels can provide another way for consumers to find you. The more flexibility that your team can offer, the easier it is for the customer.
Every consumer-facing industry is looking for ways to be less intrusive, and, as a consumer myself, I totally understand. That evolution important to me. I have a special needs son, so my time is very valuable. If someone is calling me it had better be important, and if it isn’t, my first thought is “why didn’t you just text me this?”
Going off of that: it’s clear that you see the value in emerging technologies and changing behaviors in the industry. What are some patterns that you’ve seen develop in your career that have driven these changes, and why is now the time for these new approaches to collecting?
The development of customer-focused and customer supported technologies drive changes in the industry. When I was on the phones in the 1990s working as a collector we had “hot contact times” from 6 pm to 8 pm—the best time to reach people. Then the rise in cell phones made contact centers completely rethink how they were getting in touch with people. The evening “hot contact times” didn’t exist anymore when people started carrying their phones in their pockets.
Right now there is a need to provide a collections experience focused on customer service. People rate everything. Consumers are reviewing restaurants as if they’re big-screen TVs, and they want to share that information—and share it quickly. If you’re aware of this, you can harness it. You can build your company around consumer choice and those choices, in turn, will support your brand.
In debt collection, that means developing your product based on your consumer’s needs and experimenting to determine what consumers prefer and what they do not. Consider how they want to connect and when? How do they like to do business? Then build more of what they prefer.
Did that at all impact your decision to join TrueAccord?
I couldn’t fathom that a collection agency had a positive Google Review rating until I first saw TrueAccord’s 4.8 out of 5 stars. It helps illustrate the importance of building a platform based on meeting consumers’ needs and making sure that they associate your brand with a positive experience.
What do you think comes next for the collections space?
I’ve always been a big believer in the power of behavior science and machine learning. It doesn’t surprise me that its application to the collection industry, especially by a company focused firmly on a customer-focused approach, is disrupting one of the oldest industries in the world. The big reason I’m here is to help the team bring this customer-focused future to the rest of the industry.
TrueAccord’s Director of Service Operations, Cassie Cox, and our General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Tim Collins, hosted a webinar on May 13th, 2020 to talk through collections continuity in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The team discussed adjusting to regulatory changes, how to effectively manage a work-from-home approach in collections, and what the future of the industry may look like.
How are federal and state regulations changing?
Federal-level regulatory updates
The pandemic has prompted the US federal government to examine how it can work to aid Americans in need. Following the CARES Act, the House has proposed a new, $3 trillion relief package, and we are likely to see other potential stimulus packages discussed as the Senate proposes their own stimulus plan. Major industry organizations like insideARM and the ACA International are watching these unfold closely, as should we all.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s activity has not slowed during the pandemic, and they are on track to meet their examination goals this year. Remote auditing processes are in place and buzzing. They may not be in your offices, but the CFPB’s teams are still actively working to ensure the industry remains compliant.
State-level regulatory updates
Several states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, are pursuing legislation that directly impacts the ability of collectors to reach consumers. Massachusetts’ Attorney General recently enacted an emergency law that outright banned collections efforts.
This was fought by the ACA, and the law was declared too broad and in violation of First Amendment rights, but the changing playing field does not end there. New Jersey has worked to pass similar legislation which has now been narrowed to primarily impact medical debt collection practices.
There will also likely be a heightened focus on state budgets and an increase in understanding how to bolster state economies.
As of this writing, forty-seven US states are either reopening or partially reopening by lifting shelter-in-place orders. Twenty of these state legislatures are now back in session and may begin to make other changes that collectors should keep an eye on. There will also likely be a heightened focus on state budgets and an increase in understanding how to bolster state economies.
One major change that seems to be for the better is the newfound flexibility for collection agencies and other companies to allow employees to work from home. This behavior is being echoed by Rhode Island’s new “stay healthy” order which has started the reopening process but is strongly encouraging employees to work from home when possible. Collections is beginning to adapt to the changing need, and TrueAccord was able to adapt quickly.
How is collections operations changing?
Maintaining control and information security in a work-from-home environment
TrueAccord’s team began to prepare for potential risk to our operations in early March by reviewing and updating our practices, policies, and procedures to make sure all of our teams could effectively work from home.
Here are some of the standards we established as we transitioned 80% of our agents to work from home full-time:
Replicate an effective office space
Agents must have a private area in their home and commit to working their shift uninterrupted.
Agents must have a minimum internet speed of 50Mb/s in order to maintain high sound quality on calls.
Enhance work from home agent information security
Agents do not take payments over the phone. All payments are received via IVR or guided through our secure payment portal.
Agents are not permitted to have cell phones near their workplace.
Agents are monitored by their supervisors via webcam with at least two random checks throughout the day.
Calls are randomly monitored by supervisors to ensure continued commitment to exceptional customer service and quality.
These were only made possible by bringing on new technologies and building processes before we dove in headfirst. We also made sure that all of our agents fully understood these new practices in advance, and they signed off on the policies ahead of time. The 20% of our team members that are still in-office (at safe distances) continue to meet the same standards as the other agents.
The remaining 20% either opted to not work from home due to a lack of interest or they were not permitted due to their homes not meeting security requirements (e.g. not having a private space, not having a fast enough internet speed, etc.).
Managing agent performance standards remotely
Call centers are filled with high-energy individuals that are driven by their wins. Maintaining the same hum and energy of an office space without sharing the same space is difficult, and we’ve taken steps to keep our agents excited about their work.
Meet (virtually) Face to face
A robust virtual management system has been put in place to keep building our team’s connectivity. The webcams we provided to our agents not only help with security monitoring but also increase our ability to build team morale. All of our agents are dialed into (and muted on) a Google Hangout or Zoom meeting throughout the day so that at any point they can turn and see their teammates working hard.
This practice has also extended to our new management strategy. All of our contact center team meetings are required to be on camera so that we get face time with each other. These meetings include small group meetings, individual coaching sessions, and any other 1:1 meetings as well.
Look for opportunities to create additional team touchpoints. Our current structure includes:
Weekly coaching sessions
Weekly team meetings
Random, weekly 15-minute huddles
We also have a wide range of Slack channels in place for sharing anything from anecdotes to best practices. In an office environment, it’s easy for folks to look over their shoulder and share tips and tricks, and those conversations drive positive change. Slack (and other work chat tools) also provide ways to circulate urgent updates with ease.
Keep the excitement up
We’ve increased our budget for intra-day chachkes, small giveaways, and rewards. Our in-office management style was largely visual: performance trend boards, goal setting boards, and team-based competitions were huge drivers for us. Now, we’re turning to setting up more contests. In this environment, a $10 gift card can get almost as much traction as a $50 card. It’s the thrill of the win, not necessarily the prize itself. Keep the energy up!
Monitor issues closely
The first two weeks of the work-from-home experiment were an amazing honeymoon period. There were three, consecutive days of perfect attendance in our contact center. Typical efficiency metrics like production volume per hour and average handle time have remained consistent. Keeping the same levels of performance is another story entirely, and close performance management is critical to making work-from-home, well, work.
We continue to track month to date metrics and just as closely monitor individual daily performance. Though many of our agents had no issue moving to a home environment, just as with any contact center, the bottom 10% of our group semi-frequently underperforms. It’s more essential now to keep a careful eye on red flags and correct underlying issues immediately.
The biggest concern was properly tracking things like call or work avoidance or time card manipulation. Thankfully, with all of our systems are aligned and our supervisors actively checking on their teams, the only instance we found was caught immediately.
Terminating a remote employee
Unfortunately, this is a necessary part of any operations manager’s role. In a work-from-home world, we still want to make it as direct an experience as possible. The full investigation, conclusion, and termination conversation should all be conducted via video conference.
Beyond the human aspect of termination, there are data and security considerations that should be tested ahead of time. Your team should understand how and when data should be cleared from a remote employee’s computer, and systems should be in place for the employee to either drop off or otherwise return their gear. Remember to accommodate for the possibility of lost assets. Some folks, even under contract, may not return your stuff.
What is coming next?
Changes in the office
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a lot of changes to the way companies operate in general. While it continues to unfold, we are likely to see more change. That said “Right now, maintaining [business continuity] means not changing anything,” said Cox.
As shelter-in-place rules begin to lift, and we see some employees return to their offices, we will see physical changes:
New desk layouts
A possible return to cubicles or dividers and a shift away from open-plan offices
New air filtration standards for enclosed spaces
Changes in the industry
While the US economy recovers, we expect to see a massive wave of customers that are unable to pay their bills. Unemployment rates will continue to drive payments from slightly overdue to collections, and debt collection agencies and internal recovery teams are likely to struggle to meet the account volume.
“Collections has long been driven by human capital,” said Collins in discussing the need for contact center agents. “Technology will have to step in and fill a new, higher demand.” He went on to add that alongside the increase in volume, we expect a change in collections mentality. In order to overcome the disparity between payment deadlines and consumers unable to meet them, there will be a rise in customizable payment plans, hardship plans, and digital, self-service tools.
Crises drive rapid evolution and change. Many business practices and technologies that were slowly gaining traction in a pre-COVID-19 world are now fast-tracked. Working from home is a must at the moment, and the collections industry has to embrace that. Moving forward, we’re likely to see new innovators that are reinventing an aging industry, and it’s time for collections to adapt.
TrueAccord is redefining the collections industry, and the fastest way to do that is by building the best teams. I sat down for a conversation with Tobias Campbell, a former operations manager at a payday and installment loan company in charge of in-house collections—and our team’s newest Account Executive—to discuss his experience in the industry, what challenges he faced in traditional collections (including falling right party contact rates and high employee turnover), and why he decided to join TrueAccord.
Welcome to the team! Before we dive in, could you tell us a little about your experience in finance and how your career led you into the collections space?
Prior to my start in collections in 2016, I worked at a large bank in the retail and private banking investment portfolio space. When I had the opportunity to transition to the consumer finance industry working in-house as an operations manager for a larger consumer lending company I wanted to take the chance despite collections’ negative reputation. I knew there had to be a better way to get in touch with consumers and change that perception.
What was your focus as an operations manager when you got started?
Initially, I spent time listening to agent calls and getting a clear sense of how they engaged with customers, and I was really determined to improve our right party contact rate. I helped transform the training process for agents to use more of a sales approach.
We still coached the team on building rapport with the consumers they were reaching, but also leveraged sales strategies in an effort to increase our overall performance. Beyond new training strategies for our agents, we started to dabble a little in sending emails, but they were basic drip campaigns consisting of a few manual emails per person.
The small changes added up, and we were able to double our right party contact rates. But ultimately those improvements were marginal. Calling to collect wasn’t sustainable and the law of diminishing returns started to kick in, especially as we ran into more call blocking apps and services.
So when training smoothed out, what were some of the other challenges you were running into?
Two of the biggest ones we were facing were agent turnover and trying to keep up with the volume of accounts we were managing. We had to bring new agents on pretty frequently because of the high turnover rates. When agents first start there’s an element of excitement because they’re ready to start their new job. They can make a difference. They’d start off strong, but then we’d see those same people burnout in three to six months.
TrueAccord was performing 7 times better than our internal team, and that’s including the service fee that we were paying
It’s a very difficult job. Anyone that’s ever worked in collections knows that even if you manage to get a consumer on the phone, especially with an account that’s been delinquent for more than six months, the likelihood of securing that payment is slim. It’s hard to keep agents motivated and excited through that. Plus, there’s the compliance piece.
Having the technology in place to ensure your agents meet all of the compliance obligations is a daily struggle. No matter the number of tools available, the amount of compliance training, or the level of oversight, there is always the chance for human error when you have live agents on the phone.
At the same time, we realized that we were just getting too big, and our internal team could not handle our volume, especially with a declining RPC rate. We had our entire collection strategy in-house for so long, so we looked at our numbers, and the further accounts went into delinquency, the harder and harder it got to reach them. There was a need for a partner that could help us in the late-stage space.
Our CEO at the time knew Ohad [Samet, the Founder of TrueAccord] and he saw what TrueAccord was doing—leveraging technology and email, which we weren’t really using—so we decided to send over any accounts that went beyond 120 days. We kept 10% of that paper ourselves so that we could compare effectiveness rates between the mostly digital and the call-to-collect strategy.
What did that comparison look like?
The change was night and day. After six months, we saw that TrueAccord was performing on par with our internal team’s historic performance on those portfolios, but [TrueAccord’s machine learning engine] Heartbeat kept going. At twelve months, TrueAccord was recovering twice as much as we were on a percentage of outstanding debt, and by the time I left in early 2020, TrueAccord was performing 7 times better than our internal team, and that’s including the service fee that we were paying TrueAccord.
We had customers that would get on the phone with an agent, and they would say “hey, can you send me to TrueAccord?” They would regularly talk about having more options, more flexibility, and the most common one was “they don’t call me 3, 4, 5 times per day!”
When you started to see the difference between TrueAccord and your internal team, was there any plan to try and update your practices to something more in line with what TrueAccord was doing?
We saw consumers gravitating toward digital communications over phone calls, so we recruited a product manager to research and build a digital strategy in house. There was some conversation around improving our email messaging by making the tone softer, since our current emails felt very businesslike and, well, boring?
There was a lot of talk around needing to make these substantial changes, but we didn’t know how. We didn’t have the infrastructure in place, we wouldn’t be able to automate content personalization the way TrueAccord does. Plus, the costs needed to develop the solution were a barrier to entry, especially when we already had a partner providing those services successfully. I decided that I wanted to join TrueAccord because I saw that unfolding, and I knew that TrueAccord had a differentiated product: a flywheel for this industry.
If you had to offer a final takeaway piece of advice to other lenders doing in-house collections, what would you tell them?
Don’t lose sight of the backend of the business from a revenue perspective. There is typically an intense focus on attracting new consumers to the product, and we start to forget about previous customers that still owe money on their account.
I would advise other managers in the collections space to think about building a digital line of defense, especially in preparation for a downturn or recession. When consumers are in a difficult situation, digital approaches can better connect with them and will lead to more dollars recovered.
TrueAccord is a machine-learning and Al-driven 3rd-party debt collection company that is reinventing debt collection. We make debt collection empathetic and customer-focused and deliver a great user experience.
Our digital-first approach to debt collection creates a cycle of collections growth:
1. Improve the perception of the industry
2. Provide a personalized experience
3. Build brand equity and collect