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Debt Collection 101: Episode 60 – Effective Employee Retention Strategies in Debt Collection

Best Advice For Employee Retention

Collections is known for being a tough industry, and a huge challenge for any agency is finding good employee recruitment and employee retention strategies. In today’s episode, we’re joined by Jeff DiMatteo, Owner/Partner at American Profit Recovery, Inc to discuss how he gets and keeps good people.

Welcome Back

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Debt Collection 101 here on Arbeit U. Yeah, we have a very very special episode today, right? Jeff DiMatteo joins us live via video call Thank you for joining us. So let’s start off with a very generic question. Jeff, tell us a bit about yourself, your agency, the whole nine yards.

Sure, I’ve been in debt collection for about 25 years. About 14 years ago myself and a few business partners believed we could do it a little bit better and we set off to add a lot of technology and customer service to our agency and hopefully create a great place to work. We’ve been in business for about 14 years serving some banking, and lawn care is one of our niches, medical and small businesses. We have about 3,500 clients nationwide. Wow, good for you guys.

Create An Open Environment

So one of the things that we’ve learned is a huge challenge for a lot of collection agencies is recruiting, and also employee retention strategies. Is that something you’ve noticed as well? Sure, it’s always a challenge. I think if you create a great place to work then it makes it a lot easier not only recruiting but retaining. Yeah, I mean that’s something that I see on all your LinkedIn videos. Yeah, that’s why you’re a perfect guest. For those, you who do not follow on him on LinkedIn go out and do it immediately, right? You guys got your collector day or whatever it is. It just it looks like a great place to work so I’m sure that must help in retaining employees.

It was one of our goals when we started. To create a home for employees and a great place where employees enjoy coming to work. It’s a tough industry to be in but if we can make them enjoy coming to work that’s half the battle. Yeah, I love it. Let’s talk about retaining people. What do you do? What do you guys do that other agencies aren’t doing or that you think other people maybe should be doing? I don’t know if it’s what other agencies aren’t doing.

I know there’s a lot of great agencies in the industry that are doing a lot of good things. The first thing is having an open floor and open door policy where people feel free to communicate and give ideas and have management to talk to. I know in the Michigan office I’ve got three business partners who are right out on the floor with all our employees and that goes a long way with employees when they see that they’re working right next to the managers of our company. It shows that their opinion means something. It’s a huge part of it. That’s awesome.

Look At Recruiting Sources To Stop Turnover

For sure. Did you have the employee retention strategies this the whole time since you guys have been a business? Did you just start doing it maybe? Yeah, I think when we started we wanted to focus employee retention strategies on turnover, and I think we probably have lower turnover than many companies not only in our industry but in general. its again creating a place where the employee is going to want to come to work and feel like they’re part of a team and feel like they’re actually accomplishing something.

We have goals, and they’re helping people, and we focus a lot on helping not only your clients but helping consumers. If our collectors and collection associates go into it with mind frame, then it goes a long way. Yeah, it’s awesome because one of the things we hear the most from every single agency is their biggest problem is finding and retaining employees, right? You guys clearly have winning employee retention strategies, so you have an above average retention rate it sounds like.

You think that comes for like your employee engagement? Like what’s the number one thing someone can implement today to help retain employees. I think referrals are a huge part. We go through the traditional sources. The Indeed.com and the career fairs but our referrals are certainly the biggest places we’ll get good employees. When they get referred in, they know what they’re coming into. Debt collection’s tough, and they know what to expect because they know somebody that’s on the team already. It goes a huge way, and then they want to be part of that team. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Why People Leave Collections

Did you kind of learn from your mistakes? Like was there ever a time where you guys had a hard time with employee retention strategies? I think in any industry it’s going to kind of come in spurts where there is better retention than other times but you’re just going to realize it’s part of any business and to keep going for it. Yeah, so obviously no one’s got a hundred percent retention rate I don’t think. Do you have like a top reason when people do fall off?

Is there a thing that you see is the reason why someone would leave. Yeah, so when you’re hiring you know you try to say: “Hey, here’s what you’re gonna be doing all day” right? You’re going to be talking to people, and some people aren’t going to be really excited to hear from you. We try to spell it out in the interview process. We got a couple of interviews that we go through, and although they come in with a great attitude and think that they’re going to be able to do it, this job just isn’t for everyone.

I think anyone who’s been in the industry for any amount of time quickly realizes that it’s not an easy job and you need a lot of qualities to be able to do it and do it correctly. What do you think the most important quality that someone needs to succeed as a collector? I’d say patience and probably some empathy. Listening skills to feel where consumers are coming from.

I think our industry’s gone a long way in the past 5,10, 15 years if you will from more telling people they need to pay the bill to now to more of a customer service approach. More listening and figuring out a way to help them. Instead of “hey, I gotta get my client paid” It’s more of “how can I help you get this result, so you have one less thing on your plate that you’re worried about.”

Keep People Energized In a Tough Industry

Right, so you said the biggest reason people leave is they just can’t handle you know the rejection basically of collections. With collections I mean you’re talking to people that aren’t the most excited to hear from you every day. Are there employee retention strategies keep the energy up? How do you make sure everyone is happy? Because it seems like in your videos, everyone’s happy there. I hope so. I hope they enjoy coming to work every day. We do a lot of things, and again like many agencies, we run contests, and we have I think what Spencer you were talking about we have our employee week once a year. Love it.

It’s a whole week spent thanking our employees. It’s games and bowling, and a whole bunch of activities. Just doing different stuff like that. We do lots of surveys, so again we’re looking for feedback. We do formal surveys. There are monthly one-on-ones with our employees and really try to give a lot of feedback. Have them give us a lot of feedback. Make sure it’s a good fit and keep them in a place where they’re not going to kick the dog on the way out the door. Yeah, poor dog. That’s awesome.

Show Energy In Recruitment

So yeah what’s I guess do you have a recruiter on staff? No, we don’t. We all are managers from our different departments, and our collection teams do their own hiring. I know I mentioned one of our sources are career fairs. I’m sure many companies do career fairs but one thing we noticed when we started going to these career fairs to hire but you go you spend money on a booth with these people sitting behind their desk in a chair. Just like what are you doing?

So for a career fair getting out there and getting in front of people. With people walking by getting out there and sticking a hand in front of them saying “hey are you doing? Have you ever heard about us?” and really the engagement that happens in career fairs really is what kinda made me realize that we’ve got to get some engagement to these things. That really helps a lot, and then we’re setting first interviews right there. That helped a lot too instead of saying “okay, yeah let me see your resume and I’ll look at it” and three days later call them and they found another job or something.

We’re setting personal interviews on the spot which help keep people coming right in. I love that. Yeah, you have to have the same energy at the career fair that they’re going to expect at work, right? That’s going to attract me over to your booth. If you have two options, you got someone’s whose high energy and you got a mopey person. No one wants to work at the mopey place. No, it’s gonna be boring. Especially when you have such a difficult job already. It’s our managers that are out there at these career fairs, so it’s they’re interviewing people that they want on their team. That’s awesome. Instead of a recruiter who’s recruiting for other people. You’re out there recruiting your own team.

Using Social Media To Change Stigmas

Yeah, I mean your culture is great so just keep it up. I love the videos. You’re constantly on LinkedIn man. Everywhere I look, I see you. Collections done right. You’re doing great. I think that you know we’re doing a lot of social media. We try to get a lot of the good stuff that we do out there. It’s important that all agencies do that because 3rd party collections still have a stigma unfortunately and we’re trying to change that just you know one post at a time.

We’re good people helping clients. So if we can help other agencies out there by preaching the good stuff that we do maybe we can change that mistake. For sure, we did an episode recently about what consumers do when an agency calls them and they check your social media.

Yeah, it’s a huge. One of the many things they did was check to make sure. If I’m getting called and later I go on, and I see everyone’s dancing and happy having a good time I’m gonna want to deal with them. It cools the guys down. Right? They go on look at a company, and if you see some black and white and we’re a 3rd party debt collector, they might have one view of the company. If they see that you’re out there doing good things in the community and good things with your employees they may you know put their guard down a little. It’s a great piece of advice.

Final Thoughts

Yeah, all right. Thanks so much, Jeff. I appreciate it. Yeah, we’ll link your information below. Anything you want people to know about you before we sign off? Last minute pitch? No, let’s keep the movement going in the industry. I think there’s so many good people. You’ve seen them at the conferences you go to. Get the word out there that we are a good industry. There are good people, and we’re doing good things for clients and consumers both.

I love that. awesome yeah. Use #DebtCollectionDoneRight. There you go. Check it out. See what’s going right in the industry. Look at you. Thanks Guys. Really appreciate it. Thanks so much.


Looking for more educational information? Check out these Debt Collection 101 episodes covering Debt Collection Recruitment Strategies and Keeping Collectors Motivated in the Workplace.

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Emily Faracca

Emily is the content creator at Arbeit. She is an aspiring gardener, enjoys bike rides through her neighborhood, and is a big fan of a good cocktail. As much as she loves her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., she absolutely loves to travel, and at the top of her bucket list is a trip to Sicily, where she still has living relatives.

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