Collections Specialist Job Description
Collections specialists are responsible for facilitating the repayment of past-due loans or bills to creditors or businesses. They are the people who make phone calls to those who have missed payments and try to work out a payment plan. It is a role that is stigmatized as unpleasant because of these calls. In reality, collection specialists are compassionate people who aim to do everything within their power to put together affordable repayment plans. They know the people they’re trying to contact are in financial hardship, and their empathy is their best tool. Collections specialists typically work in a call center office setting, although some telecommute at least part of the time. They work the same schedule followed by most financial institutions, so they get Sundays and federal holidays off. They are employed by financial law offices that specialize in debt collections, or they are employed directly by financial institutions.
The role of collections specialist is an entry-level position. They are assigned accounts by a department manager, and they are periodically reviewed by said manager based on performance metrics. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for “Bill and Account Collectors,” which includes collections specialists, is set to decline 3 percent through 2026.
Collections Specialist Duties and Responsibilities
Addressing payment issues entails different tasks. We analyzed several collections specialist job descriptions to come with the following list of core duties:
Ensure Accuracy of Debtor Contact Information
Collection specialists use a process called skip tracing to find accurate contact information for debtors who don’t respond to their listed contact information. They need to keep their databases accurate to optimize their chance of success.
Contact Debtors and Explain Reason for Call
A fair amount of a collection specialist’s day is spent contacting debtors. When they are able to get ahold of a debtor, collection specialists are responsible for explaining the specific reason for the call. This includes accurately relaying information about the debt in question.
Listen to Debtor Reasons for Missing Payments
Collection specialists have to be compassionate if they want a high success rate. Most people who stop paying a bill do so because they have had a life emergency. Collection specialists have to make debtors feel like they’re being listened to, while still trying to get them to commit to repayment terms.
Comply With Federal and State Debt Collection Regulations
There are regulations governing what collection specialists can and cannot do in their quest to collect a debt. This involves memorizing the “mini-Miranda,” which is what they use to inform debtors that they are are a collection agency trying to collect a debt.
Negotiate Repayment Terms
Success as a collections specialist depends upon negotiation skills. They have to be able to quickly calculate possible repayment offers based on the amount of debt and the amount the debtor can afford to pay.
Collections Specialist Skills
Collections specialists rely on financial acumen and strong communication to succeed at their position. They possess expertise in how credit scores work, as well as their state’s specific regulations regarding debt collection. They are also experts in their particular company’s system for calculating repayment plans. When it comes to communication skills, collections specialists are good active listeners. They have to use the information debtors give regarding their financial situation to offer terms they are most likely to accept. As expert negotiators, collection specialists have to be able to change their closing style based on the communication style of the debtor. Besides this knowledge and collection of communication skills, the following are needed to get a job as a collections specialist:
- Ensuring data accuracy using skip tracing software and attention to detail
- Placing calls to debtors using call management software
- Analyzing debtor’s original debt and date of delinquency to come with payment options
- Complying with state and federal regulations through dedication to ethics
- Negotiating repayment terms using case-specific information
Collections Specialist Tools of the Trade
To effectively fulfill their position, collection specialists utilize:
- Call Management Software – This is used to automatically dial numbers and talk with debtors through a hands-free headset
- Skip Tracing Software – This is used to scan the Internet for accurate debtor information from publicly available databases
Collections Specialist Education and Training
The only formal requirement to become a collections specialist is a high school diploma, although employers who pay at the higher end of the pay scale tend to prefer candidates with an associate’s degree in business. Other employers prefer candidates with previous banking experience and a respectable credit score.
Collections Specialist Salary
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for collections specialists is $33,454. Those at the low end of the scale make $26,000, while those at the high end make $44,000.
Collection Specialist Resources
Interested in learning more about starting your career as a collection specialist? If so, take a look at the following websites and books:
The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals - The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals is a great organization for collection specialists who want to grow a robust professional network. The association hosts regular workshops and networking events at chapters across the country. It also offers professional certification.
Federal Trade Commission - The Federal Trade Commission website has everything a collection specialist needs to know about the fair debt collection practices act.
20 Tricks, Tips and Techniques on Successful Debt Collection by Krista T. Walsh - Krista covers 20 of the top techniques she has used over her successful career as a financial professional. All 20 of these techniques are relevant to the duties of a collection specialist.
Debt Collection Simplified by Bill Lindala – This book demystifies the debt collection process through the use of real-world stories from the author’s career. It’s a read that is both fun and informative.
Debt Collection Letters & Forms: How to Get Your Customers to Pay by Michelle Dunn – This book contains dozens of examples of successful debt collection forms and letters, making it a great reference resource for collection specialists.
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