It’s no secret that a collectors’ job can be a tough gig. Nevermore so than right now. With Covid challenges continuing to put a strain on both the economy and the ability of consumers and businesses to pay their debts, Collectors are facing many tough calls.
Add to that continued remote working conditions for many and the ongoing health concerns for family and friends, Collectors are going to be more exposed to high levels of stress than ever before, both in their work and personal lives. So what can Team Leaders do to support and assist their collections team in the current challenging environment?
1. Encourage Positive Communication
Conduct regular catch ups such as daily team huddles that focus on positive interaction. Keep huddles short, upbeat, and preferably have them at the start of the day. Don’t be too serious, have a laugh with your team. Encourage sharing but in a positive way, you want to avoid situations where everyone is whinging and negative. One way is to encourage the team to share one thing that they’re grateful for, or one positive thing about a team member or a good thing that’s happened that day or week. Such meetings can set the team up for a positive and productive day and help them feel connected despite working remotely.
2. Be a good listener
Ensure you listen well and respond accordingly to the needs of your team. Don’t judge. Understand that your team members will have different communication styles. Be sensitive to their particular styles and adjust your approach accordingly. Encourage an open-door policy (virtual or otherwise) so they know they can come to you for advice and support. Arrange regular one-on-one check ins and ask open-ended questions such as ‘How is the new remote working arrangement working for you? rather than closed questions with a yes/no answer – this will help you better gauge what might be going on.
3. Focus on soft skills training
Ensure credit staff are supported fully in their role by providing them with training where possible. Toolkits and conversation guides will enable greater ownership of their role and improved confidence in handling challenging calls. Upskilling them with a range of soft skills including how to apply strategic empathy will assist them in getting the best outcome for the customer whilst protecting their own emotions and mental well-being. If your organisation is not in a position to invest in external training programs, there are train-the-trainer options available or good training video’s you can find from reputable organisations online that you can share with your team. You can start by subscribing to the eMatrix youtube channel here eMatrix – YouTube for some practical tips on collections conversations.
4. Provide both internal and external support
Refer employees to internal Employee Assistance Programs and know the external support services that you can refer them to if required such as lifeline and beyond blue. Remember, no Team Leader is expected to be a counsellor to either staff or customers, there are experts for that. Just do the best you can do within your role to listen, assist, support and refer where necessary.
5. Connect Regularly
Set team challenges, have coffee mornings or Friday drinks. These sorts of things can work whether in person or remotely. Show your appreciation, a nice thank you or appreciation email to the team can go a long way to improving morale. Create daily or weekly videos to share with your team outlining expected goals and or achievements or share a good news story.
6. Unite for a common cause
Think of a volunteering opportunity for the team or a charity you can collectively support and raise money and/or awareness for. Get input from your team as to what charity or cause may be close to their hearts. People are often happiest when feeling like they are part of a bigger cause and helping others. It will also have the added benefit of bringing your team closer together as they encourage and motivate each other to reach a common goal. Maybe you could tie your cause to a vulnerable customer group that your team may encounter such as people experiencing family violence, gambling, drug and alcohol addictions and mental health issues? Doing this could have the added bonus of building awareness around that particular vulnerability and how it may impact a customer’s ability to pay.
7. Build Wellbeing & Resilience in your staff
Many organisations are investing in wellbeing and resilience training sessions for staff that are working in particularly challenging environments. If you think your organisation may be open to this then you can put a business case forward. As part of developing your case, it is useful to know and state that 3 key tangible benefits experienced from specialised wellbeing training can be a) reduced unplanned absences, b) higher productivity and c) increased retention rates. Reputable training organsiations will be happy to provide you with testimonials and case studies in support of your business case. If all else fails and you are unable to secure a budget for wellbeing training, take a look online. There are some fantastic websites such as Psychology Today Australia: Health, Help, Happiness + Find Counselling AU and The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association (anzmh.asn.au) that have video’s, podcasts, articles and exercises that you can share with your team. There are also some good meditation apps like smiling mind that your team may be able to benefit from.
All in all, even though as a team leader you are restricted to a certain extent by the demands of your organisation in terms of budgets and time, there are many ways in which you can still support and assist your collections team through this challenging environment. Also, never be afraid to put forward any ideas you may have to your Managers. The worst they can do say is no, but most Managers welcome proactive, well thought out and well-presented ideas. whether they can be acted on immediately or not. And you may be pleasantly surprised with the result!
eMatrix Training is a Collections, Vulnerability & Wellbeing Specialists; helping organisations throughout Australia balance their commercial outcomes with hardship/vulnerability and the wellbeing of their staff. Training options can include online modules, train-the-trainer, in person workshops, virtual webinars.