As the CFPB continues to closely supervise the collections environment, it’s important to analyze and fully understand the areas of risk. One of the biggest risk to a collection agency is communication with consumers, making the monitoring of calls a very telling practice. An effective call monitoring program is a critical component of any compliance management system, mandated by the CFPB, and is a way for organization’s to be able to monitor calls, look for areas of improvement, and to make adjustments when needed.
Let’s begin with defining what monitoring truly is, in its most elemental form. According to Wikipedia, monitoring means “to observe a situation for any changes which may occur over time, using a monitor or measuring device of some sort”. Your monitoring program is a component of your Compliance Management System that is sure to be examined by the CFPB, and according to best practices, should be occurring within multiple levels of your organization. Here are the Top 4 Critical Components of a Call Monitoring Program:
1. Structure and Oversight
The Compliance staff is a critical part to an organization who performs any kind of collection work. Selecting appropriate management and staff of that division means selecting a manager who is very knowledgeable in the collection process as well as of the regulatory laws. It also means selecting staff members who possess good compliance habits, preferably with a background in collection, and most importantly, a group of people who can be unbiased in their monitoring efforts. Before you can begin your call monitoring program, it’s important to use your risk assessment to help you determine what goals you want to accomplish by implementing a call monitoring program. Are your collectors meeting requirements by state laws? Federal laws? Contractual agreements with clients? How many calls are you going to be monitoring per collector per month? It is a best practice to monitor around 5-30 calls per agent per month. It’s crucial to be consistent across the board, and monitor the same number of calls for each collector. The calls you choose to monitor should be selected randomly, and should not all be from the same day, week, or client, and should not be tied to collector performance – maintain consistent sampling. Your policies, procedures, and work instructions for your monitoring staff should be clearly documented expectations.
2. Management of Staff
Hiring and selecting staff should be a carefully thought out process. Choosing a staff with a collection background, over choosing a staff without a collection, while not necessary is recommended. Regardless of who is selected for the QA/Compliance division, every employee should still be required to go through internal training and a mentoring process. It’s important to also create a multi-level approach to monitoring. This means don’t just get the involvement of the QA department, also have managers participate in live monitoring calls. Another valuable tool used for call monitoring is speech analytics, a tool that enables you to search calls based on criteria you set, as well as monitor to make sure collectors are following both compliance as well as client expectations.
3. Scorecard Components
Determining what your scorecard contains is not a black and white process. When developing your scorecard components, there are a number of components to take into consideration. The first being, your initial risk assessment. Utilizing a weighted score of components based on risk level and exposure is the best way to develop your scorecard components. Some things to consider when determining your risks and the level of risk are consumer complaint statistics, CFPB complaint statistics, and overall consumer lawsuits.
4. Reporting and Analytics
Recording your call monitoring results is step one to collecting your data. Reporting data can allow you to look at your results by evaluating trends by collector, client, or date range. After reviewing this information and noticing the areas in which you’re falling short of compliance and/or client requirements, it may be time to begin implementing corrective actions. In some cases, disciplinary action may be necessary. In others, updating training materials, policies, procedures, and work instructions may be the necessary course of action to ensure your collectors are following all guidelines and requirements. Lastly, don’t forget to document the results of your analysis, what you did to remediate those results, and be sure to communicate this information to the Chief Compliance Officer, compliance staff, and board of directors/management.