Collections Representative Job Description
Collections representatives work to obtain payment for overdue bills. While they sometimes are employed directly by the company that is owed money, most work for third-party collection agencies. For instance, a healthcare network may turn to a company that rectifies outstanding bills in order to receive payment from patients who have not yet covered what they owe from hospital stays. Collections representatives typically work full time in an office environment or out of a call center. Evening and weekend shifts are common since these times can be more productive for reaching those they want to contact.
Collections Representative Duties and Responsibilities
Retrieving money that is owed is at the heart of this position. To do this, a collections representative must perform a variety of tasks. Common activities, as seen in job postings, include the following:
Collections representatives get in touch with individuals or businesses that have delinquent accounts. They may contact them by phone, mail, email, or personal visit. Unsurprisingly, people in debt aren’t always happy to hear from collections representatives and may try to avoid them. Without resorting to harassment, collections representatives often “dig around” online or talk to neighbors to find current contact information.
When collections representatives reach people, they thoroughly explain what is owed and what could happen if the money isn’t paid back. Some in debt may be genuinely scared and confused, but collections representatives can work with them to settle matters without legal recourse. For instance, they may negotiate a payment plan that deducts money from the person’s paycheck until the bill is paid. Sometimes, collection reps refer people to debt counselors.
Collections representatives record how they’ve attempted to reach the parties in question and the results of their efforts. When they do successfully make contact with someone, they make note of the planned course of action, such as a negotiated payment plan. Collections reps commonly submit reports to creditors about the status of delinquent accounts.
Collections representatives monitor the actions of those they’ve connected with. If repayment terms are not being satisfied, collections representatives step in again. Continued failure can lead to recommending more serious action, such as repossessing items, disconnecting service, or giving the case to a legal team.
Collections Representative Skills and Qualifications
Thick skin is a good quality for collections representatives. Because of their difficult financial situations, the people collections reps encounter can be angry, manipulative, and dishonest. It’s important to not take this behavior personally and to continue making progress towards repayment. Other desirable skills for a collections representative include:
- Communication skills – clear communication helps those who owe money understand the situation and what will happen if debt isn’t repaid
- Listening skills – active and attentive listening to customer explanations and concerns helps collections reps judge appropriate next steps for repayment
- Research – collections representatives use a wide variety of resources and thinking outside the box to find people who don’t want to be found
- Negotiation – it’s important to remain calm, persuade effectively, and negotiate fairly in order to make the best of tense encounters
Collections Representative Tools of the Trade
As they go about trying to recover money owed, collections representatives use the following tools:
- Microsoft Office (for email, data input, and tracking accounts)
- Phone (a primary means of contacting parties who owe money)
- Repayment schedule (a signed contract detailing how the person owing money will meet their obligation)
- Skip tracing (a process of tracking down people with out-of-date addresses by using the internet, post office, credit bureaus, and neighbors)
Collections Representative Education and Training
Collections representatives hold at least a high school diploma. Post-secondary coursework or a college degree can increase employment prospects, as can fluency in a second language. New hires should expect a period of on-the-job training where they learn about debt collection laws and negotiation techniques.
Collections Representative Salary and Outlook
The median annual salary for collections representatives, categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics under “bill and account collectors,” is $35,350. Collections representatives in the 10th percentile earn about $23,600 a year, while the highest paid make in excess of $54,900 a year. Collections representatives in the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and Alaska make the highest median salaries in the U.S. – $57,650, $44,540, and $42,120, respectively.
Demand for collections representatives is expected to decrease by 3 percent by 2026. According to the BLS, “New software and automated calling systems should increase productivity and allow collectors to handle more accounts. This will allow more collections work to be done with fewer employees.”
Collections Representative Resources
If you think you have the right temperament to become a collections representative, the following resources can help you get started:
The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals – whether you’re interested in the latest industry trends or connecting with others in the field, this long-established group has plenty to offer both new and seasoned collections representatives
Telephone Collection Call Scripts and How to Respond to Excuses: A Guide for Bill Collectors – with more than 25 years of experience in the collection industry, author Michelle Dunn shares her tips for dealing with the variety of explanations collections representatives are bound to hear as to why bills haven’t been paid
Credit and Collections Kit for Dummies – in addition to discussing how to collect from slow-paying customers and the legal aspects of collection, co-authors Steven Harms and Aaron Larson also share templates and forms that can be used to construct effective documents
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the people collections representatives contact have a variety of rights, and this government website covers the topic of debt collection from numerous angles
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