Operations insights: An interview with Tobias Campbell

By on April 21st, 2020 in Company News, Industry Interviews

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.

Are you ready to invest in a sustainable digital infrastructure? Get in touch with our team today!

One True Holding Company writes to the CFPB

By on March 24th, 2020 in Company News

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is set to help shape massive changes to the debt collection industry. In an effort to continue our mission to protect consumers from predatory and aggressive collections experiences, the co-founder of TrueAccord, Ohad Samet, recently drafted a letter to the CFPB’s Director Kathleen Kraninger.

In the midst of major economic uncertainty, we understand that we must be compassionate when many consumers are struggling financially. Offering consumers in debt flexibility by supporting and expanding the industry’s digital infrastructure enables us to extend self-service options to those that need it most and limit their exposure to collections efforts that are intrusive and harassing. 

Some states are considering freezing collections efforts, but we continue to believe in consumers’ ability to manage their finances for themselves. Access to online portals and self-service payment plan adjustments can help them manage their overdue accounts at their own pace, even in times of financial instability. A complete suspension of their ability to pay, if and when they can afford it, can make matters worse.

Passing the NPRM into law can help to restructure collections to protect consumers today. 

You can read our letter to Director Kraninger below:

Our letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Director Kraninger,

I am the CEO of One True Holding Company, a technology company providing business- and consumer-facing solutions in the debt collection space. Our subsidiary TrueAccord Corp. offers machine learning-based, digital- and mobile-first servicing for debt in collections and recoveries. Our subsidiary True Life Solutions offers consumers a SaaS platform that consumers can use to contact collectors and creditors digitally.

We service millions of consumers on a monthly basis, sending more than 18 million emails a month. As a technology startup at the forefront of debt collection efforts, we have both quantitative and qualitative views of the state of the economy and debt collection within it.

Times like these require swift action, and technology allows us to empower consumers while reacting to changing circumstances without having to re-train a large workforce. Since the crisis began, we have been able to seamlessly launch features allowing consumers to modify their payment plans on their own and set up longer and more flexible payment arrangements. We are launching tools for clients to offer automated digital relief programs. Consumers still interact often with the emails we send as they try to stay abreast of their finances and remain informed. 1

Our pandemic response page, offering tools and perspectives about finances in this time, sees more than 1,200 daily visits. Technology offers better service, a sense of empowerment and agency, and keeps our users informed through complicated circumstances. As a consumer-focused company, we carefully track our customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, and those have remained high (at 68.45% for the month of March). Consumers appreciate our approach, as these reviews also show:

Consumer review from 3/19/20 

You were patient. All emails were kind even from the beginning of my debt. You motivated me to repay my debts and monitor my credit. You appreciated me and I felt the extraordinary customer service from the day I first took the loan. I am grateful and even during this pandemic [emphasis added] I felt my loyalty to complete my payment of this loan over any other bill. Thank you again!

Consumer review from 3/18/20

Settled in a manner that facilitated affordable payments on a schedule that fit my life. I wish all collection agencies were this caring and flexable [sic]. Hopefully, I’ll never have another collections account, but if I do, I pray it’s with this agency.

As a single father making minimum wage, finding money to pay bills that aren’t crucial to keeping my kids healthy and happy is a real struggle, and my credit score had taken the hit in the past. I am really, truly grateful this is one acct that gets crossed off my list. Thanks!

I write today to ask the CFPB to accelerate its NPRM and swiftly push the industry to rely predominantly on digital communications for the purpose of debt collection. We need to continue to communicate with consumers through their channel of choice, in a non-intrusive manner, allowing them to easily manage their finances while controlling who they want to interact with. We need to continue to allow them to access their accounts and make adjustments to fit their personal circumstances.

Through this last week consumers have continued to set up customized payment plans on a daily basis, at a rate comparable to pre-tax season behavior. These are consumers acting on their own, responding to our low-frequency digital contact efforts. Finances aren’t one-size-fits-all, and a digitally native collection service supports this variety even in these trying times.

Thank you for your consideration and leadership in these trying times. We are eager to share as much data and qualitative observations as possible to support your policy-making and continue this conversation with a focus on consumer protection, choice, and experience

Citations

1. More than 20% open rate per each individual email broadcast as of 3/21, comparable with and exceeding eCommerce benchmarks

TrueAccord launches redesigned website

By on November 12th, 2019 in Company News

TrueAccord is redefining the collections experience. In order to grow as a company and continue to revolutionize the industry, we’ve redesigned our website to better reflect our dedication to a positive user experience!

Designing for the user

Being a leading modern debt collection solution means striving to provide a better experience for consumers in debt and creditors alike. The first step in this design process was revamping the website architecture to reflect our business growth, with industry and role-specific pages, as well as more details around our unique product and superior performance. 

Fig. 1: The new homepage (left) provides an immediate look into who we are, what we do, and (literally) illustrates our value propositions for everyone to see! 

If a user arrives on the site without any knowledge of AI or machine-learning, we still have to be able to explain what we’re capable of! This is why we’ve also included our awesome product showcase video below and directly on the homepage!

Designing for the future

We recognize that the collections industry is often cast in a negative light, and TrueAccord is here to create an empathy-driven collections experience. Right now, not everyone fully understands what that means. Having a platform for our brand’s voice and mission means we can more accurately and effectively reach creditors looking for a collections solution. 

With this improved website redesign, we can ensure that when a creditor is looking for a new collections strategy, they recognize that today’s customers expect a service that considers their experience. We know that the future is digital, and now we can share evidence of that with everyone! By proving that we’re worth listening to and making TrueAccord a collections authority, we will redefine the industry.

The impact of change

I had the chance to sit down and speak with Shannon Brown, TrueAccord’s Head of Design and lead designer on the website rebranding, and Vivian Chau, Senior Manager of Brand and Content Strategy, to discuss the intent behind the redesign, the power of future-proofing our strategy, and what’s next for TrueAccord’s image. 

How do you feel the new site will help us better serve our audiences?

Brown: The first thing, I think, is that we’re a digital-first, technology-driven company in an industry that isn’t always fluent in the language of technology.

Chau: Right, we knew that the website had to showcase what makes us a leading tech and customer-focused collections service, and the next step in drawing attention to that is having a website that helps potential clients learn about how collections fits into their revenue cycle management.

We still want to be able to showcase our modern collections approach and how we leverage machine-learning, but the heart of that is driven by customer empathy.

With dedicated sections on industry-specific information and more details highlighting our product performance, I’m excited to share and build upon TrueAccord’s new digital storefront.

Brown: We also worked closely with our sales and client services teams to understand questions our clients have and included a Solutions section to better address how TrueAccord can help businesses across different industries and roles. 

That leads to the next question, then: are there any features of the new site that you’re especially excited about?

Chau: Yes! I’m particularly excited to have our new website on a standalone Content Management System. Our content team will be able to add and optimize the website without having to ask for Engineering help which gives us a lot of flexibility. I see this project as a jumping off point for our marketing and brand initiatives, as our website, as should our brand, needs to continually evolve and change with the company as it grows. 

Brown: Speaking of growth: we’re working to attract top talent here, so I’m excited about our revamped careers page. It truly reflects the experience of working at TrueAccord and gives prospective employees more information about what it’s like here. Part of that TrueAccord experience is that we’re working to stand out in the industry.

Our new About Us section really highlights our commitment to empowering consumers and delivering great user experiences, and that our mission and company values tie everything together.

You both touched a bit on the impact that a clearly stated mission has on a company’s brand reputation. How did you go about the design process knowing with TrueAccord’s consumer-driven mission in mind?

Brown: We wanted to give consumers a space on the site. A lot of consumers receive an email from us and come to TrueAccord.com to see what we’re all about. The previous website spoke to our partners, but didn’t really give consumers information about how the TrueAccord experience can benefit them!

A big part of that was redirecting our focus to how our technology increases recovery rates and creates great consumer experiences instead of explaining the technology itself.

Chau: It was important too that we created something that was easy for everyone to understand. We still want to be able to showcase our modern collections approach and how we leverage machine-learning, but the heart of that is driven by customer empathy. The redesign articulates that and the hope is that it excites prospective clients and potential job candidates. 

TrueAccord is on a mission to change debt collection for good. With powerful tools in place, we continue to expand and grow and better showcase our product, highlight our performance, and demonstrate our values to clearly illustrate what sets us apart in the collections space.

Want to learn more about TrueAccord? Connect with our team!

TrueAccord Submits Debt Collection NPRM Comments

By on September 19th, 2019 in Company News, Compliance
man_signing_document

In an effort to further improve the debt collection experience for consumers, TrueAccord filed comments in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Notice of Proposed Debt Collection Rulemaking. Our experience using mostly email to communicate with consumers about their debts gives us the unique ability to provide detailed feedback to the CFPB on the parts of the Proposed Rule that impacts the use of email, data science, and machine learning in debt collection. 

We know that consumers in debt collection benefit from both email communications and machine learning technologies. Email communications allow consumers to access content at their convenience (including emails that contain legally required disclosures); new machine learning technologies provide additional information and payment options based on the consumer’s interactions to further personalize their collections experience.

What are we suggesting?

Make the transition into collections communication simpler

When emailing a consumer, either an initial communication—one containing the validation notice in the body—or any communication relating to the debt, a debt collector should be able to contact that consumer at the email address that the consumer provided to the creditor. 

The proposed rules do not currently provide this option without causing an undue burden on consumers. TrueAccord highlighted that unnecessary restrictions in the proposal greatly limit the ability to communicate with consumers via email. Consumers who have already provided their preference for electronic communications to their creditor(s) would be forced to take extra steps because they have fallen into collection. 

Define and properly evaluate email as a unique medium

Our customers regularly tell us that email is very different from phone calls and even paper mail. As such, email communications warrant different treatment under the FDCPA and should not be subject to the standard time, place, and manner restrictions that were designed for and apply to primarily oral communications.

TrueAccord asked the Bureau to take this opportunity to further modernize the FDCPA by distinguishing that certain provisions do not apply to email. 

Recognize other, optional forms of electronic communications as legitimate

We raise concerns over the proposed definition of “attempted communication” and “limited content message.” The current proposed definitions have the unintended consequence of limiting digital advertising and other electronic messages that consumers can opt-in to receive. 

What is our goal?

TrueAccord’s suggested changes will increase the proposed rule’s ability to make collections more efficient, provide actual notice to consumers, give consumers immediate access to information, and enable consumers to control how they want to communicate.

The debt collection proposed rulemaking is an opportunity to empower the vast majority of consumers who prefer to communicate electronically. The Bureau must take advantage of this opportunity.

You can read TrueAccord’s full comments here.

TrueAccord wins a Healthy Mothers Workplace Award

By on December 10th, 2018 in Company News
TrueAccord Blog

We’re happy to say we won a Silver Award in the Healthy Mother Workplace Awards by Legal Aid At Work.

Our Senior Director of HR, Laurina Phillip Muglia, had the following to say: “People live in the real world. They have families, bills, commutes and a finite amount of time each day. We recognize that our people need the flexibility to balance their priorities in different ways at different times. Having that flexibility is foundational to our success, it creates kind of a background vibe that with all the pressures of a startup, we don’t have to fret about having time for our families.”

We appreciate the recognition, and will continue working to improve our work environment (including our lactation room) to support parents.

TrueAccord Names Barclays Bank Industry Executive To COO; Hires Kelly Knepper-Stephens as VP of Legal; Promoted Lapis Kim

By on November 28th, 2018 in Company News
TrueAccord Blog

San Francisco, CALIFORNIA – (November 28, 2018) – TrueAccord (www.trueaccord.com), the first-of-its-kind tech platform that transforms the antiquated debt recovery industry, announced today that financial industry veteran Sheila Monroe has been named Chief Operating Officer. Monroe joins TrueAccord from Barclays and brings more than 30 years of financial services and collections experience to the leading fintech debt recovery company. The company also announced the appointment of collections law specialist, Kelly Knepper-Stephens as Vice President of Legal and the promotion of Lapis Kim as Vice President of Finance and Analytics.

Monroe, Knepper and Kim join TrueAccord’s growing diverse C-Suite and strong female leadership team.  Monroe will take over day-to-day key operating processes and manage many of the company’s key internal functions, including: critical financial institution client relations and onboarding, call center operations and strategic planning. At Barclays, Monroe was Managing Director of Group Operations where she established the operations strategy and technology roadmap for Barclays Collection and Recoveries Operations worldwide. Most recently, she was the COO of Simplicity Payments LLC and helped the healthcare financial service startup develop operational capability to move from pilot phase to product launch.

“Sheila brings Fortune 100, top bank industry experience to TrueAccord and will play a critical role in driving our next growth phase as she takes over daily operations,” said Ohad Samet, chief executive officer, TrueAccord. “Her extensive financial and recoveries pedigree at one of the largest banks in the world, coupled with her demonstrated ability to effectively navigate sensitive regulatory environments will lead TrueAccord in continued growth and impeccable execution.”

Kelly Knepper-Stephens joins TrueAccord from Stoneleigh Recovery Associates, where she specialized in local debt collection regulations. This year, Kelly was named one of Collection Advisor’s “20 Most Powerful Women in Collections” and was also listed as one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Collections” in 2016.

TrueAccord has also promoted Lapis Kim, who serves as Vice President of Finance and Analytics. Having led and built high-performance finance and analytics teams, as well as taken over key financial and strategic planning processes for the company, Lapis is now taking a seat at the table as part of the company’s executive leadership team.

“TrueAccord is an innovative company that is using technology to transform an incredibly antiquated industry,” said Monroe. “The debt collection marketplace is in desperate need of modernization and I’m excited by the opportunity to be a part of, and advance the company’s mission of reinventing the space.”

The company now counts 5 female executives of its executive leadership team, including 2 in the C-suite.

Founded in 2013, TrueAccord is a fully automated debt recovery technology that bridges the gap between the creditor and the roughly 77 million Americans who currently have debt in collections. The system uses behavioral analytics, machine learning, and a humanistic approach – the first time the antiquated (and often menacing) debt collection system has been challenged in decades. Over 25 percent of consumers contacted by debt collectors feel threatened. The TrueAccord platform was built with the goal of disrupting debt collection with AI, transparency, and most importantly – compassion.

Getting to Know Sophie Benbenek

By on June 13th, 2018 in Company News
TrueAccord Blog

Sophie Benbenek always planned on a career in the public sector, and would be working on policy or for some non-profit if she had not ended up at TrueAccord. But helping people is still very much in her job description. As head of data science at TrueAccord, Sophie was the lead architect for the decision engine that drives self-service collections at the company. Read on to learn more about Sophie, her love of Marvel Comics, and why she likely finished reading this sooner than you or I did.

Accounts Recovery ran a profile of our Sr. Manager of Data Science, Sophie Benbenek. You can read it here.

Yes, 866-611-2731 is Our Number. Why is That so Important for TrueAccord?

By on May 23rd, 2018 in Company News, Industry Insights
TrueAccord Blog

We wanted 866-611-2731 to be recognizable.

TrueAccord was built as a consumer facing brand from day one. We have one number, 866-611-2731, that we use for outbound and inbound calls. Our name is distinguishable, not a three letter acronym. We have Google reviews and an online presence. We wanted consumers to easily find, research, and comment on our presence. We want to make a difference.

You can’t help consumers if they don’t know who you are

Being in debt is scary, confusing, and generally not a great experience. When consumers are bombarded by calls from unknown numbers or worse, callers who pretend to be from their area code, their trust in phone calls erodes. Less trust leads to fewer contact rates, and disengaged consumers. Running away from your debt is a bad idea if the alternative is working with a customized, personalized, and digital first experience that actually helps you pay down what you owe. We wanted people to know who’s calling.

The thing is, debt collection can be a stepping stone. When turned into a cooperative and personalized experience, it can be a first step to getting back on your feet. People get into debt for many, diverse, largely unexpected reasons: divorce, job change, healthcare issues for them or a loved one. By making debt collection accessible, TrueAccord aims to be a part of your growth journey, not just focus on helping you pay a single debt. You’ll find customized payment options, an easy mobile experience, and a helpful customer service team (when you call our number, 866-611-2731).

Having a recognized number helps us call *less*

When consumers don’t pick up, the most common strategy is to call again. Agencies may call a number 5 times per day. At TrueAccord, we don’t think this is a good experience. When we call a consumer, even once, our recognized phone number allows them to find us online and be convinced that they want to talk. From there, going to our website or finding one of our emails in their inbox is a breeze. Self service is welcoming and easy. No more aggressive repeated phone calls when it’s least convenient.

Being customer-facing and helpful is our #1 goal. If you see 866-611-2731 in your caller ID, know that we’d love to help

Call us or click a link. Great experience in debt collection isn’t a myth anymore. That’s why we started TrueAccord, and why we want you to have an easy time finding us and talking to us.

TrueAccord’s 2018 Customer Survey: Net Promoter Score and Digital Trends

By on February 27th, 2018 in Company News, Product and Technology, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

 

We just posted our 2018 Customer Survey and the results are incredibly interesting.

Consumers in debt are definitely feeling more like TrueAccord customers, giving us a Net Promoter Score of 40, a new record for us and for the industry. We have also uncovered several interesting trends in customer preferences – not new, but definitely eye opening.

Click here to download the infographic summarizing our findings.

Welcome 2018!

By on January 5th, 2018 in Company News

Happy New Year! As we look back at 2017, we are thankful for a year full of growth for the company and for our team.  We hit some amazing milestones that could not have been possible without a smart, strong, passionate and dedicated team.

December is a month of celebrations, and we had an amazing holiday party to end the year.  We shed our casual work attire and had fun dressing to the nines and dancing the night away.

Of course, December is also a great time to give back and help those less fortunate.  We partnered with the San Francisco Fire Department for their Annual SFFD Holiday Toy Drive and were able to provide gifts to a number of program recipients. There are a few of us here at TrueAccord who benefitted from this program as kids, so it was awesome to see things come full circle. The SFFD Toy Program has been in operation since 1949 and strives to ensure all kids have a great holiday season full of toys. The team loved the idea of giving back and we hope to do more events like this in the future.

Our team continues to grow, we welcomed the final hires for 2017: Aviv Peretz, Senior Data Scientist / Cherlynne Serafino-King, Talen Acquisition Partner /Rocky Chau, Customer Engagement Specialist

Looking forward to what 2018 has in store.