Get Out of Debt Guy - Steve Rhode

How to Motivate Debt Relief Company Sales Staff and Not Screw Consumers

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There is a very interesting conversation going on in the comments right now over on another post by Michael Boveee, Debt Relief Options for consumers – Is the delivery system broken?

The comments on appropriate staff motivation and compensation are very important to the success of the debt relief industry. Finding the appropriate solutions and balance to direct staff to conduct their job without selling consumers up the river is the mystery.

In my days of running a credit counseling group I admit this was a struggle for my staff as well. Staff members who never suggested our services when appropriate didn’t make the cut and those that went way overboard and “sold” consumers into something that was probably not right were asked to leave.

There is an incredibly fine balance in making sure that the debt relief industry and debt relief companies of all stripes, get this issue right.

No matter how perfectly balanced you believe a company is, there is constant internal bias for staff to oversell products. Even if you offer no spit or incentive for sales a staff member, in a natural desire to keep their boss happy, will do what they think needs to be accomplished. Generally that’s a focus on revenue and sales.

Putting up contests and tote boards only fuels this perception. Sales contests are the worst for leading to short term gain but long term company damage.

For a brief period of time my sales team or intake counselors were compensated on sales performance. It was a nightmare. The moment we did this as an attempt at motivation the number of refund requests went up and client satisfaction went down. We did away with that approach. There was no apparent way forward with this and it tipped the scales out of balance.

On the other side we had staff members that were afraid to tell consumers about services because they were afraid of telling them about something that might cost money without any concept of how their salary was funded. Rather than get the person in trouble the specific assistance they needed they would do nothing to effectively help them and send them on their way.

For me, the optimum balance came down to making sure the focus was on doing no harm to the consumer. If a consumer felt they were not happy for any reason we issued prompt refunds and tried to assist them to find the help they were looking for. There is absolutely no upside in holding an unhappy customer hostage. If it does not end well for the consumer, it’s not going to end well for the debt relief company.

We also learned to maintain a constant focus on making sure it wasn’t the sale that was made but that the “best” solution was presented to the consumer, even if it was one we did not provide.

This included regular monitoring of calls by staff to potential clients. It was always a painful process but a necessary one.

From the nonprofit credit counselors to aggressive for-profit debt relief companies, every cog in the debt relief industry deals with these issues. They plague us all and finding the best solution and balance is part of the magic formula for a brighter debt relief industry.

I’d love to hear your experiences and opinions on this as well. Have you discovered the magic formula?


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