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CCUL Headlines: Industry Insights

Listening to members drives collection results

Thursday, July 17, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: CU Times
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The ability to listen carefully is the most important skill a collection specialist must have if the creditor credit union wants to both bring delinquent loans current and retain member relationships.

“Our staff really gets to know these members,” said Anne Marie Foote, collections manager for United Solutions Company, a Tallahassee, Fla. provider of collections services to credit unions.

“They know who needs their car to get grandma to her cancer appointments, who can make a payment earlier in the month, but not late in the month, and who is probably late with a payment because of school costs. They really know these members and believe in the credit union ethic of people helping people,” Foote said.

The listening approach not only helps the member feel connected to the credit union while going through financial difficulty, Foote added, it helps motivate the delinquent member to keep making payments and maybe even accelerate them.

The $34 million Missouri Valley Federal Credit Union in St. Peters, Mo., has adopted that approach. The 4,700-member credit union went through a period of strong loan growth last year and started to see a rising tide of delinquency this year, enough to overwhelm Greg Kelleher, the credit union's sole collections employee.

“My title is collections manager, but I’m the only collections staff, too, so I pretty quickly started needing some help,” Kelleher said. He said Missouri Valley considered the cost of hiring and training someone else compared to outsourcing the service and decided go with United Solutions instead.

The United Solutions collector is named Lorraine (the firm does not share its collector's last names for security reasons) and Kelleher said it has become routine for members to say “tell Lorraine I just made a payment” if they run across him in the lobby.

And the credit union's delinquent loans to total loans, which had risen steadily to top out at 1.10 in December 2013, fell in the first quarter of 2014 to 0.63%.

Foote explained the listening approach was key to helping credit union clients have confidence outsourcing such an intimate part of their members’ relationships with the credit union to another firm.

“If you think about it, there is a good chance our collections staff knows things about our members other people in their lives don't know,” she said.

Read more of this article in CU Times  here.