About 25 years ago, I found myself in graduate school, recently married and working for my brother at his plumbing supply business. What does every young, recently married college student need? Money!
At the time, several of my friends were working for a collection agency and they told me it was a fun environment and that the pay was great. I was sold on the vision of great pay. I nervously told my brother that while I enjoyed working with him, I was searching for a higher paying job. I then applied for a position as a collector and was hired. This began my unexpected, unplanned for and extended career in the credit and collection industry.
I discovered that it was a fun work environment. If I performed well in my job, I was rewarded with great commissions and bonuses. The owners, managers and fellow employees were honest and fair. The owner’s family was “connected” to the local college and we had several members of the college basketball and football teams working along side us as collectors. It was an added element of fun to have college athletes we idolized working there.
I remember my first day on the job. My new employer sat me down in the lunchroom area, handed me a copy of the FDCPA (which I had never heard of before) and told me to start reading. After awhile, they came back in the room and handed me a test on the FDCPA. I took the test, passed it and began calling debtors that afternoon.
Don’t laugh too hard, but automation was something new to our industry when I began my collection job. We worked our accounts from large printed green and white sheets. These sheets were our only access to information about our debtors. We would hand write our notes on these sheets, track promises to pay and schedule follow-up phone calls. They were our computer database and account history; we wrote down our call notes, promises to pay, follow-up call dates, etc. We dreaded the day that new green sheets were dispersed at the beginning of each month. Yes, the new sheets meant we had new accounts to call, BUT it also meant that for those accounts that didn’t pay in full, we had to copy our notes to the fresh paper.
Most agency owners hadn’t heard about predictive dialing, and those that had were skeptical about their promised increases in efficiency. Many agency owners simply wondered how a computer that dialed debtors could be more effective than having their collectors manually dial the debtors.
Ironically, I actually remember the day that Scott Sorensen (co-founder of IAT) and a sales rep visited our office to talk to our agency owner about predictive dialers. I wasn’t privy to the conversation, but our agency did not purchase a dialer at that time. I had no idea that in four years Scott Sorensen would hire me to sell dialers and IVR solutions.
Now we live in a world and market that is controlled and absolutely dominated by automation. If your agency isn’t automated (predictive dialers, broadcast messaging, virtual agents, collection software, skip tracing, internet searches, letter printers, phone number scrubbing, etc.), then you simply can’t compete. The industry automated advancements have made us much more proficient and effective at contacting debtors. This increased ability to find, contact and collect debt helps our economy by pumping money back to companies that previously classified those revenues as lost.
While I’m pleased and amazed with the technology progress our industry has made, I do look back on the “good-old-days” of large green/white sheets with fond memories. Besides, who could forget sitting near Mr. Rock and Mr. Duke and marvel at their ability to persuade debtors to pay-off their large debt balances. Those were days of great fun!
This article was written by Dave R