Webinar recap: Tips for hiring and retaining top collections agents

Webinar details - click to receive the full recording

“No one wants to work anymore.”

“I can’t find anyone to hire.”

“Why can’t I get agents to stay on for more than a few months?”

Everywhere we go lately, talking to collections folks ends up covering some version of these questions. 

We like to help, so we brought together two experts to offer their tips on hiring and retaining top collections agents. Clint Daoud, Co-Founder and CEO of Unifin, and Chris Schumacher, President and CEO of Optio Solutions, LLC.

Click the image to get the full 30-minute recording or read on for the recap.

1. Hire carefully and thoughtfully

Schumacher explained their multi-step hiring process pays off in the long term.

Optio uses a human resources platform he says offers a “seamless” experience. 

After initial interviews, applicants complete a 20-minute video assessment including four mock calls. The platform scores performance, giving supervisors an objective basis for judgment, and offers potential employees a peek into the job.

At Unifin, Daoud says a shift they made in who they look to hire has paid off for them.

"Historically, when we first started, we were hiring experienced agents. But as we all know, they do come with their own areas that need improvement," he explained. "So we actually stopped searching for collectors and started looking to hire individuals that historically had some sort of quota they had to meet."

Though that shift means an increased learning curve for new agents, Daoud says that for Unifin, it has paid off in motivated employees.

2. Train and keep training

Both Schumacher and Daoud stressed the importance of nesting agents properly in order to start them off on the right track, as well as continual ongoing training. 

Solid training and mentoring programs help to improve performance and employee satisfaction, ultimately leading to better retention rates.

"We find that training and mentoring helps with reducing our attrition," said Daoud. 

At Optio, Schumacher said that they’ve shifted from asking supervisors to be trainers to having a national sales trainer, responsible not only for onboarding new agents but for offering continuing training.

Moreover, he highlighted the importance of technology such as speech analytics and collaboration tools, to improve agents' performance and communication. 

"The tools that we have today in the last five years drastically change the ability to be successful with mentoring and helping, encouraging.”

And echoing the education maxim that 10% of the students take 90% of the teacher’s time, Schumacher recommends switching from focusing on “problem” agents to those who are genuinely trying to improve. 

“Identify who those team players are and help them with the skills that you want them to get better, because they're going to be the ones that move you forward and win you a championship."

3. Offer comprehensive pay and benefits

"I've always been a firm believer of allowing the collector to live at a wage that is above standard,” said Daoud.

"Our average tenure with collectors is somewhere close to three years. They do stick around. A lot of that has to do with: we do pay a competitive salary, offer proper and great benefits, and an uncapped bonus,” he explained of Unifin’s packages. (This also ties into their success with those quota-motivated hires.)

Optio offers education benefits, and has agents who stay for three or four years while working on a degree.

Offering work-from-home is another benefit that has proven effective for Unifin. Optio offers flex time. Both arrangements are tied to employee performance, and serve as a motivator.

Healthy competition comes in all forms. Schumacher shared that at Optio, they bought 50 boxes of Girl Scout cookies and used them as prizes for competitions. “You’d be surprised how excited people get about a $5 box of Girl Scout cookies,” he said. (Daoud says he’d be in if it’s Samoas - we're holding out for Tagalongs.)

Optio also believes in creating a positive atmosphere in the office. Even something as seemingly small as a well-designed employee break room can feel like a perk, especially in a tough job. Theirs has video games, allowing agents to fully disconnect from work for a while.

And both companies focus on career opportunities, promoting from within and offering multiple career paths.

4. Use technology to improve every step of the employee experience

From Optio’s HR software to the tools enabling remote work, technology, both experts agreed, is key to employee success.

The right tools are particularly important in training and development, both leaders agreed. 

A real-time agent assistance solution can significantly reduce ramp time as well as offer support for long-time agents when there are changes such as regulatory shifts. 

Schumacher cited software that analyzes calls in real time so trainers or supervisors can follow up immediately with objective feedback and agents have an immediate opportunity to improve.

While some collections teams have been frustrated by tools in the past, today’s solutions are AI-powered and offer expertise in consumer finance rather than trying to stretch across all industries.

And tools that allow teams to collaborate remotely in real time also increase agent success, giving them fast access to managers and peers, and giving leaders insight into performance even from a distance.

Unifin and Optio’s successes are inarguable, and we appreciate their willingness to share their secrets. We hope this helps you find your next best agents and keep them satisfied and challenged for years to come.