-->

Collection Teams: Upskilling to Overcome Current Challenges

CreditorWatch has partnered with eMatrix to offer a free workshop for collection teams

Having worked with many credit and collections teams across a variety of industries, I’d like to share some insights on their unique challenges and urgent skills and knowledge gaps.

To overcome the challenges of the post-pandemic economy, companies should take advantage of current government incentives to train and upskill their employees. My recommendation is that collections teams start immediately with eMatrix’s free 2-hour training, – exclusive to CreditorWatch customers. You can find more details on this limited time offer at the end of this article.

In this video, Alex Daniel and Jodie Bedoya from eMatrix talk about the difference between collections and hardship.

Collectors are facing unprecedented levels of hardship and customer vulnerability; engaging in increasingly difficult conversations while trying to balance commercial outcomes. Government moratoriums on collections have led many to feel helpless, while relentlessly attempting new strategies. This has led to burnout and high turnovers within the industry. Additionally, remote working has made employee engagement and support more crucial yet more difficult than ever.

Right now, the importance of education, training and development cannot be understated. Employees need to keep upskilling to stay resilient and adapt to rapidly changing environments. It’s the perfect time for collections teams to take up subsidised courses to improve performance and retain talent.

Challenges and knowledge gaps

The ongoing effects of the pandemic have caused a spike in hardship cases and customer vulnerability. This, in turn, has revealed significant skills and knowledge gaps within collections teams nationwide.

Nikki Dennis, Managing Director of SalesCRED, who works closely with eMatrix Training to tailor training solutions for organisations, observes five main challenges:

1. Delayed payments across all industries

Increased payment times have made it impossible for collectors to reach outdated targets and KPIs. Despite greater pressure to increase cashflow, businesses need to reassess targets and ensure they’re realistic, to avoid burnout and demotivation within collections teams.

2. Increasingly difficult and complex conversations

Many collectors are unable to identify vulnerability and hardship and differentiate between them. However, it’s important that they understand the causes and warning signs. They need the right soft skills to navigate these situations effectively and empathetically, while leading customers to solutions.

Furthermore, with more SMEs requiring specialised assistance and support, credit professionals need to know how to ask the right discovery questions to get the best possible outcomes. The pandemic has affected everyone differently and there’s a greater need to provide individualised solutions instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

Ricky Forster, Head of Lending and Collections at Study Loans, agrees.

“A person not considered vulnerable at the outset of the pandemic can become vulnerable depending on our response. The risks of sudden loss of income or access to social support have consequences that are difficult to estimate and constitute a challenge in identifying all those who might also become vulnerable,” he says.

3. Internal pressures and conflicts

To increase revenue and cashflow, businesses need to ensure alignment between sales and credit teams. Leaders need to know how to facilitate clear communication between these departments to avoid potential conflicts and more stress.

4. Increased call volume

Collections teams are dealing with more inbound hardship calls and outbound calls chasing overdue accounts, putting a strain on existing resources. Organisations need to implement early intervention strategies, as debt is less likely to get paid the older it gets. They also need to address resourcing issues to avoid exhaustion and disengagement within their team.

5. Remote working and isolation

Work-life balance has become increasingly hard to achieve. Isolation not only leads to additional mental pressures, but also makes it harder to manage and support team members.

Ricky shares his approach:

“With COVID, we needed to adapt quickly to the unknown. Engagement, communication and support was required at all different levels and finding the right approach was challenging. Collaboration is key in my team.

Even when working remotely, we have a daily morning stand up each day to reflect on the previous day’s challenges and discuss how to effectively overcome them. Everyone has a voice and no one is left behind. We support each other to cross the finish line together.”

In adapting to the “new normal”, organisations should be offering flexible working hours, implementing resilience building strategies and helping employees balance competing priorities. Teams need to learn effective debriefing strategies so they can process their own emotions in safe environments. It is essential to maintain collaboration, keep morale high and be able to rely on each other for support. 

Upskilling in soft skills to increase resilience and performance

According to Jodie Bedoya, Director of eMatrix, debtors often prioritise paying those they like. Therefore, foundational soft skills are essential for collectors to improve customer engagement, creditor-debtor relationships and commercial outcomes.

“How to build trust and rapport, overcome conflict, handle objections and apply empathy are the building blocks to more complex collections conversations. Once these are embedded, you can upskill on how to respectfully ask for money, assess willingness versus capacity, negotiate effectively, and better respond to financial hardship and customer vulnerability,” she says.

Jodie notes that “awareness training in isolation is not enough – it can leave collectors acting as counsellors or going down a rabbit hole of pity. Soft skills training, such as learning to apply empathy effectively, goes beyond awareness and moves towards improved outcomes for both customers and staff.”

Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements

The Australian Government is currently offering a wage subsidy to support employers taking on new apprentices and trainees until 31 March 2022. Trainees will receive funding for 12 months to pursue qualifications approved by a State Training Authority – up to $7,000 per quarter per trainee or 50% of their wages.

Collections teams will benefit from a Cert III in Customer Engagement by eMatrix Training – a 12-month program offering specialised modules on collections, hardship, customer vulnerability and staff wellbeing. Training content and delivery will be tailored to the client’s specific needs.

Sign up for a free workshop by eMatrix and SalesCRED

Jodie Bedoya of eMatrix Training is hosting a two-hour interactive workshop on Dirty Words and Neutral Language for CreditorWatch customers.

Participants will learn about the subconscious impact of negative words in their conversations and how to replace them. They will leave with practical language tools and techniques that they can apply immediately within their team and even in personal relationships.

To sign up for this free training, please email marketing@creditorwatch.com.au. Note: The training will be held face-to-face in Melbourne in July 2021.

For more information on applying for the subsidy or other training opportunities, contact Nikki Dennis from SalesCRED on 0437 652 562 or email nikki@salescred.com.au.


Michelle Carruthers

Michelle is a Melbourne-based Senior Consultant at CreditorWatch, helping medium-to-large businesses mitigate commercial credit risk. She works closely with credit and procurement teams to understand their requirements in line with corporate strategy and provide guidance on the best solutions available.

Michelle is especially passionate about building close business relationships with all her customers, from SMEs to ASX-listed enterprises. She’s also part of the AICM VIC/TAS council.

Outside of work, Michelle loves painting and travelling. She enjoys exploring new countries, especially ones that are hard to get to and therefore less explored. Some of her favourite places include Madagascar, Palau, Ecuador and Patagonia. Connect with LinkedIn here.