MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- With Mother’s Day being this month, moms are in the spotlight, but as a survey recently conducted by the International Association of Commercial Collectors (IACC) indicates, whether you’re a mom, daughter, sister, aunt or grandmother, the collections industry is a choice one for women, with a significant number of respondents saying it was easy to break into the field and that they have advanced in their careers since they started.
The purpose of the IACC Women in Collections survey, conducted in April of 2017, was to gain insight into the experience of women entering and working in the collections industry and learn what personal traits and professional proficiencies served them best as they started their careers, as well as after they were established. The survey also provides insight into what experience women brought to their positions in collections and the type of education or training most women had upon entering the field.
The 71 women who responded to the survey ranged from being Vice-Presidents to COO’s and CFO’s within their companies, to senior managers and sales representatives, to support staff and receptionists, with anywhere from 2 weeks of experience to 40 years. Forty-six percent held either bachelor’s or associate degrees, while 34% said they had “specialized training” that included high school diplomas, J.D.’s, MBA’s, and Paralegal or Medical Lab Technician certifications.
Easy to enter, and advancement possible – but hard work involved
A significant majority – 65% -- said that it was easy to break into the collections field, with one respondent commenting, “It was easy to get into the industry, but it’s harder to be successful. It takes a lot of hard work, energy and dedication. This is not just a job, it’s a career.” Another respondent found her path to a collections career was assisted by women who came before her, saying, “I was hired by a company where the majority of the management was comprised of women.”
With 76% indicating that they had advanced in their collections careers since they began, one respondent commented, “I feel women have the opportunity to do what they set their minds to in the industry in this day and age,” while another concurred, saying, “There are opportunities at all levels, in any department.”
Honing in on essential personality and professional traits
Female respondents were asked to select the most important personality traits essential for women to succeed in commercial collection using a scale ranging from “very important” to “not important.” An overwhelming number considered the most important traits to be: “self-motivated” (90%), “relating well with people” and “verbal communication skills” (tied at 87%), and “confidence” and “trustworthiness” (tied at 84%).
Other traits garnering high scores included “being ethical” and “remaining calm under stress.”
“These traits aren’t any more important for a woman than for a man,” said one respondent. Another added a couple of her own traits, stating, “Wanting to help another individual through a difficult time through patience and understanding is extremely important.”
Another question which gauged the professional competencies needed to succeed in commercial collections gave top ranking to these “very important” categories: “Critical thinking, decision making and learning skills” (93%), “negotiating skills” (91%), and “maintaining relations between client and customer despite potentially unpleasant circumstances” (90%). Other qualities more than half of respondents ranked as “very important” included: “time management” (84%), “familiarity with policies and procedures and commitment to following them” (77%), and “customer service” (74%).
Customer service experience important? Yes. Telemarketing? No.
Survey respondents were asked to rank the types of professional experience they thought were most beneficial to them as they were getting established in the field, with the selections including: sales, call center experience, telemarketing, accounting, accounts payable/receivable, and customer service.
Overwhelmingly, the majority selected customer service as the most important experience they attained before entering the collections field at 42%, with the next closest, sales, at 27%. One respondent commented that customer service is most important, “because it teaches you how to handle different personalities in an efficient way in order to obtain the best result.”
The remaining choices, in descending order, were: accounts payable/receivable (15%), call center experience (9%) and accounting (7%). No one chose telemarketing.
Women were also asked where they thought were the greatest opportunities for women entering the field today, and responses reflected some of the same areas of experience respondents thought were important to bring into the profession that are mentioned above, including: sales, customer service, management, and marketing.
One respondent summarized her experience as a woman working in the collections field by saying, “I believe being a woman in the industry is a privilege. I find it almost easier speaking to people and am able to obtain payment just by being a nice individual. Having an outgoing personality and great communication skills also helps me in collecting.”
An industry of opportunity
“IACC’s survey data clearly demonstrates that the commercial collections field is at least as equally accessible for women as it is for men, with plenty of opportunities for advancement with hard work and dedication,” said Jessica Hartmann, IACC’s Executive Director. Hartmann added that staying up to date on the latest educational trends is also vital to succeeding in the industry, stating that was the motivation for the creation of the IACC’s Emerging Leaders Task Force and other educational initiatives this past year.
“IACC is a leader in the industry, and aware of its responsibility to educate its members in areas of opportunity,” continued Hartmann. “The organization is always challenging itself to look at what new and exciting opportunities might be available.”
The International Association of Commercial Collectors, Inc. (IACC) is an international trade association comprised of more than 350 commercial collection agencies, attorneys, law lists and vendors. With members throughout the U.S. and in 25 international countries, IACC is the largest organization of commercial collection specialists in the world. The IACC contributes to the growth and profitability of its members by delivering essential educational and professional tools and services in a highly collaborative and participatory environment. For more information, visit www.commercialcollector.com