Three noted compliance experts -- Joann Needleman, partner and leader at Clark Hill, Brit Suttell, a Barron & Newburger shareholder, and John H. Bedard, owner of Bedard Law Group – recently participated in a webinar hosted on AccountRecovery.net. It didn’t take long for the discussion to turn to personalizing agent coaching as one of the best ways to increase both compliance and performance.
The panelists all agreed that training is probably the most crucial element of an agency’s Compliance Management System (CMS). It is also one that has a significant impact on agency success, since the CFPB and courts often examine training activities to check whether agencies are meeting their remediation obligations. “Failure to train” is one of the main reasons for enforcement actions.
In contrast to the one-time, well-defined tasks of setting up the “P’s” – policies and procedures – ensuring that all staff is well-versed in them is an open-ended process. All three panelists touched on the difficulty involved in determining if an agent needs to be retrained on specific points. The fluidity of the regulatory space presents a more general challenge: Training must be conducted consistently, per regulations, despite the fact that those regulations often don’t detail the scope of training. As a result, agencies may be unclear about who to train, when, what to include and how to cope with frequent changes in regulations.
To minimize risk in this ambiguous situation, our panelists recommended adopting a personalized training approach, which John characterized as “surgical, data-driven”. Their vision is of training as an integral, ongoing element of agency operations which empowers agents to maintain compliance and minimize risk. To realize this vision, training must be:
Training all staff on all topics is a waste of time – and time is money. Frontline collectors, for instance, must be familiar with the many rules about verbal communications and able to apply them correctly in real time, during calls. Administrative staff that post payment letters, however, only need to understand the obligations relating to that specific part of the recovery process. Smart agencies don't waste their agents’ time by providing blanket training, but rather produce role-specific content so they can deliver information about specific topics only to people for whom it is relevant.
It is similarly wasteful to pull proficient, well-performing agents off the floor to attend generic FDCPA review sessions. Instead, tailor training to each individual agent’s needs. As Joann and John pointed out, technology is available that can measure each agents’ performance and pinpoint deficiencies. Based on this data, personalized coaching can be used to improve individuals’ outcomes. While training should focus primarily on role- and need-specific content, our panelists recommend periodic collective sessions to update staff about broadly applicable regulatory changes and convey important company information.
By the time a violation is surfaced during a weekly or monthly audit, the responsible agent rarely remembers the incident. After all, they have probably handled hundreds of calls since -- and chances are, repeated the same error on many of them. To both increase awareness and quickly extinguish non-compliant behaviors, shortening “time-to-training” is essential for frontline collectors. Real-time data monitoring and automating the assignment of relevant training units are the keys to more timely and effective training.
Traditionally, compliance training meant having agents read tedious, dull written guides. It’s likely that at least some members of your staff won’t be able to handle the material or retain it well. For many, this type of training is a stressful, overwhelming and demotivating experience that has the opposite effect of what was intended. With Gen Z now joining the workforce, your staff is likely to include individuals with vastly different learning styles and media consumption habits. In the case of training, Gen Z has it right: Video is a highly effective learning tool since consuming material through visual and audio has been shown to tangibly increase retention rates. During the webinar, Brit highlighted that there are many easy-to-use tools that can convert existing training content into video format, with no need for professional editing, actors or voice-over artists.
For training, the panelists liked the idea of riding the TikTok wave and serving content in small, easy-to-absorb video nuggets. These micro-learning units can be presented to collectors in a continuous trickle, with each agent receiving content that addresses their own personal challenges as uncovered by monitoring. Agents can consume these video bites at their own convenience, ideally at the times that they are most able to absorb learning content. To assess whether the training is effective, a couple of quiz questions can be added at the end of the video. Alternatively – or in addition – agents can be offered an opportunity to give feedback on whether the content was clear or if there are points they’d like to clarify in a personal meeting with their manager.
Think building out this type of training system is too overwhelming for your agency? Think again.
It’s fair to assume that this kind of approach takes a great deal of investment of human and financial resources. Fair – but according to our panelists, incorrect: From their experience, integrating some of the elements mentioned above into your CMS doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. What’s required to make personalizing training simple, they all agreed, is technology. And if that sounds expensive, Joann disagrees: “Data-driven compliance and training technology is already out there and not that costly. Your investment will be quickly offset by reducing the compliance workload, as well as the number of additional trainers you’d need to bring on to handle it all.”
Investing in training and introducing smarter, data-driven systems also decreases risk and legal costs and - equally important - increases workplace satisfaction and employee retention. John pointed out that there is a significant gain in efficiency even if the only change is having agents sit through just the training they really need, since as a result, the most skilled and compliant collectors won’t be pulled off the floor.
Tech-based learning processes come with another important benefit: All your efforts are documented. As one of the panelists said: “Training that isn’t documented hasn’t happened, in the eye of the auditor or investigator.”
Sedric - tick(tok)ing more than one of the boxes above
At Sedric, we have integrated many of the above considerations into our platform, to help agencies transition to data-driven compliance management. Sedric leverages real-time data monitoring to understand collectors’ deficiencies and propagate bite-sized videos to them. Training and compliance leaders can easily follow up on training completion. Sedric comes with a ready library of videos explaining FDCPA, FTCA and UDAAP requirements. Trainers and compliance leaders can easily build additional videos using the AI avatar that automatically transforms textual training content into TikTok style videos. With all mitigation and training efforts automatically documented, agencies account for all the data and reports creditors, auditors or investigators might require.
“Training and monitoring of consumer-facing employees will be critical to ensure that an organization is compliant. Technology will support and help the credit and collections industry meet demanding obligations with ease and efficiency, in order to produce the outcomes a regulator wants to see.”
Consumer Financial Services Regulatory & Compliance Group
“Our challenge going forward is to position our industry and our companies as desirable places to work. We must implement diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplaces, and get the word out that we have changed. Ask your newest employees for feedback—what would make our workplace desirable for their friends and acquaintances? In this post-pandemic world, getting people to crawl out of their comfortable cocoons may be difficult, but it can be done!”
“In the last few years, the buzz of the call centers faded away. Now that many people still have the opportunity to continue to work from home, performance directors need to pivot their focus. We need to ensure that the training is effective in this new environment. The move is from hours in a classroom setting to immediate, personalized micro-learning units that enforce the corrective behaviors.”
“The digital collections movement continues to be in full steam and we are excited to see all of the new technologies that are coming into the ARM industry to help drive enhanced collection performance in a compliant manner. We anticipate additional M&A consolidation globally in the ARM industry, as more digital ARM companies look to accelerate market entry and obtain blue-chip clients and deploy digital-first solutions.”
“Digitization will be critically accelerated in 2023. Recovery organizations may be required to furnish consumers’ account data through consumer-selected platforms that will likely be different from organizations’ traditional payment portals. Organizations should start preparing their technology and operations for that contingency now to harness the trend to their benefit.”
“Data is the new oil, and extracting data from all sources, especially voice, will be a must-have in 2023. We are in the age of machine learning, and ML runs on data. Getting ALL the data and getting it into one place for the ML to do what it can are the key differences between organizations that will make it and those that don't.”
“In 2023, collectors and creditors will be required to work closer together. Reg F oversight requirements have created a new reality of shared compliance responsibility. Servicers and creditors can better collaborate by using new data-driven compliance platforms that provide all parties with critical insights and generate the transparency and trust needed to succeed in a tightening regulatory climate.”
As Gen Z enters the workforce, you’ll have up to four generations in your agency. Everyone learns differently. Young people learn from TikTok videos, and there is a professional term for this: micro-learning. Such short videos are especially efficient when sent out close to the time when the violation occurred.
Barron & Newburger
The most efficient training systems I’ve seen are those which build surgical, data-driven compliance content and provide agents the exact training they need when they most need it. This approach avoids wasting time and money on training which does not address the need. Continuous, role-based training programs that focus on the needs of each individual agent are some of the most efficient and effective I’ve seen.
Bedard Law Group
“Training is only going to be effective if it's done at or near the time the violation occurred. As agents handle hundreds of calls a week they will not have the capacity to remember particular moments of each consumer interaction. Therefore, effective monitoring will be critical to address the deficiency when it happens, in order to remediate quickly so that it does not become a systemic problem going forward.”
Consumer Financial Services Regulatory & Compliance Group