See how collections training programs can use real-world activities and empathy to boost learning outcomes, customer satisfaction and collections performance.

Collections Leaders Seek New Ways to Reinvigorate Call Center Agent Performance

Agent turnover in call centers has steadily grown to 38% in 2022, and with increased regulatory scrutiny and economic instability, it’s a challenging landscape for handling financially distressed customers. Of course, this high turnover can be attributed to the emotionally taxing nature of debt collections. But one of the main reasons for high agent turnover is the preference for the work-from-home model. To address this issue, collections departments have begun to adapt by offering remote work options and ensuring robust remote training programs. A key challenge bubbled up from this change: creating engaging and effective collections training for remote agents.

Challenge: Delivering Effective Agent Training Remotely

In recent years, corporate training shifted dramatically to remote-based training. Research underscores the importance of crafting engaging content and honing communication skills, especially empathy, to make remote training effective. Shockingly, about 50% of corporate training programs (remote and in-person) fail due to factors like irrelevant content, disengaged learners, outdated practices, poor communication of training needs, lack of managerial clarity and uninterested employees.

"Successful remote training comes from crafting engaging content and honing communication skills – especially empathy."

Collections leaders will continue to face the task of adapting phone channel training to a remote environment while preparing agents comprehensively and mitigating unwanted outcomes. The key to success lies in training that minimizes lectures and maximizes hands-on activities. Engaging employees during training with activities and role plays pushes them outside their comfort zone (required for retaining knowledge) and helps them practice successful communication techniques.

Ask yourself: Are you teaching the right communication techniques, practicing it, and then inspecting what you expect after the training ends?

Three Steps to Successfully Transform your Collections Training for Remote Agents

1. Design role-based training material that’s relevant to the learner’s job.

  • Build training content using scenarios of the most challenging call types, so that the learner can relate to the content.
  • Share calls from the top agents for each call type in the scenarios, so learners hear what a good, empathetic call sounds like.
  • Provide scripts for the top five collection call types to ensure information to customers is conveyed accurately.
  • Create an effective phrase library to share best practices and provide a better way to communicate difficult answers or questions.
  • Create activities and role plays so agents can practice in their voice, based off the shared effective communication techniques. Activities keep the learners engaged in the training and help them build good habits.

2. Create a balanced training curriculum that engages virtual participants.

  • Develop a call model and organize your curriculum chronologically by your call flow. This breaks the training down into small sections that build upon the learning.
chart Collections Call Model Example
  • Organize activities related to your most common call types. Identify call types based on delinquency reasons and fact-finding, categorizing customers as Oversight, Short-Term Hardship, and Long-Term Hardship. Then create activities and role plays for each category, including relevant phrases and questions to determine affordable payment programs.
Chart- Organize Activities by Call Type
Your activities should follow a pattern of tell me, show me and then, observe me. This can be achieved by first explaining what is required on the call, then playing best-in-class calls to be able to hear what good sounds like. Then conduct role plays to practice and observe.

Tip: Create a call library to clarify the standards for an exemplary call. The library should contain the highest-rated calls categorized by call type. This allows learners to understand what constitutes a “best in class” call.

3. Establish a Post-Training Feedback Program for Continuous Learning.  Implement a Call Listening Program where managers monitor calls and give feedback.

  • Develop a call coaching form that inspects the expectations that were set in training.
  • Train Managers on how to coach using the form. Break down the components of how to effectively coach for successful performance.

Chart Coaching Components

  • Observe and certify managers in providing effective coaching feedback.
  • Track performance gaps and offer special training to address them.
  • Reward progress by recognizing success and reset expectations if desired results aren’t met.

Repeated Practice and Experience Builds Habits

Adapting your classroom curriculum to the adult learning 70/20/10 rule will have a dramatic effect on your learner’s experience and success. Adults learn from three types of experience, following a ratio of: 70% on-the-job training experience, 20% from exposure to the right behavior and 10% from educational courses. You can modify your curriculum by ensuring your learners are participating in activities and exposed to the right behavior 90% of the time you are in class. You can decrease lecture time and increase activities such as customer listening sessions, group/individual activities and role plays. It takes someone 21 times to develop a habit and the practice you provide your learners will make perfect.

Empathy: The #1 Key to Collections Success

While building the classroom curriculum is foundational to your training, true success in collections starts with the capacity to engage in empathetic customer conversations. Teaching this remotely can be challenging, but the key to success lies in the use of real-world activities.

Empathy is Critical for Keeping Customers Around

In a study conducted by Lexop a striking 32% of respondents blamed their negative past-due experiences on unsympathetic and rude agents. Shockingly, 71% of them considered switching to the competition as a result. Clearly, being empathetic in your communication is absolutely critical.

Dedicating time to practice will help you develop effective and empathetic communication skills among your team. But why are these skills so important? Lexop surveyed past-due customers, revealing that factors like inflation, interest rate hikes and rising costs have made it increasingly difficult for consumers to manage their bills. In fact, 60% of U.S. consumers are living paycheck to paycheck.

Showing empathy and building a connection with customers who are facing financial struggles significantly enhances your ability to negotiate successful payment arrangements.

By revisiting the basics and teaching agents through practice, how to ask the right questions and respond adeptly to challenging customer situations, you increase their capacity for authentic conversations. This, in turn, boosts your chances of being first in line for payment.

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