Can We Talk? Reputation and Integrity in the Collections Business

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January 11, 2017 by Mark Hammerstrom

Last December my friend and colleague, Lisa Brammer, wrote a great blog titled “Debt Collection and the Compliance Minefield.”  If you have not read it, you should.

She points out the incredible morass of regulations and compliance requirements our industry faces. Not only are there innumerable regulations, laws, licensing and reporting requirements, new ones crop up seemingly every day. Keeping up with them requires constant vigilance and training, yet the industry seems to receive a new black eye with alarming regularity.

Let’s be clear: these ‘black eyes’ have nothing to do with United Credit Service, our business practices or how we represent our valued clients. We go to great lengths to ensure we are in full compliance with ever changing regulations and have in place the necessary processes, training and certifications to keep it that way.

Not helping is the continuing focus the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) places on reporting generalized, raw data in their monthly complaint snapshot on debt collection.

UCS is a member of ACA International, an industry trade organization, which keeps a close eye on industry trends, issues and concerns which impact the collections industry.

In a recent summary of the CFPB’s last report of 2016, the ACA states that they have continuing strong concerns about the reports and the picture it paints of the industry.

While some of the report appears to be good news (for example that overall industry complaints are down and that those that are reported are being resolved and addressed in a very timely manner), the data represented in them can be very misleading.

“Given the tremendous potential for raw data to mislead consumers and paint an unfair portrait of the debt collection industry, ACA International opposes the CFPB’s decision to release reports about consumer complaints without any kind of normalization to put the complaint data in context.”

The ACA goes on to say: “Despite ongoing and significant criticism surrounding the lack of context in the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database, in July 2015, the CFPB began releasing monthly complaint reports using this non-normalized, unverified data that not only examine a different service category and geographic region each month, but also include a list of the ‘most-complained-about companies’ based on the raw number of complaints.”

The ACA is urging the CFPB to “to modify the Consumer Complaint Database and its accompanying reports to more accurately reflect actual company performance, including by developing and implementing a well-reasoned data normalization process.”

Why should this be important to our valued clients? Because of the negative impressions this type of report can have on well-run companies like UCS, even though it is not reflective of how we do business.

“Addressing fundamental flaws in the CFPB’s consumer complaint handling and publication process is necessary to decrease the potential that consumers will be harmed by misleading data and to mitigate unfair reputational damage to compliance-minded businesses.”

I realize this sounds kind of wonky, but the fact of the matter is that misleading reports, especially by government agencies charged with providing consumers a useful outlet to air legitimate complaints, hurts us all.

For the record, UCS has an exemplary record of client satisfaction and handling any consumer complaints we receive. As a percentage of our total collections activity, complaints represent such a small part of our activity as to be statistically insignificant.  We have no outstanding complaints as of this writing and any that have been received are handled expediently.  As an illustration of how big headlines can distort factual reality, of the handful we have received since the CFPB has gone to electronic reporting, 93% of them were for the wrong company or unfounded.

We are very proud of our track record, as well as the fact that we maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Integrity and reputation are important to us, and we want to make sure our clients and business associates know how strongly we feel about maintaining it. You can always have confidence that doing business with us will be met with the highest standards of integrity and service quality.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Visit our website at http://www.unitedcreditservice.com, call 877-723-2902 or check out our YouTube video.

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