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State of the Collection Industry: 2016 TCN Survey Results

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McKay Bird

Chief Marketing Officer

Between November 1 and November 28, 2016, we asked for input from people working in the collections industry. An anonymous survey was sent out, and people from debt collection agencies, collection departments within larger organizations, and law firms heeded the call. Because we wanted to know about unique challenges and common communication practices, the survey focused on those elements. We asked about a number of items but focus on only three aspects here.

1. Frequency of communications
2. Confidence in policy adherence
3. Use of digital tools

We share the results with you so that you and your team can gain insight into the current state of the collection industry, as well as make plans in accordance with growing debt collection trends. For further information about the survey’s findings, download the infographic.

Frequency of Communications

Survey respondents shared the volume of outbound calls they made over the course of a year.

• 500,000 to 1 million calls per year: 68 percent
• 1 million to 2.4 million calls per year: 18 percent
• 2.4 million to 5 million calls per year: 6 percent
• 5 million+ outbound calls per year: 8 percent

They used other communication methods, with mailed letters and email standing as favored resources. Text messages weren’t as popular, presumably because of compliance concerns. Chat and social media also appeared as communication vehicles that could see increased use as customers and patients increasingly demand convenient, timely responses.

• Mailed letters: 82 percent
• Email: 63 percent
• Text Messages: 24 percent
• Fax: 21 percent
• Chat: 10 percent
• Social Media: 8 percent

The high percentage of faxes seems somewhat surprising but could be attributed to any number of reasons, including physicians and medical offices. These organizations and many others still rely on faxes to send and receive information.

Confidence in Policy Adherence

Survey respondents expressed that they feel “extremely confident” or “somewhat confident” in their adherence to state and federal call center regulations. We believe this positive sentiment could be due to businesses and organizations taking steps to safeguard communications and data collection processes. Of note are the “not very confident” and “not confident at all” replies; only 1 percent answered in the affirmative to the first, and no one admitted to the second.

• Extremely confident: 63 percent
• Somewhat confident: 30 percent
• Neutral: 7 percent
• Not very confident: 1 percent
• Not confident at all: 0 percent

However, respondents disclosed some concerns about compliance, particularly in relation to the TCPA. A large percentage stated they found the regulation more challenging than others.

• TCPA: 41 percent
• CFPB: 18 percent
• FDCPA: 7 percent

Of interest, though, is the number of people reporting “no (compliance) challenge.” Almost 30 percent claimed utter confidence and capability in remaining compliant with state and federal regulations. We would need to conduct additional surveys and interviews to pinpoint the source of the respondents’ ease, but we think the cause could be one of two possibilities.

One, respondents are staying on top of regulations. Law firms especially come to mind since they deal with regulations and compliance issues regularly. Two, respondents are contacting customers and patients and hoping they’re in compliance. The second idea is worrisome and heightens our sense that more training, education, and internal audits need to occur.

Use of Digital Tools

We started the technology section of the survey with a softball question: “Are you using a cloud-based solution to keep pace and stay compliant with regulatory changes?” Most respondents replied “yes,” but we would prefer to see that number grow. Cloud-based solutions, unlike on-site ones, can better match the speed and pace at which regulations spawn and change.

• Yes: 59 percent
• No: 41 percent

Of those who answered “no,” they almost evenly split when asked about their plans to invest in technology in the future.

• Yes: 52 percent
• No: 48 percent

We next asked about how agencies and departments assessed call center success, initially prompting respondents about tools used for reporting. An overwhelming number said they used Excel, although the use of cloud-based platforms seems to be catching up.

• Excel: 73 percent
• On-site solution: 24 percent
• Cloud-based platform: 36 percent

When asked about why they used the tools, survey respondents shared a couple of reasons. They wish to stay compliant with the TCPA; they want to improve employee performance (workforce management); they desire to make data-driven business decisions; or they simply wish to become part of the trend toward scalable, secure cloud-based technology.

Overall, the collections industry survey shows how call centers and leadership are exploiting technology and are determined to maintain a streamlined and compliant workforce. To find greater detail and insights from our collection industry survey, check out our infographic.

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