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Why Collections Organizations Must Do QA
Quality assurance (QA) or quality management (QM) programs to measure agent effectiveness and evaluate agent adherence to internal policies and procedures during customer interactions have long been standard practices in the contact center industry. Although many collections contact centers perform QA evaluations, the focus is primarily on collections effectiveness (collecting more money), not on call quality, the customer experience or regulatory compliance. This approach is risky and could result in angry customers and major fines.
QA and Regulatory Compliance
Collections contact centers are likely to be regulated by a number of different rules, depending on the industry, e.g. credit card, healthcare, mortgage, etc., as well as the type of collections they perform: first-party, third-party or purchased debt. Most commonly, collections organizations must comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and other federal and individual state regulations. In addition to the regulatory bodies overseeing the aforementioned acts, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is responsible for ensuring collections organizations maintain regulatory compliance. With this level of scrutiny, management in collections contact centers must know what their collectors are saying to customers.
Far more important than simply “auditing calls” to ascertain if collectors are collecting money effectively, a QA program should be used to ensure that employees are complying with the law. Areas of focus for collections QA programs should include:
- Required language – FDCPA mandates that initial communications (written or oral) include mini-Miranda language, and in all subsequent communications the agent must be identified as a “debt collector” early in the call.
- Right-party contacts – Ascertaining whether the person calling (inbound) or answering a call (outbound) is the right party is paramount. How a right party is determined should be identified in the QA process, e.g., using the last four digits of a Social Security number or date of birth, etc. Whether this information must be provided to the collector or offered by the collector and confirmed needs to be addressed.
- Cease and desist requests – Notification of attorney representation or requests to prohibit calls being made to a place of employment must be handled properly. QA programs should include “account maintenance” processes to ensure collectors have added and/or removed appropriate contact numbers and information so subsequent calls will only be placed to the right person at the right number.
- Collector identification on outbound calls – When speaking with right parties on outbound calls, collectors must identify themselves and their agency. When speaking with third parties on outbound calls, collectors should identify their agency only if asked. Ensuring use of the right protocol is vitally important.
- Third-party contacts and voicemail – Many regulatory violations are the result of improper third-party disclosures or voicemails that do not meet FDCPA requirements. (These issues often arise in the context of very short calls.) Monitoring and evaluating calls of all lengths is imperative.
- Consent to auto-dial cell phones – Collections operations that use automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS, also known as dialers) should use QA to help ensure that consent and revocation of consent to dial cell phones follows established processes. It is also essential to be sure that reassigned cell numbers are handled appropriately.
While the CFPB does not set guidelines for the number of calls that need to be audited by a collections organization, they expect the results of internal compliance audits to be an accurate representation of all calls handled. Auditing 1% – 2% of calls or 3 – 10 calls per collector per month (which is typical in manual QA programs) does not yield statistically significant QA results or insight into all calls. Collections contact centers should follow the lead set by the CFPB and leverage speech analytics to automate their QA and compliance review process. Be proactive – don’t wait for a CFPB examination or customer lawsuit; the cost of fines or legal fees for non-compliance could well exceed an investment in a speech analytics-enabled quality assurance solution.