How can you help protect New Yorkers from aggressive collections?

By on March 17th, 2020 in User Experience

The collections industry continues to expand its digital footprint as growing consumer preference for digital channels combines with stricter regulations on call volume and call rates. Digital communications are standard today, but a key law passed in 2014 by the New York State Department of Financial Services of New York limits third-party collectors’ abilities to connect with consumers via email. 

We’ve seen the impact that digital communications can have on people’s lives, and you can help your fellow New Yorkers by sending the governor and your local official an email using the template at the end of this article!

The law (23 NYCRR 1)

Many existing collections laws are rooted in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) from 1977, long before emailing, text messaging, and direct voicemail technologies existed. In an age of growing prefernece for digital communication, New York’s 2015 law—§ 1.6 of 23 NYCRR 1—states that collectors may only contact consumers via email if they have:

  1. Voluntarily provided an electronic mail account to the debt collector which the consumer has affirmed is not an electronic mail account furnished or owned by the consumer’s employer; and
  2. Consented in writing to receive electronic mail correspondence from the debt collector in reference to a specific debt. A consumer’s electronic signature constitutes written consent under this section. 

Shortly after the law took effect the New York Department of Financial Services compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions. You can review them here.

These laws were put in place to protect consumers from collectors excessively emailing them, but consumers are not required to opt-in for debt collectors trying to call them on the phone. In the State of Collections 2019 report published by TransUnion and Aite Group, one collections industry leader said that “right-party contact has fallen off a cliff,” and for many debt collectors, this means that their existing call-based strategy is suddenly becoming unviable. 

On the other hand, we’ve found that consumers provide their email address opting into electronic communications with their creditors. In fact, 95% of accounts placed with TrueAccord come with an email address provided with the placement file. Of those we reach with our digital-first strategy, 65% of them open at least one email, and 35% click at least one link to begin the process of repayment.

When debts go unpaid, some creditors and collectors turn to legal action, and New York is suffering a resurgence of lawsuits since the passage of the 2015 debt collection law. In fact, 2017 saw a 61% increase in debt collection suits according to the New York State Unified Court System. In other states across the country, TrueAccord has seen dramatic growth in consumer debt repayment using email and other digital channels as the primary mode of communication. 

At TrueAccord up to 96% of accounts are resolved without speaking to an agent and nearly one-third of users prefer to manage their accounts outside of the “presumptively convenient” hours (8 am to 9 pm) legally outlined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Consumers understand the ease of this digital management system and regularly share their positive experiences with a digital-oriented collection strategy. Here are a few:

  1. I liked that the email system was used rather than phone calls. I found it easy to use, and it helped me to gather information, figure out a plan, and get the bill paid. It was a small balance, but during this time, it seemed bigger to me. Thank you for your service.
  2. This was the best way for me to take care of my outstanding debts since I’m always on the road. Thank you for taking your time with me and not blowing up my phone!
  3. TrueAccord has been friendly and helpful, and your systems are always up and running for me to use. You should be proud!

The power of digital communication

Digital channels give people the power to access and manage their debts on their own time without having to work directly with call-center agents. Moreover, it provides greater consumer protection by providing a paper trail of debt communications, unlike aggressive phone calls that consumers most likely wouldn’t be able to record. The more hassle-free options that folks have to pay, the more likely they are to get out of debt and avoid aggressive call-and-collect agencies.

We want to encourage New Yorkers to make their preferences for easily accessible digital channels to be heard. Pay off your debts on your time, not on an emotionally charged phone call or in a courtroom. 

Reach out to Governor Cuomo by clicking here with the template below and make your voice heard. Once you’ve sent your email, share this information using #CollectWithoutCalls and let the governor’s office know that digital is easier for everyone!

Email template

The following text may be used as a template for reaching Governor Cuomo or other elected officials in your state. Please replace any content in the parentheses with your own information.

Subject: RE: 23 NYCRR 1

Dear Governor Cuomo,

My name is (your first and last name) and I am a (family member/service provider/advocate/community member) who resides in your district.

I feel that 23 NYCRR 1 concerning debt collection by third-party debt collectors and debt buyers places an undue burden on consumers in debt. It limits the ease and efficacy of digital communications and gives priority to intrusive and aggressive call-and-collect agencies. I prefer to use email and the internet to manage my own finances, and permitting 3rd-party collectors to email me directly (if / when) I am in debt gives me the ability to manage my accounts on my own time rather than at the collector’s discretion.

Please read here for more information about consumer preferences and see the movement on social media. #CollectWithoutCalls

Sincerely,

(Your name)

(Your city)

Why customer feedback is so important for your small business

By on January 30th, 2020 in User Experience

Everyone knows that customers are the backbone of a business; if people don’t use your service or buy your product then you won’t have a business for very long. In order to solve this problem, companies often work to bring in as many new customers as possible, but you can’t forget to nurture relationships with consumers that you’ve worked with in the past. 

According to Adobe, 40% of eCommerce revenue comes from returning customers which make up only 8% of total visitors! That number alone should inspire you to get out and talk to your old customers and figure out what they think, but there are quite a few more reasons you should cherish customer feedback and use it to strengthen your company!

Building brand promoters

The omnipresence of social media means that consumers that are excited about your company will shout from the digital rooftops to endorse you. Unfortunately, the power of social sharing also means that the opposite is true: if a person has a particularly negative experience with your brand, they will spread the word around fairly quickly. 

Properly managing customer feedback can dramatically improve your brand’s reliability. A Net Promoter Score measures customer’s satisfaction with a business by asking: “how likely are you to recommend this (product/service) to a friend?” Customers that rate your business at a 9 or a 10 are considered promoters and are your best friend when it comes to spreading the word about your brand. 

Maintaining a high NPS score is challenging, but by focusing some efforts on gathering and listening to customer feedback, you can gradually build effective, organic branding that sets you apart from your competition!

If maintaining customer relationships is so important, you may be hesitant to try and collect on debts for fear of negative feedback. But digital debt collection solutions can support your brand and your bottom line!

Incorporating feedback and iterating

Not every review will revolutionize your business. If you take every negative review to heart, you might start to feel a bit down on yourself, but by analyzing customer feedback in aggregate, you’ll start to see patterns emerge!

These patterns won’t appear overnight, and even some patterns may not give you the direction you’re looking for (it is still your business after all). That said, if you have dozens of customers asking for a new feature or piece of content, imagine how many more customers want the same thing that aren’t asking!

By listening to customer feedback and building new tools that your customers are looking for, you can demonstrate that you listen to them and further improve retention. Plus, incorporating these changes into your customer lifecycle can pay big dividends! 

Promoters will continue to support your brand, bring in new customers, and in the long run, they will continue to spend more as your brand relationship improves. A survey by Bain & Company shows that customers actually spend more in months 31-36 of their relationship with a brand than they do in the first six months.

Creating a self-sustaining system

Feedback helps your business to grow and meet the ever-expanding needs of your market. If you don’t listen to your customers and build in a vacuum, you may soon realize that you were not solving the root of a problem. This isn’t to say that every customer suggestion or idea is the right one for your business, but if you take the time to listen to your customers you’ll build their trust and might just find the next right step. 

5 tips for recognizing debt collection phishing scams

By on January 29th, 2020 in User Experience

When communicating with debt collectors it’s important to ensure they are legitimate before making a payment. Scammers posing as debt collectors will pressure you aggressively, use threatening language, and will not provide any documentation to verify the debt.. When a scammer is attempting to collect a fake debt using an email it’s called a phishing scam.

The vague nature of scammer scare tactics combined with the sense of urgency in their communications make for a worrisome case, but if you keep a level head and follow these quick tips, you can protect yourself from phishing scams.

1. Verify the sender’s email address

Scammers will often make themselves appear legitimate by operating under a company or other authority figure’s name, but they cannot replicate a sender’s address. For example, if you receive a collections communication from TrueAccord, it will be from one of our company domains meaning that the email address (after the @ symbol) will either read “trueaccord.com” or a related address.

Even if you are anticipating communications from a collector (or anyone else for that matter), take a second to review the “From” address confirm that they are who they say they are. And in the case of collections, if they seem suspicious or don’t have a company domain, don’t respond to the email or click on any links.

2. Validate but do not click on links

Debt collection phishing scams are designed to collect private information—like your credit card number or bank account and routing numbers—by tricking you into providing that data. Some of them are even more malicious and will try to get you to download malware directly onto your computer.

Any links provided in the body of the email could redirect you to fake sign-in pages that will share your login credentials with the scammer, payment portals designed to capture account numbers, or even prompt you to download malware that could jeopardize the security of your entire device.

In order to check that the links in the email are legitimate, you can hover your mouse cursor over the link to see a link preview, likely at the bottom of your screen with the full URL. Make sure that you do not click when previewing the link, especially if you spotted a suspicious email address.

By hovering your mouse cursor over the link without clicking, you can make sure that the link address information matches the information in the email explaining where the link will direct you.

3. Investigate the company

If a collector’s information seems accurate, but you don’t recognize the debt the most surefire way to dissuade a phishing scam is to probe more deeply. Look up the debt collection company online see if the company is registered with the Better Business Bureau, conduct a Certified Business Search through RMAI or and email the company’s support team to confirm they sent the message.

Like we mentioned above: a scammer’s best friend is an unaware consumer.

If the content of the email is legitimate, they will also have a way for you to validate your debt before you pay them a penny. Call, write, or email  the debt collection company directly and request additional documentation Scammers won’t offer additional details because they don’t have it—a company that collects real debt will. 

4. Take your time to process the content

Scammers know that they don’t have much time to get the information they want. Once a recipient of a phishing email can process the details and recognizes that they don’t add up, the scam is a bust. This is why scammers posing as debt collectors rely on aggressive, manipulative, and urgent language. They may threaten legal action or other types of harm and will stop at nothing to make you pay as soon as possible.

Real debt collectors will not resort to these tactics, and many of the actions that these scammers threaten are actually against the law. Don’t let explicit language and threats pressure you into paying; while being in debt has obvious downsides, fake debt does not. By remaining patient and seeing through their smoke and mirrors, you can report the email as a phishing attempt and safely move on with your day.

5. Check for spelling and grammar errors

Phony debt collectors are hoping to catch you off guard. Their phishing emails are designed to look professional on the surface, but with a careful eye, they can easily be picked apart. Scammers target distracted, uninformed, and unaware consumers which is why their messages are often hastily thrown together. 

This means that phishing emails are much more likely to have typos, spelling errors, and issues with proper grammar. Read the message carefully and remain suspect if a message doesn’t make sense or look like they were thrown through a quick Google translate.

Stay informed and stay safe

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by debt, and mounting debts from multiple sources can make it feel like you’re in a spiral. Scammers that send phishing emails prey on vulnerable consumers and take advantage of those financial fears, but keep these tips in mind and protect your financial well being. 

How do you effectively contact consumers in debt?

By on January 14th, 2020 in User Experience

According to the State of Collection 2019 report published by TransUnion and the Aite Group, “the challenge at the top of thought leaders’ minds [is] the increasing difficulty of connecting with consumers in a world where robocalls and scams run rampant.”

Consumers today are less and less likely to answer a call from a phone number that they do not recognize (only about 47% of calls are answered if the number isn’t saved), and the industry has to adjust if it wants to keep its head above water. 

One industry leader included in the survey said that “right-party contact has fallen off a cliff,” and for many debt collectors, the future feels bleak. In fact, three-quarters of those surveyed by TransUnion believe that upcoming regulatory changes from the CFPB will be difficult for them to implement into their business. 

This can all feel like a death knell for collections and recovery, but there is hope! Industry thought leaders believe that new communication channels and methods hold the future for the industry, and companies that are beginning the adoption process have already seen promising results!

A collection revolution

To get ahead of the curve, collection firms “are trying to understand people better and get the right data,” reports a third-party collections leader. Revolutions begin when the people rise up, or in this case, when they stop picking up. Looking at customer communication preferences, the world has largely gone digital, but “few [collections industry] respondents report their initial contact is attempted via email (3%).” 

So what are the new channels driving collections forward? How do you communicate with consumers more effectively as the age of call and collect fades? The importance of digital forms of communication can’t be overstated. 61% of agencies surveyed are already using email to communicate in some form with another 22% looking to add it to their strategy in the next two years. SMS & text messaging only has a 16% adoption rate with another 53% interested in further expanding. 

While there is power in alternative forms of communication, at the end of the day whether you’re using email, text, direct drop voicemails, or messages tucked inside candy wrappers to communicate with customers, the tool is only as effective as its ability to reach the consumer at the right place and the right time.

Moving into a digital future

With the start of a new decade, it makes more sense than ever before to shift toward a digital collection strategy to properly contact consumers in debt. One of the most difficult hurdles of integrating a digital approach for collections isn’t simply starting to send emails or text messages, it is integrating these digital channels at scale for hundreds to thousands of consumers.

This means that the solution to effectively contacting consumers as collections continues to evolve comes from a combination of understanding performance data, navigating the complexities of email deliverability, and learning to recognize and adapt to consumer preferences.

It’s no wonder that so many companies feel unprepared for the coming changes at a systemic level. Getting started and preparing for change with the right collector today can mean your collections strategy continues to grow for years to come.

Ready to go digital? Let our team know!

How TrueAccord Creates High Performing Compliant Content

By on July 31st, 2018 in Compliance, Product and Technology, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

In debt collection, the language one uses in customer communications makes a big difference on liquidation rates. At TrueAccord, compliant content is the lifeline of our system. We continuously create, test and revise our content to engage consumers more personably—which drives better results for our clients.

Our Goal: Create a Better Customer Experience

Communication styles in the debt collection industry are typically stiff and unapproachable. Most of the time, it sounds like “legalese,” which can be off-putting, if not intimidating, to many customers. TrueAccord has a digital-first strategy to debt collection, primarily with emails, supplemented by SMS and phone calls to effectively engage with our customers. We strive to make our content informative, actionable, and compassionate.

Our mission is to transform the debt collection industry by helping people regain their financial health. Thus, our content is written to reflect that. It’s not accusatory or condescending, but respectful and empowering. We focus on finding solutions and helping people by presenting options on how to resolve their debt.

How We Experiment with Content —and Continually Improve It

Our proprietary content management system (CMS) was designed to help us craft and edit content based on massive amounts of dynamic data. We track everything from the customer’s balance, creditor, where they are in the debt lifecycle, if they’re in a payment plan, and how long we’ve been communicating with them to craft customized emails.

We constantly run experiments to generate the right content for each person. We try new subject lines to see if we can get more people to open emails. We write different calls to action on our buttons to see what drives better engagement. We also consider how far a consumer has to scroll down in an email or a landing page to get to the call-to-action button. If something’s not working well, we try something else. And our machine-learning engine—which continuously learns from our experiences—helps us customize specific and customer follow-ups that resonate. All of these small experiments add up to get us very high open and click rates from customers.

How We Keep Content Compliant

The debt collection industry is heavily regulated and is inherently protective of consumers, as it should be. We always look at communications content through a customer-focused and thorough compliance lens.

Our system provides code-driven compliance, appending the appropriate disclosures and text to automatically comply with whatever is necessary for each user, such as debts unreported out of statute or specific state disclosures. Our compliance rules dictate the content parameters for each customer, making it easier for our content writers to focus on writing compelling content. And yet, because there is wide variation in our writing styles, syntax and payment options, our content is still engaging.

Our legal team gives our content a final review, and we get very granular to ensure the message is clear for every type of customer. We look at the actual message, the email layout and design (including button placement) and even the size of the font for our disclosures. We write content that engages customers but also clearly lays out the customer’s rights and responsibilities.

This process is highly collaborative. Our content and legal teams work in concert to continuously adapt new scenarios to see how different options might come across. Our communications library constantly evolves as we keep on improving our customer engagement.

Think About What You Can Say

Most of the industry is focused on what you can’t say, but they’re not thinking about what you can say. That’s why we spend so much time perfecting our content and why we end up with such great response rates and overall results.

The Intelligent Alternative to Debt Collection Call Centers

By on March 6th, 2018 in Compliance, Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

As is often the case in evolving industries, it takes time for technology adoption to begin transforming the way companies do business. For debt collection, many organizations are still relying on an aging and outdated process to pursue debtors and recover revenue – the collection call center. Dozens or even hundreds of collection reps spend their days on the phone lines, methodically and painstakingly pursuing consumers who have racked up debt in the hopes that some will actually pan out.  

Unfortunately, call centers are fraught with challenges that can have a debilitating impact on the collecting organization, the company’s brand and reputation, and the consumers on the other end of the phone, who in many cases truly want to regain control of their financial lives. Among the many problems call centers face:

They’re Reactive and Emotional Environments

When individuals are the driving force behind an emotional transaction like a phone collection call, it’s not hard to have a bad day – especially when reps tend to garner low base salaries and are incented with commissions and bonuses to succeed. If a consumer rudely hangs up on a rep, for example, it’s easy to fall into a retaliatory frame of mind and call back multiple times simply to harass the debtor. Reactive and emotional responses from a rep can lead to bad exposure and higher risk of complaints or even legal action. Even voice analytics systems that monitor language used by reps are not infallible, as reps usually know what trigger words to avoid (such as “garnishment” or “lawsuit”) and how far they can push the envelope and not be flagged.

Even Hiring More Reps Doesn’t Really Scale

Many companies see hiring more reps as a simple solution to get as much coverage as possible. This conventional wisdom looks good on paper, until your realize more reps also means more training, more compensation, more resources and more oversight to monitor every active rep’s calls. Moreover, it is difficult to match staffing needs to varying workflows. If business is brisk and opportunity is high, it makes sense to have more workers. But all companies experience ebbs and flows in business activity, so when it comes time to scale down, they are forced to eliminate call center positions, then scale back up when the demand returns. Such fluxuations create a complex and unsustainable model for smooth debt collection execution.  

Ultimately, It’s All About Risk

Large call centers create the potential for more problem interactions with debtors and a greater probability of complaints and lawsuits, and risks and costs can rise exponentially when you consider how long it takes to manage each incident. Interviewing the violating rep in question, piecing together what happened and facing legal action or an angry regulators all create instability and unpredictability.

Consider Automating Debt Collection – and Making It Smarter

How can you overcome these inherent problems with debt collection call centers? Progressive organizations in the credit card, consumer loan, ecommerce, technology and telecom industries are all turning to a more sensible and intelligent approach to replace the call center strategy: Automation engines that replace most collection activities offer a more proactive system that has compliance, risk mitigation, content and costs all built in.

Here’s what it looks like:

Start with an Intelligent, Machine-learning System

Today’s automated collection systems, like those pioneered by TrueAccord, rely on a process that goes far beyond outbound calls. Combining outbound emails, text messages and other channels with an intelligent machine-learning system that sees what type of interaction each recipient prefers, you create a less obtrusive environment that debtors are more likely to respond to. In most cases, consumers are the ones taking the initiative to call collection reps directly to solve the debt issue, reducing the number of calls you need to make by up to 95 percent and lowering the number of agents you need on staff. And because the TrueAccord platform automatically monitors every call and interaction and uses pre-written and pre-approved content, you’re protected.  

Control and Monitor Your Content

Code-controlled compliance is critical to ensuring that reps are sticking to script and aren’t sending improper content to a consumer. With TrueAccord, compliance is built right into the system. Messaging for emails and other interactions are pre-defined and pre-approved so you don’t have to micromanage every agent’s conversations. The system also makes it very easy to track and measure the effectiveness of your program and allows multiple approvers to oversee and continually improve the process.

Create a Far Better Consumer Experience

Once you begin dealing with consumers on their terms and personalizing the experience for them, you create a more collaborative and cooperative environment – and improve your chances that they’ll remain a customer. Change the nature of the conversation so that’s it’s less adversarial, and you’ll improve customer retention and lock in better recovery rates. There is also less incentive for a rebel rep to push the boundaries because they’ll be working with consumers, not against them.

As the debt collection industry matures, there is a huge opportunity for companies to take a positive step forward, recovering more revenue in less time and changing the nature of their debt collection business along the way.

To hear our CCO and CEO discussing the Perils of Call Centers, check out our podcast.

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.

The Perils of Call Centers

By on February 22nd, 2018 in Compliance, Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

Call centers are risky: expensive to operate, experience high turnover, training and retraining are increasing overhead, and controlling calls is close to impossible because humans are fallible. In this episode, Tim Collins and Ohad Samet compare and contrast a call center based collection operation with TrueAccord’s compliance management and scale: pre-written content, compliance firewall, and other solutions.

To download the episode’s transcript, click here.

Millennials are the new debtors

By on February 20th, 2018 in Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

The New Debtor

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank shows consumer debt has been increasing and hit its peak in 2017 totalling $12.73 trillion, exceeding the previous peak in 2008, with roughly $1.3 trillion in student loans. The expected decrease in regulatory and tax burdens on U.S businesses suggests that the US economy will grow even faster than expected, giving consumers more confidence to spend. This growth in debt volume is accompanied by a change in the profile of consumers that owe it. Millennials are a new type of consumer, and therefore also a new type of debtor. This shift has left the debt collection industry struggling to deliver the type of user experiences consumers demand today. Companies wanting to stay successful, recover debt and retain their positive brand perception must adapt.  

Millennials are the new consumers

Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials are defined as ages 18-34 and in 2015 they numbered 75.4 million, surpassing Baby Boomers at 74.9 million. They are young, highly educated, driven, technology savvy and in significant debt. In 2016 the average student loan debt was close to $40,000 for the millennial generation. Student loans is now the second highest consumer debt category, trailing only mortgages.  

Income and debt introduce uncertainty

In a recent survey 68% of millennials have said that debt negatively impacts their life, causing personal and professional stress, and 19% have received collections calls. On average a millennial carries around $5500 high interest credit card debt, to which many add auto loans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics an average millennial salary is $35,592, which leaves many dreaming of being debt free but finding that goal impossible to reach. Faced with mounting debt and economic uncertainty, millennials not only communicate and think differently, but are also faced with a substantially different economic reality. When they fall off the debt repayment wagon, they require much more support to get back on it.

A shift in demographics and values

Beyond the economic uncertainty, millennials’ money management habits also differ from those of baby boomers. Millennials place a high value on ephemeral consumption – experiences such as travel rather than goods and investments – leaving them with less long term financial security.  Coupled with lower salaries, they are facing a constant struggle between paying off their debt, building financial security, and living in the moment. Helping millennials pay down debt also requires an element of flexibility and financial education to help them start and stay on track with a debt repayment plan that works for their life.

Technology is key

Millennials’ love affair with technology has changed the way companies interact with them and created an opportunity for innovation that spans across all markets from healthcare to fintech and an on-demand economy for pretty much any service imaginable. With 98% of millennials owning a smartphone and using it for more than 2 hours per day, phones are their main source of communication and interaction with the world at large. Organizations need to invest and improve their technology to meet the millennial consumers’ ever changing and evolving preferences.  

Personalization is not a good-to-have

This generation puts a lot of emphasis on personal expression and personalization. Individuals express themselves not only by increasingly specific value sets and identities, but also by adopting brands and consumption patterns. Accordingly, millennials expect a higher degree of personalization when they engage with products and services including financial services. Millennials engage with products and services that understand them and connect to their experience, whether it’s expressing oneself through brands or the emotional experience of being in debt. The more variance companies can offer, the more they can respond to consumers’ individual circumstances and get better results.  

Looking ahead

To successfully engage with millennials we have to continue to focus on more sophisticated ways to learn from consumer behavior and preferences to offer real-time, meaningful, personal interactions. Millennials are not only the biggest demographic, but they are a maturing one, and are seeking ways to gain better control of their finances and build a more secure future. Properly servicing them and their mounting debt, personalizing and providing customized solutions, is crucial for the future of our growing economy. Issuers and collectors must adapt to this new world or see their charge offs rise rapidly.

Consumer in Crisis: What To Do When Disaster Strikes

By on October 24th, 2017 in Company News, Industry Insights, User Experience

Hurricanes, wildfires, floods. We’ve certainly seen our fair share of natural disasters in the past few months. Sometimes, disasters are more personal such as losing a job, losing a loved one or facing an unexpected medical condition. When these crises happen, financial institutions and debt collectors want to do whatever they can to ease the burden, if only for a short time. The key? Communicating early, communicating often, and asking for relief whenever it is available.

It may be hard to imagine that our bank or lender cares about our circumstances. That is often not true. Financial institutions work within communities and understand the need to support them. That’s true for debt collection as well.

The premise we work with is that people want to pay their debt, they just need the right tools. They also need to be treated like people which is why we offer personalized approaches to each customers’ unique situation.

When paying debt is not possible, it’s in everyone’s interest to find other solutions. At TrueAccord, many clients proactively ask us to stop collecting in crisis-struck areas, and we often do so ourselves. Hardship programs allow us to provide longer and even more flexible payment plans, delay collection attempts and sometimes pause collection efforts for a long period of time.

Many consumers don’t hear about these options – or even consider that there may be another solution available to them – because they choose to disengage with financial institutions and debt collectors. This can make a bad situation worse. We, and your bank, may not be aware of your situation. We understand that calling us may be the last thing on your mind. That’s why you can email us, and in some cases text or write to us on social media. Reaching out will allow you to get in front of the situation early. For your financial institution, it will help them support you sooner and more effectively.

If you are in a crisis, talk to your bank, talk to TrueAccord, and explore your options. While we may not be able to solve every problem, we’re here to help as much as we can.