Collector Job Description
Collectors contact people who owe money to a company. Most do not work directly for the creditor but rather for a third-party agency specializing in debt collection. For instance, an auto dealership may employ a collections firm to deal with customers failing to make their monthly car payments. Credit card companies need collectors to see why cardholders aren’t covering at least the minimum monthly balance. Collectors usually work full-time in an office or out of a call center. Hours can vary since nonstandard times such as evenings and weekends can be better for reaching those with whom they wish to get in touch.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies collectors under “Bill and Account Collectors.” Employment in this category is expected to decrease by 3 percent between 2016 and 2026. The reason for this decline is not that consumers are becoming more diligent about paying their bills. Rather, improved software and automated calling systems will enable each collector to handle more accounts.
Collector Duties and Responsibilities
The central task for a collector is obtaining payment for overdue bills. To do this requires a variety of tasks. Our analysis of job postings shows the following as main responsibilities asked of collectors:
Researching and Notifying Debtors
Collectors need to get in touch with people or businesses that owe money. When they make contact, collectors explain what is owed and the options for payback. While collectors start with information provided by the creditor, these addresses and phone numbers don’t always work out. Thus, collectors may need to turn to other places, such as the Internet or public records, to gather new contact information.
Educating Debtors on Courses of Action
People in debt are sometimes genuinely confused and scared when contacted by a collector. Presenting options can ease some of those fears, especially if they know things can be settled without legal recourse. Collectors sometimes refer people to debt counselors for further help.
Collectors report information to the creditors who hire their agency to settle bills. They convey the status of delinquent accounts and report any repayment plans that have been negotiated. If a collector has been unable to reach the person in debt, he or she notes the various ways that have been attempted to make contact.
First contact is oftentimes just a start. If terms are not being satisfied, collectors step in again to discuss the situation with the person in debt. Continued failure to meet the agreement can lead to recommending more serious action be taken, such as repossessing items, disconnecting service, or giving the case to a legal team.
People who owe money frequently think of collectors as the “bad” guys. To succeed in this position, you need to be able to not take the behavior of others personally. Being able to plug away at the repayment process in the face of anger and dishonesty is oftentimes necessary, so prepare to develop thick skin. Among other good qualities to possess are:
- Being able to problem solve creatively to find people who don’t want you to contact them
- Communicating clearly so that those who owe money understand the situation and what will happen if debt isn’t repaid
- Listening carefully to customer explanations in order to judge proper next steps
- Remaining calm and negotiating fairly in order to make the best of tense encounters
- Maintaining well-organized background research and account information
Collector Tools of the Trade
To perform their job well, collectors utilize:
- Phones – A primary means of contacting parties who owe money
- Auto dialers – A timesaving electronic device that automatically dials telephone numbers and connects to a live person (a collector) when the call is answered
- Computers – For email correspondence, Internet searches, inputting data, tracking accounts, and basic office tasks
- Repayment schedules – A signed contract that spells out how the person owing money is going to meet his/her obligation
- Skip tracing – A process of tracking down people with out-of-date addresses by using the Internet, post office, credit bureaus, and neighbors
Collector Education and Training
Becoming a collector involves on-the-job training to learn about debt collection techniques and procedures. Candidates for employment should possess at least a high school diploma. College coursework or a degree can be attractive on a resume, as can the ability to speak a second language.
The median annual salary for collectors, categorized by the BLS under “Bill and Account Collectors,” is $35,350. Collectors in the 10th percentile earn about $23,600 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $54,900 a year. Collectors in the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and Alaska make the highest median salaries in the U.S. at $57,650, $44,540, and $42,120, respectively.
Think you’d make a good collector? Learn more about this challenging career option through these sources:
The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals – This long-established group provides everything from up-to-date industry information to opportunities for connecting with others in the field.
Telephone Collection Call Scripts and How to Respond to Excuses: A Guide for Bill Collectors by Michelle Dunn – Experienced collectors can help newcomers learn the ropes, and this author has more than 25 years of experience in the industry. Her book contains many tips for dealing with the numerous explanations collectors are bound to hear as to why bills haven’t been paid.
Credit and Collections Kit for Dummies by Steven Harms and Aaron Larson – This book in the popular series contains templates and forms that can be used to construct effective documents. It also offers info on topics ranging from how to deal with slow-paying customers to the legal aspects of collection.
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information: Debt Collection – While written as a resource for consumers, aspiring collectors can get a good feel for what debt collection entails and the proper, legal ways collectors can go about their job.
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