Is brand building important in the debt collection industry? Sean Williams, Principal at Williams, Rush & Associates thinks so, and shares his strategies for building a positive reputation.



How has the Williams, Rush & Associates collection agency brand evolved? [3:50]

"Brand building wasn't even on our radar until maybe about a year ago. Our thing was about relationships with our clients," says Sean. During the early years of his collection agency, Sean and his team spent one hundred percent of their time on building relationships. "We didn't hire a sales person until 2018," Sean says. Before that, all of their business was brought in organically via client word of mouth.  

The first time Sean and his team really started thinking about brand building, was shortly after they added a salesperson to their team. This is where they began focusing not just on building their brand on the client-side, but also on the consumer-side as well.

While word of mouth had been the primary method of building the Williams, Rush & Associates brand on the client-side, google reviews were the primary method on the consumer-side.  As a collection agency, it's one of the simplest ways to build your brand. It's as easy as asking your collectors' to remind consumers to leave a Google review after interacting with your agency. 

This strategy is easy to implement, but its important to remember that not every review that's left by a consumer will portray your collection agency in a positive light. Instead, the goal is to minimize the number of bad reviews over time by using them to make real improvements to your agency's operations.

View positive reviews as free PR, and negative reviews as free feedback.

Which social media platforms work best for brand building in collections? [6:35]

"Personally, I prefer LinkedIn," says Sean. From what he's seen so far, LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform in the debt collection industry, when it comes to getting feedback. "We get responses on LinkedIn," Sean emphasizes. 

How is a counseling approach an effective brand building strategy? [9:15]

One of the most important things that Sean trains his collectors to do is actively listen. When collectors actively listen to the consumer, they realize that no two calls or situations in collections are ever the same. A counseling approach in collections takes into account that there's going to be different options and solutions based on each consumer's specific circumstances. In other words, under the counseling approach, Sean encourages his collectors to go beyond giving each consumer the same three options.

Because the counseling approach to debt collection requires strong active listening skills and promotes solutions and options that are tailored to each consumer, it is likely that the consumer will have a more positive experience than they would with a "canned" approach. Consumers that have positive experiences with your agency are more likely to leave a positive review that will add to your brand building efforts. 

How can other debt collection agencies improve their brand reputation? [12:30]

First, Sean says to ask each consumer at the end of each call if they'd be willing to leave their feedback for your agency by submitting a review on Google.

Then, agencies should regularly read and respond to all [yes, positive & negative] reviews. The negative reviews might bring your overall rating down, but you'll be able to use these to make improvements, and because of that your agency will have a better reputation in the long run.

If every review your agency receives is negative, then it might be time to change things up a bit more. Ask yourself two questions:

  • Do my collectors feel valued?
  • Do I create a positive working environment?

If your answer is no to either of those questions, chances are that your employees don't have the greatest attitude on the phone, for valid reasons. In this case, the responsibility should be on you, as a leader, to show your collectors you value them and are making efforts to provide them with a positive working environment. If your collectors are happy at work, they'll be more likely to have positive interactions with consumers. And if consumers are having positive interactions with your collectors, it is likely that your agency will receive more positive reviews.

About Our Guest

Sean Williams has been working in the debt collection industry since 1994. Nine years ago, Sean started his own debt collection agency of which he is still principle at today, Williams, Rush & Associates.

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