Rather unusual to start off a blog with a list of bullet-pointed adjectives, isn’t it? We hope we have not put you off. On the contrary, we hope the above has whetted your appetite and provoked a curiosity within you, or perhaps an opinion on the answer to the question posed as the title to this blog. Perhaps you have thought of some other words to use, if that’s the case feel free to let us know your thoughts. We are not a one-man army here at JSP Credit Management. Merely a member of a community of people and businesses committed to the cause of getting people paid on time.
The above adjectives are, in our view, a well-rounded summary of the different qualities which a good debt collection professional will possess. Some debt collectors may have others which they feel serve them well in the field, and others may not see the benefit of being “creative” or even “honest” as a debt collector, but these words have been chosen based on our experience of working in the industry for many years and in the company of many credit controllers and credit management professionals. What we intend to do is analyse each of those qualities in this blog and see if we can conclude the question which this blog asks about what qualities make up a good debt collector.
So, without further ado, let's make a start. “Organisation” is one of the adjectives which came to mind quite deep into the debt collection career of Director Joe Postings. When he first started doing debt collection, he was, by his admission, quite raw, highly driven but also quite clumsy. This approach yielded some impressive results, but it did not result in the kind of consistency he believes his clients expect from him today. Now on to the question of whether or not organisation is something is learned or innate, it seems to have answered itself. Having only come to prioritise organisation above other qualities such as passion several years into his career and having reflected on his performance over those years it is fair to say this one is a learned skill.
This one could be discussed using a humorous anecdote (although it was anything but funny at the time!). When Joe first started in the corporate world, on work experience at the tender age of 17, his office manager at the time asked him to make a telephone call to a client asking them to confirm their attendance at an up and coming meeting. You know? The kind of call which he would not think twice about today. However, on this particular day, in a new job, surrounded by an office full of strange people – who all seemed to stop talking as soon as he picked up the receiver to make the call – it was anything but a simple call to make. To make matter’s worse the call went through to voicemail and he had to quickly improvise since he had not prepared for that eventuality and stumbled his way through an incoherent voicemail message, with a face as red as a tomato and sweating profusely. It’s safe to say this is not an issue today and he regularly negotiates difficult calls with debtors on the phone so we are going to also place this one in the “learned” category.
One of the more controversial entries on the list we could argue. But we feel it's also slightly controversial saying that it's controversial. How could being “honest” ever be challenged for not being one of the most useful qualities to have in any role? We think it has something to do with socially constructed and shared understandings of the kind of people debt collectors are, not necessarily who they are. Were open-minded enough to know that some debt collectors have probably achieved some success in their roles by employing some slightly underhand tactics shall we say but we do not condone that here at JSP Credit Management, and we never have. We, therefore, believe that honesty relates to a person’s moral compass and their deeply held values and in our view, those are things which more innate than learned.
We have already touched upon the importance of being resilient as a debt collector in a couple of blogs already and here it has cropped up again, for good reason. Debt collection is a job that inherently involves a lot of rejection, barriers, and challenges. It does not suit people who are drawn to it purely motivated by high commission rates or handsome remuneration packages, because, in our experience, most people tend to live to their means anyway, so the money will eventually get taken for granted. However, for those invested in the cause, those knockbacks tend to be managed better. They can bounce back easier if those bounce backs do not threaten the only thing they care about (the bonus/commission their working towards), and it is this resilience that we have seen often separate a good collector from a bad one. There has been a great deal of psychological research done on resilience and it is fair to say that in summary, it is a mixture of nature and nurture.
Probably one of the lesser expected entries on the list. Not the kind of word you would traditionally associate with the world of debt collection but there is some method in the madness. When we say “creative” we are not referring to a credit controller’s ability to freestyle on karaoke at the works Christmas party. We are referring to their ability to think of alternative ways to overcome the inevitable challenges they will be faced within the day to day undertaking of their duties in the role. As previously mentioned, it is a role that is fraught with obstacles and a debt collectors level of creativity can mean the difference between hitting their targets for the month or not, especially when being avoided by a slippery debtor who seems to be on lunch every time they call or a colleague who they have been chasing for an answer to a dispute on for weeks, or months because they do not want to authorise a write-off. Creativity comes from experience and is something that thankfully can be learned from peers on the job.
When Joe was doing his first standalone credit control role, hammering the calls all day, long after that the aforementioned embarrassment about being on the phones had passed, he had come to learn that people were not always as genuine as he would like them to be and during debt reviews with his team leaders he made such feelings known when stopping short of fully accepting some of the reasons he was being given for non-payment of the debts he was being assigned to. In response to that, his Manager at the time said “So cynical for one so young Joe” almost approvingly, and it was at that point he thinks his approach to debt collection turned a corner. A Payment is not a payment until the money is in the bank. Promises to pay are nice, but they should not be trusted implicitly. Reasons for non-payment are questioned and even explicitly challenged when it is deemed necessary to do so here at JSP Credit Management because we understand, through our experience, that a curious approach to each case can expose better opportunities to speed up payment. Again this is something that has come to us through experience and we, therefore, put this particular quality in the “learned” category.
What should stand out at this point is that most of the qualities that make a good debt collector are learned. Learned through many years of experience albeit but learned all the same. You do not have to be a particular type of person to become successful at debt collection as most of the things which feed into are learned on the job. However, spare a thought for the two which we have put in the innate category, honesty and resilience. Some of what makes a person resilient are through environmental factors research suggests which also means that the environment a debt collection professional works in can also have detrimental effects on their ability to be successful and those should be taken into consideration too.
We are here to do a bit to businesses safeguard their cash flow against late payers or debtors that are refusing to pay, so if you have been struggling to get an invoice paid and would appreciate the support of a team who pride themselves on operating in a way that is mindful of the factors discussed above then visit our website at www.jspcreditmanagement.co.uk and contact us to discuss your needs. We operate on a no-win-no-fee basis for bad debt recovery and our credit control and credit risk services can be ordered via our website with the