Role-playing helps drive home lessons on collections

Standing in front of the class, Bill Elizondo transformed from teacher into the on-site collections manager.

One by one, he handled each crisis from a customer turning in keys at closing time to forfeit a vehicle to complex complaints about repairs of a vehicle. During this role-playing session of the Collections Management class, Elizondo focused on showing the attendees how to display empathy for customers and diffuse difficult situations.

“Role-playing their toughest customer issues helped each individual and also their peers understand the importance of always building the relationship with their customers and team members,” Elizondo said.

Thirty-five collections professionals attended the two classes held in Irving, Texas, led by Elizondo. The course was for the leaders of the collections department, giving them proven techniques that streamline collections processes, increase collections, and reduce delinquencies and charge-offs.

“I was honored to have had an opportunity to work with these amazing managers and owners,” Elizondo said.

Elizondo used his more than 30 years of training and leading high-achieving sales teams, collections, and operations in the subprime and BHPH markets, including highly successful tenures with the nation’s largest publicly traded BHPH organization America’s Car-Mart and Superior Auto, to drive home the lessons to an engaged class.

One of the main lessons he continually emphasized was the need to stay consistent with your messaging with customers. Routine meetings with the collections team to review compliance and procedures were a strategy to help with consistency. Elizondo also challenged the attendees to hold role plays of their own during these meetings within the first quarter of the year.

Elizondo reminded the attendees that the upset customers were not mad at them, but rather the situation.

“Don’t think it’s personal,” Elizondo said.

He also stressed the need to listen to the customer. That listening will sometimes help avoid a repossession.

“Our customers will tell us everything going on in their lives. At one point, they will tell us if there’s an issue and oftentimes we just didn’t listen,” Elizondo said.

Other takeaways included having a job board to help customers who may be suddenly unemployed, the importance of recapping the phone call with customers and performing an in-depth pre-close.

“It was very informative. I learned a lot in regards to helping customers have a relationship with us,” said Cheyenne Jean of Brenner Car Credit in Mechanicsburg, Penn. “We’re essentially working hands-on with them for four to five years. We need them to understand we are trying to help them.”

June Young of Liberty Auto Finance in Broken Arrow, Okla., added, “I learned better ways of dealing with difficult customers, better ways to collect and get our past due accounts down.”

As the class ended, Elizondo encouraged the collections manager to continue growing their skills and seeking out additional education.

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