By Karin Brown-Purtell, CLE, Consultant – Lending Solutions Consulting, Inc.
As cooler weather approaches, my thoughts often turn to cozy evenings spent working on a crafty project or two. I love to quilt. There I said it. Yes, quilt. Who would think that a diehard debt collector could live a parallel life as a quilter? Quilting utilizes imagination, color and expression to tell a story. I don’t know if I’m any good at quilting but I enjoy using my free time to create my story.
It’s not really surprising that I like to quilt – many of the same skills that make a person successful in debt collection are in close parallel with similar quilting skills. In both genres an ability to see the finished whole (either in a beautiful quilt or a current account) is critical. To get to that vision it’s important to know the whole story. In debt collection that means understanding the story behind each “block” that will eventually make up the quilt. It’s up to the collector to find the clues to that story, attaching a meaning and significance to the reason(s) behind the delinquency. Once you have that information, the block on the quilt drops into place and the information gathered helps you find the solution that keeps the troubled borrower from paying the loan.
What information should debt collectors be gathering to tell the story, to find the solution? It all comes down to effective interviewing, asking the right questions at the right time. It’s more than just chasing the payment; it’s having a conversation with the borrower to find the true reason for delinquency. In the broad sense, interviewing is the process whereby individuals exchange information. It can be tough to know exactly how to engage the troubled borrower in order to obtain important information. That is why effective interviewing techniques are so crucial for collectors. Various tactics like rapport building, tone and empathy must be used in order to get the individual to open up, because without the true story, it’s hard to find a meaningful and effective solution.