Alicia McKeighan, Afni, Inc.

Alicia McKeighan,
Afni, Inc.

“Hello. This call may be recorded.”  This is a standard statement for any conversation a consumer has with a business, but why? There are several reasons for call recordings, but most of them are rooted in evaluation of the quality of the call. American consumers have a high expectation for customer service communications; that includes debt collection. Collection agencies must carefully consider their representation of the client brand in communications with consumers. Therefore, agencies have to be mindful of the quality of the call in relation to client expectations, while also considering operational expectations and compliance expectations. So, how do you approach auditing for all of this?

There certainly isn’t just one correct answer. One suggested approach is to create a combined quality and compliance form upon which a call audit can be performed. It can operate in such a way that a Compliance Auditor identifies calls, completes his portion of the assessment, and then notifies the operational department to complete the quality portion of the assessment, or vice versa.  That is teamwork at its finest! Feedback on the call is provided on all expectations. It also offers the agent perspective on how expectations blend and drive the overall quality of the call.

Streamlined feedback is great, right? Well, it depends. Where is the primary focus in the conversation? Is it balanced between operations and compliance? Is the agent getting a clear message? Does the agent know which behaviors cause the most risk to the company? These are all things that should be considered.

While all of the previous points are valid, there are a few ways to overcome those obstacles.  Consider weighting the compliance form so that each behavior has a risk tier. Similarly, perform the same analysis with client and operational expectations by assigning quality weights commensurate to the importance of behaviors from the client’s perspective, and the keys to a successful collection call.  The weighting should drive the focus of the conversation, and the potential impact to the representative’s incentive.

Weighting auditing forms can affect collection goal bonus eligibility and compliance and quality incentives. An agency can choose to do this separately, or simultaneously. Traditional models would consider reducing the agent’s collection goal bonus when compliance and quality scores are not met. An emerging model is to provide positive reinforcement by assigning a monetary value to an overall quality and compliance score, outside of any considerations for collection goal bonus eligibility.

The path less traveled is the hybrid option, providing positive reinforcement by assigning a monetary value to an overall quality and compliance score, and if the representative’s scores are close to perfect, removing the requirement to meet their collection goal to receive their operational bonus. If the representative’s scores are too low, there is no operational bonus. Here are some scenarios. The representative is at 85% or above, their compliance and quality incentive is met, and they are given $25 extra dollars. However, if the representative is at 100%, they receive their compliance and quality incentive, and their collection goal bonus, regardless of whether or not they have met their collection goal. Finally, all eligibility for any bonus can be removed when the overall score is below a certain threshold. Agencies that have used this approach have seen their quality and compliance scores increase over time.

Regardless of the approach taken, analytics should be performed to determine if the approach is working. There are two large considerations when it comes to analytics. First, are you using speech analytics? Speech analytics can help filter the calls that have the most opportunity. However, consideration must also be given to whether or not the filters defined within the analytics software are bringing you the correct calls to audit.  If you aren’t using call analytics, start using it, regulators are. Secondly, before attempting to analyze the results of your auditing, determine if you are auditing a statistically significant sample of calls. There are numerous websites that provide this calculation for free, is one example. Finally, after you have given consideration to the samples of calls you are receiving, and the sample size, review your quality and compliance scores for specific agents, managers, and clients and determine how the rewards and/or consequences may or may not have changed behaviors month over month, and year over year.

Designing your call auditing program, and defining rewards and consequences, can be difficult. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Consideration must be given to what will fit best in your agency’s culture. Define what that is, implement it, review the results, rinse and repeat!

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