The debt collection industry is not the most popular one amongst consumers. After all, nobody likes getting a phone call telling them they owe some business money.
According to statistics cited by the Huffington Post, “more than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collections agencies.” The average value of this debt? $5,178.
Every year, the debt collection industry recovers billions of dollars in money owed to various businesses. However, there are innumerable complaints of abusive debt collection practices reported by consumers to go along with this massive amount of recovered debt. It’s not uncommon to hear about debtors receiving rude or harassing phone calls from collections agencies.
Such abusive practices are strictly prohibited under laws such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Laws such as this are designed to protect consumers from harassment by limiting what collection agencies can say, who they can discuss debts owed with, and when such collection agencies can call and how often, among other restrictions.
However, in many cases, violations of the FDCPA and other laws restricting debt collection practices aren’t the result of any policy of practices enacted by the collection agency, but the result of mistakes made by individual phone agents who need more training in proper collections practices.
Here, modern technology can actually help debt collection agencies put an end to these errors, and prevent future abusive debt collection practices.
“How so,” you ask?
Here are a few ways that technology can put an end to abusive debt collection practices:
Using Keyword Recognition to Avoid Prohibited Statements
For years now, call centers in the collections industry have used speech analytics software to automate the process of monitoring phone agent calls to debtors.
With speech analytics, call center QA staff can get a report of the specific phrases and keywords that a phone agent used in a conversation. Using this report, it’s easy for call center managers to identify if phone agents are misusing specific phrases in a way that violates laws such as the FDCPA.
After an agent is identified as making incorrect statements or suggestions, call center managers can then task that agent for extra training to help them correct the behavior and avoid abusive trends.
This technology is fairly well-proven, and it can easily spot when phone agents are saying the wrong thing, provided you establish a strong list of forbidden words and phrases for the program to catch.
However, it’s still possible to say all the right things, and still be rude or abusive towards a debtor. Here, the application of a different technology can help spot the issue:
Using Voice Analytics to Prevent Abusive Debt Collection Practices
Rather than focusing on what a phone agent says on a collection call, voice analytics studies how a phone agent speaks on a call. By recording and analyzing key speech features such as pitch, amplitude, and tone, voice analytics software can assess the way phone agents speak to debtors.
This is useful for picking up whether agents are speaking in a rude or threatening tone with debtors.
A full call analysis can even identify which portions of the call a phone agent used a specific tone of voice. With this information, it’s possible to identify where a call went wrong and to focus training efforts to improve agent performance in that specific situation.
Beyond being useful for spotting when phone agents are using a threatening tone with customers and outright violating FDCPA restrictions, predictive voice analytics can be used to spot agents who are simply not using effective interpersonal skills with debtors.
For example, with a detailed automated analysis of a phone agent’s tone in a conversation, it’s possible to spot when agents are talking in a robotic monotone that clearly demonstrates a lack of engagement. While not aggressive towards consumers, such a tone isn’t conducive to ensuring top-notch results.
On the other hand, voice analytics solutions can also detect when phone agents are using top-notch communication skills, speaking with confidence and empathy towards debtors. Here, you can set aside these interactions as positive examples for training other phone agents in how to interact with debtors over the phone.
Used in the above ways, technologies such as speech analytics and voice analytics can help to curtail potentially abusive collections practices made by individual agents. By ending abusive practice mistakes by individual agents, collection agencies can help protect their reputation and business from FDCPA violations.