Collections are a critical component in any RTO business, yet consistently ranks high among rent-to-own’s most challenging tasks. It’s a delicate balance between being compassionate and being compelling when you’re dealing with customers who are struggling financially (or want to seem so).
We talked with Jeff Lebakken, President and CEO of APRO member Lebakkens Inc. of Wisconsin dba Lebakkens Rent to Own – which operates 10 locations around America’s Dairyland – about his company’s successful collection efforts, the methods they use, the training they provide, and the qualities that are most crucial in a crack collections professional.
APRO-T: Who at Lebakkens Rent to Own excels at collections, and what methods do they use?
JL: At Lebakkens, we have several store managers and regional managers who are terrific with collections. Their methods are actually detailed company policies and procedures, which we’re continuously discussing and perfecting. The better that folks follow these policies and procedures, the better that their collection efforts succeed. Almost always, when someone’s results begin to dip, it’s because they’ve strayed or created their own ideas about how collections should be done.
APRO-T: Can you tell us a little more about your collection policies and procedures?
JL: Sure. At Lebakkens, our collections team members keep extremely detailed customer notes – not just the amount and date a payment will be made, but why that amount and why the payment is late. It helps us hold customers accountable to the amount agreed to, and determine credibility of future excuses for late payment.
We also, when necessary, confirm a “pick-up if no payment” date with customers. We get them to schedule, in advance, a time period when we will be there to pick up the property if they don’t make their payment as agreed.
Additionally, we always make sure the customer understands what our policies and procedures are going forward, and why we must adhere to them.
APRO-T: Does Lebakkens conduct collections training with new employees?
JL: Yes, we have very specific training that new employees go through to learn our collection policies and procedures. During their onboarding, we typically send new employees to train in the field with one of our best collections specialists, so new hires can see up-close and personal how a successful collections team accomplishes their work.
This training process also helps us make sure all stores are practicing proper collection policies and procedures; when a new employee begins working, they see whether their store is doing anything differently than the store they trained at, and if so, then we can address it.
APRO-T: What qualities do you feel make for an excellent collections professional?
JL: According to one of our best collections specialists, consistency is key. Collections team members must first and foremost be knowledgeable and well-versed about our collection policies, and must be able to:
- balance their approach between sternness and empathy;
- assert their expectations with the customer; and
- handle arduous conversations and decompress stressful situations.