In its Consumer Response Annual Report, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) noted that about a third of the complaints in 2017 were filed against debt collectors. That’s an improvement over the previous two years, in which debt collections had the dubious distinction of being the most complained-about product or service in the report.
Consumers’ top three complaints – attempts to collect debts not owed (39%), debt validation (22%) and communications tactics (13%) – highlight the need for agents to understand precisely what to say – and what not say – in their attempts to collect debt from customers.
Staying in compliance in these conversations is a critical skill in today’s rapidly shifting regulatory climate – even though that oversight appears to be lessening. For instance, CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s preference for passing enforcement back to the states may actually make compliance with federal, state and municipal consumer protection laws more complex.
The good news is you can navigate challenging debt recovery conversations with speech analytics technology in your contact center to steer clear of the issues that prompt the most consumer complaints. Here’s a closer look.
Contacting The Right Person About The Right Debt
Continuing attempts to collect debts not owed topped the list of complaints. According to the CFPB, many consumers also said they were uncomfortable disclosing personal information to callers because they were unsure whether that person was a scammer or a legitimate collector.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) addresses this concern by requiring third-party debt collectors to identify themselves and state the purpose of their call in their initial contact – usually by reading what’s known as a Mini Miranda script. The act also prohibits agents from making a debt public or discussing it with third parties without the debtor’s written consent.
Speech analytics provides a powerful tool for searching every conversation for specific words and phrases that signal non-compliance with the FDCPA. The software can identify calls in which agents have not used a Mini Miranda script or have failed to verify that the debt belongs to the person with whom they’re speaking before discussing it. Speech analytics can also flag calls in which a consumer expresses concern about the identity of the agent, says the debt is not theirs, or complains about frequent calls.
Validating Debt Details
The FDCPA also mandates that within five days of the initial call, a debt collector has to send a validation letter that includes the amount of the debt, the creditor’s name, and the procedure for disputing the debt. This step gives consumers the information they need to verify that the debt is real and belongs to them or to dispute it in writing.
Managers can create speech analytics searches to mine for language indicating that agents have informed consumers about the validation letter and its purpose. Searches could also flag calls in which consumers tell agents they’ve already paid and ask the agent to stop contact.
Communicating Professionally And Ethically
The FDCPA prohibits agents from lying or using deceptive, harassing or threatening tactics during calls. The most frequent complaints in 2017 involved frequent and repeated calls, calls before 8AM or after 9PM, and calls made after the consumer requested no further telephone contact.
By monitoring for each of these issues, speech analytics can help managers identify calls in which agents are taking an aggressive stance likely to lead to complaints. Searches can also be set up for customer phrases, “I’d like to speak to your supervisor,” or for the words “sue,” “complaint” or “lawsuit,” all of which indicate a call is not going well.
Start Every Debt Recovery Conversation On The Right Foot
Automated call monitoring and reporting, which are available with a speech analytics solution, gives managers the insight they need to catch issues as they emerge on the call center floor – and before they escalate. As a result, they can coach individual agents who may be struggling and create effective training to help everyone learn how to handle challenging situations with professionalism and empathy.
Beyond compliance, speech analytics can help your organization improve agent performance, collect more debts and create an exception customer experience. For more information, download our whitepaper “Navigating Challenging Conversations In The Collections Industry With Speech Analytics.”