Rodney Dangerfield went “Back to School,” didn’t he? So why can’t aspiring debt collectors do it, too? Many might not remember Dangerfield and the 1986 classic movie where the then-65-year-old comedian played a father who enrolled in college to be with his son (totally worth re-watching if only to see pre-Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr., and Dangerfield’s work on the Triple Lindy), but the message of the movie hits home for debt collection training programs, too — individuals going through training programs are like students who need to be reminded that it’s ok to ask questions and it’s ok to take notes. Building an effective training program is like sending new hires back to school, and that includes trying to make the process as enjoyable and fun as possible, according to the panelists on a recent webinar who discussed different ways to make training as effective as possible. This webinar was sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning.
Setting the tone at the start of a new training session is important, and that means reminding the new collectors that their job — for the time being — is just to be good students, said Greg Ruffino, the director of training at Williams & Fudge. “And what do great students do?” Ruffino asked during the webinar. “They take notes. They ask questions. When they’re told to watch a video, they actually watch the video. They take notes home. They collaborate with each other.”
Like students, new collectors need plenty of breaks and activities to keep the days from becoming monotonous slogs through important topics like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This means breaking up days into different blocks, like spending time in the classroom and then spending time shadowing agents to see what things are like on the collection floor, followed by sitting in on a call calibration session, to show them what those are like and how committed the company is to helping agents succeed, said Gwen Gullicksen, the director of compliance and training at Sentry Credit. “You cannot sit and read the FDCPA and FCRA and all of the other abbreviations, all day for two days,” Gullicksen said. “You have to break it up.” At Frost-Arnett, the company spends half of the training day in the classroom and the other half on the collection floor, with trainees shadowing agents, said Kelsey Peters, the director of talent acquisition, training, and development at the company.
One area of training that gets overlooked is following up with new hires after 30, 60, or 90 days to see how the job is different than what they learned during training, Peters said. “If you’re serving your hires, they’re going to be the ones that are going to give you that concrete evidence that we missed something that we can then take back to the training team, review, and see where we want to plug that in,” Peters said. “We can assume and we might be plugging in additional content that just makes it all overwhelming. So their feedback is vital.”
Like Dangerfield in “Back to School,” committing to the process and understanding that becoming good at something takes hard work because there are no shortcuts is a key to becoming a great collector. “If you can understand and accept the perspective on what we’re doing, you’ll be totally fine,” Ruffino said. “If you understand you’ll have X number of no’s to get to the few yes’s, those few yes’s make all the difference in the world. And you’ve got to understand that and those that do understand it can build long-term tenured careers.”
Building an Effective Training Program for New Collectors