Debt Collection Agencies Leverage the Power of Speech Analytics

The debt collection industry is indebted to speech analytics. Not only does speech technology improve a collection agency’s process and profits, it offers a legal safeguard by ensuring stricter compliance.

Prior to the advent of speech analytics, the only way to monitor agent-customer conversations was to listen to a handful of randomly selected calls either by recording or live monitoring, and subjectively score them as best as one could. Not only was the process tedious, the sample size was far too small to detect patterns and trends or draw any meaningful conclusions.

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Speech analytics has catapulted the call center world from those horse-and-buggy days into an exciting new era of technological wizardry. Instead of teams of analysts slogging through dozens or even hundreds of calls that may or may not provide any business intelligence, a properly tuned speech tool can intelligently extract data from every call and translate it into meaningful information. In turn, that information translates into better customer experiences, business success and greater revenue.

Problematic Phrases
As is the case with speech analytics, the results it yields are often diametrically opposed to what you thought. But that’s the beauty of speech analytics, it enables you to view business challenges from multiple viewpoints and different angles.

Such was the case of a first speech project of a debt collection agency. They wanted to verify regulator compliance of their agents when speaking with customers. The agencies manager practically had a heart attack at hearing the results. He was aghast that speech analytics identified agents were violating “red flag” phrases that ran afoul of regulatory compliance.

  • “Forced to pick up the car”
  • “We’ll garnish your wages”
  • “You’ve committed a crime”
  • “Have you arrested”
  • “Is the car at your home?”
  • “We’re going to come after you”

He turned pale at the thought of the financial penalties that enforcement agencies could collect from his collection firm for such inappropriate, illegal phrases.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a regulatory agency for debt collections has provided $11.9 billion in relief to consumers with enforcement actions. The bureau receives over 1.2 million complaints and although not all are acted upon, the CFPB shows more than 40 percent of complaints are due to non-compliance by the debt collection agency.

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  •  20 percent of those complaints were concerning debt collectors’ communication practices—especially phone calls—including the use of obscenities and abusive language; the frequency of contact; and repeated calls to parties who could not be reached at the dialed number.
  • 12 percent were concerning threatening an illegal action such as arresting or jailing consumers; suing debtors who are overdue; and collecting on funds that are exempt, such as child support.
  • 10 percent concerned false statements such as indicating the consumer committed a crime; or false representation such as impersonating an attorney or a government official.

Ultimately, pinpointing agent knowledge gaps and problematic behavior at debt collection agencies paves the way for coaching opportunities to improve performance, productivity and call-handling strategies.

Of course, it’s not just the agent side of the discussion that should be analyzed. Phrases spoken by the consumer can be equally telling. Consumers are well informed and cite their legal rights by quoting the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: “A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” Phrases like the following are dead giveaways to compliance issues by agents.

  • “Don’t threaten me”
  • “This is harassment”
  • “This is illegal”
  • “I’ll call my lawyer”
  • “Attorney General”
  • “File a lawsuit”

Many leading collection agencies are folding speech analytics into their system, not just to ward off instances of non-compliance, but as a tool for improving call handling. The results can be significant as one agency alone credited speech analytics with increasing revenue per agent by more than 10 percent. “Real-time voice analytics has been a very good investment.”, according to the Manager of Quality Assurance. “It’s been a valuable training mechanism and makes calibrations much easier. With analysis and training, the customer experience has become even more positive with fewer complaints, and our quality scores prove it.”

Integrating a speech analytics solution immediately bestows a halo of credibility and professionalism on a collection agency. It is an implicit promise to clients that they will be represented in a positive light to their customers and to other companies in their industry. Collection agencies using speech analytics attest it provides not only a reputation for excellence and integrity but is also as good as money in the bank.

About MainTrax
MainTrax is a leading provider of speech analytics professional services to end users and industry partners. Free of allegiance to any one solution or supplier, MainTrax has earned a reputation as an independent, unbiased resource for consulting expertise across a variety of products and providers.