CU Touts Collection Agents Who Listen
Experts familiar with the field say ability to listen carefully is the most important skill a collection specialist must have if the creditor credit union wants to both bring loans current and retain member relationships.
“Our staff really get to know these members,” explained Anne Marie Foote, the collections manager for United Solutions Company, a Tallahasee, Florida, vendor. “They know who needs their car to get grandma to her cancer appointments, who can make a payment earlier in the month, but not late in the month and who is probably late with a payment because of school costs. They really know these members and believe in the credit union ethic of people helping people.”
The listening approach not only helps the member keep feeling connected to the credit union even while going through financial difficulty, Foote explained, it also helps motivate the delinquent member to keep making payments and, if possible, to even step up those payments.
The $34 million Missouri Valley Federal Credit Union, headquartered in St. Peters, Missouri, appreciated the listening approach. The 4700 member credit union went through a period of strong loan growth last year and started to see a rising tide of delinquency this year. The delinquency wasn’t all that bad, but there were enough accounts they overwhelmed Greg Kelleher, the credit union’s collection manager and sole collections employee.
“My title is collections manager, but I’m the only collections staff too, so I pretty am quickly started needing some help,” Kelleher explained, adding the credit union considered the cost of hiring and training someone else compared to outsourcing the service and decided go with United Solutions instead.
The United Solutions collector is named Lorraine (the firm did not share their collector’s last names for security reasons) and Kelleher said it has become routine for members to say ‘tell Lorraine I just made a payment’ if they run across him in the lobby. And the Missouri Valley’s ratio of delinquent loans to total loans, which had risen steadily throughout the year to top out at 1.10 in December, 2013, fell in the first quarter of 2014 to 0.63%.