Collections Agencies: National Leaders in Resolving Consumer Complaints—Again—How Are You Doing?

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September 27, 2013 by Lisa Brammer

Yes, you read that right. As an industry, collection agencies are on the leaderboard—again—when it comes to resolving consumer complaints.

If you are surprised by this statistic you might be among the many that let the actions of a few unscrupulous companies color the way you feel about an entire industry.

Each year, the Better Business Bureau provides a report on their inquiries and complaint statistics. The 2012 report revealed that collection agencies within the United States resolved a whopping 86 percent of the consumer complaints received by the bureau, exceeding the national average of 76.7 percent across all industries. 2012’s resolution rate for collection agencies showed an increase of 3 percentage points over 2011’s rate of 83 percent, while overall resolution rates across all industries barely budged, increasing slightly from 76.4 percent in 2011.

To me, these numbers show how dedicated the third party collection industry is to resolving complaints—especially when you consider that ours is an industry that is inherently fraught with conflict. It also demonstrates how committed we are, as an industry, to working with consumers to find solutions.

If you are curious about how your industry faired with the resolution of consumer complaints in the Better Business Bureau’s 2012 report, click on the link.

People make mistakes and businesses are no different. And in most instances, it’s not the mistake that will cost your business—but how you recover from it.

All employees should be trained in customer service and how complaints are handled. One offhand response from an untrained employee can wreak havoc and have far reaching consequences.

In my experience, there are a few important things to remember when handling customer complaints.

1. Listen – you really need to understand what they are complaining about. If they are complaining in person or on the phone, you need to give them your undivided attention; this lets them know that they are important to you. It’s also essential to write down all meaningful complaints, that way you can track trending. If the same complaint comes up repeatedly, obviously something needs to be fixed. Sometimes a customer’s complaint can provide insight into flaws in your product or service.

2. Empathize – It’s important to connect with your customers, it shows them that their concerns are important to you and lets them know you want to work with them to resolve the problem.

3. Apologize – I cannot emphasize this enough! Say you are sorry—no matter what! By apologizing you are telling the customer you are sorry they are unhappy with the organization. It won’t mean you will be taking responsibility for what happened or admitting fault. If apologizing is not something you normally do, you’ll be amazed how quickly people respond to the three words I am sorry.

4. Keep emotions in check – Sometimes customers can be difficult, it’s important not to reflect their attitude back at them or get passive-aggressive with a customer—nothing good will come from it. Remember, it’s not always about what you say, but how you say it. You cannot control the actions of your customers, but you can control your reactions. It’s important to remember that no matter how it feels—it is not personal.

5. Offer a solution – Do what you can to offer a resolution. If they want more than you can give, try to keep the focus on the positive—what you can do for them rather than what you can’t.

6. Act quickly – Once you have an agreed upon a solution, act quickly. I know you have other priorities that need your attention, but let’s face it, the customer wants this fixed immediately—and if your company is at fault, it should be fixed as soon as possible. If there needs to be a wait for some reason, explain this to the customer to help manage expectations. Don’t try to placate them with best-case-scenarios that could easily back-fire, let them be pleasantly surprised if they come through.

If you cannot resolve the issue and they want to escalate the complaint to someone higher-up, calmly tell them you are sorry you were unable to help them and transfer them to the appropriate party. Remember, not all customers have reasonable expectations, sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to make them happy—you just have to do your best.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Visit our website at or call 877-723-2902


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