How a Virtual Agent Can Solve Debt Collection Labor Shortage

There was a time when hiring for a new training class was simple. Place an ad in the newspaper, wait for the applications to trickle in, conduct a few interviews, and before you knew it, you had a team of ambitious new hires ready to begin work. Today, thanks in large part to the pandemic, this process is far from simple and for many of us, it has become the most challenging aspect of running a business.

I can still remember when I first encountered pandemic-related staffing challenges. I had been tasked with hiring for a new training class of Collection Representatives at a collection agency in Michigan and believed world events would actually make this task easier, offering our company many advantages in the area of recruiting. We were hiring when other companies were pulling back and there seemed to be a clear need for jobs as you could not turn on a television set without seeing a news broadcast about a family struggling due to a pandemic-related job loss. This lead me to believe there were ample people seeking employment and that we might even be able to secure top talent that we would not normally be able to afford.

It would be simple! I would place a help wanted ad, receive hundreds, maybe even thousands of applications, be able to pick and choose from a large pool of extremely qualified candidates, and go on to form one of the best training classes I had ever assembled. Unfortunately, I could not have been more wrong. After placing the help wanted ad, we began to receive countless applications but the majority of them had next to no information.

I still remember being confused when receiving dozens of resumes that had nothing more than the candidate’s name on an otherwise empty page. In addition to this, we received other resumes that had invalid contact information, either the contact information was not valid or there was no contact information being provided. I started to believe something was wrong with our help wanted ad but soon realized the actual culprit was bigger than that.

At the time, the government had to make a decision on if it would renew the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). If they did not, millions of Americans who were drawing unemployment would see their unemployment checks be reduced by $600 per week. There was a lot of debate in government about how to proceed with some representatives suggesting that if the benefit was to be renewed, workers would be required to actively seek employment and seek proof of this.

This requirement, providing proof that you are looking for work while collecting unemployment benefits, was already common practice in most states but had been suspended as a result of the pandemic. However, with news of the suggestion that these requirements would be reinstated appearing everywhere, it started to make sense why I was receiving resumes with a lack of content.

Not every resume we received was incomplete. There were a lot of candidates legitimately looking for work who had submitted their work history and valid contact information. However, when I would contact these candidates one of three scenarios typically played out. Either the candidates were not interested in working at the rates we were willing to pay, some even admitting that they were earning more on unemployment and could take their time finding a job, other candidates were only interested in remote work-at-home positions, with the last group legitimately looking for work.

I could continue to discuss the many other difficulties that I faced during this period of time but the problem is many of these obstacles are not applicable today. The world around us has changed at such a fast rate, there are an entirely new set of challenges that business owners must work to overcome. These challenges now include:

  • Labor Shortage – Many candidates have chosen to leave the job market altogether due to the pandemic. Some are worried about contracting COVID-19 while others do not want to be subjected to vaccine requirements or other pandemic-related work rules. There are others who struggle with problems created by the pandemic (such as childcare issues) and even more who have decided to retire early and not deal with any of it (and I cannot blame them).
  • Job Market Competition – Our collection agency had a starting wage of $12 to $15 per hour plus commission and benefits. When you factored in commissions, the average Collection Representative at our company was earning in excess of $19 to $24 per hour, which in our area is a decent rate of pay. However, it is hard to compete with the gas station chain on each corner offering a starting wage of $21 per hour with a full benefits package. Since there are fewer people willing to work just about every type of job, employers have had to become more competitive with their compensation packages, whether they can afford to do so or not.
  • Employee Expectations – A record number of Americans left their jobs over the last several months. It has made such an impact that news outlets have dubbed it, “The Great Resignation” and it is a trend that continues today. There are many reasons for this, from employees looking for better jobs to others reevaluating their goals and objectives, seeking a change of pace.

I have had to deal with all of these challenges head-on and the success of my business was dependent upon a solution being found, a fact you might be able to relate with. In my next post, I will write about the solutions I discovered through trial and error and provide some useful tips for anyone struggling with similar staffing challenges. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn so that you do not miss out on these tips and hopefully, between now and then, recruiting will become less of a challenge for us all.

About Total CollectR: Total CollectR is a white-label virtual agent and debt negotiator platform designed to help credit grantors and collection agencies increase cash collections, reduce costs, and be more compliant. Powered by next-generation artificial intelligence, our platform connects with your customers on the channels they prefer and empowers them to resolve their delinquent account balances. Capable of managing an unlimited workload, our platform is capable of competing with the performance of your existing collection staff at a fraction of the cost. Total CollectR is not a replacement for your existing debt management system, it is an add-on solution that compliments your existing process. Learn more by visiting the Total CollectR website. If you would like to see a demonstration of the software, click here to schedule a date/time that works best for you.

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