Consumer Survey by NFCC Shows People Are Wary About Real Help From Credit Counselors

On one hand you have to applaud the most recent release from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. One thumb up. On the other hand it comes across as simply just more denial about the disturbing lanscape that faces narrow niche nonprofit credit counselors.

The NFCC survey was an online poll conducted on the NFCC website. Right off the bat it’s not a cross section of consumers, just those that landed on their website. Those would have to be people that were already investigating nonprofit credit counseling to begin with. And of that bunch, “47percent, indicated they are not reaching out for assistance with their financial concerns due to confusion regarding where to find substantive help. Another 24 percent do not think they can afford the assistance offered by a credit counseling agency.” – Source

NFCC appears to see this as a negative and blames others. “Many well-meaning consumers have been duped by unscrupulous businesses which charged them high fees, yet delivered little if any real help. Unfortunately, these types of activities not only tar the sector, but prevent consumers from seeking the help they need,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.

Knock-knock, hello! If credit counseling groups, and specifically members of NFCC would stop spouting off about debt settlement and instead embrace it as one of those logical and possible options, then they could become the one-stop place for consumers to get help.

Credit counselors need to be holistic centers that treat people as individuals and develop a wide variety of plans that meet the needs of consumers instead of primarily qualifying people for a debt management plan.

“The NFCC wants to send a loud message to consumers who are experiencing financial distress, and that message is that legitimate help is available,” continued Cunningham. “People owe it to themselves and to their family to reach out to a trained and certified counselor for a review of their situation. Delaying action only makes the problem harder to resolve.”

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Yea, but let’s talk truthfully here. The NFCC wants to capture marketshare by pimping out their nonprofit charitable status as an inducement for consumers to come to them. And that’s fine. But yet the NFCC remains beholden to creditors, does not represent consumers first, and does not represent all available debt relief options.

The problem is not the perception of what credit counselors offer, it is the reality that it’s not a fair and inclusive look at all options that will give consumers a truthful, balanced and informed basis from which the person can make the best decision for them. I’d love to know how many NFCC credit counseling franchises actually help people get unsecured debt consolidation loans. That’s a real option as well. I’d bet the number would be close to zero.

NFCC can spin this anyway they want but 83 percent of the people that said no to the NFCC solution in their May survey were either not getting a one-stop solution, or could not find a solution in the debt management plan model, the single primary intervention tool the NFCC members offer.

Frankly, I think it’s the NFCC and their members that are in denial here about what consumers are looking for and want. Instead, NFCC seems to cast disgust that consumers are too ignorant or ill-informed to use their services.

You want to build trust among consumers, earn it.

Open up your member performance stats to show consumers what kind of results they should expect by going with you. Stop being secretive about how effective your services are and instead put consumers first, not creditors. Once you do that and become a single source place for real and encompassing help, then you can put these misperceptions behind you. Until then, I’m not so sure people got this as wrong as you blame them for.

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Hell, NFCC isn’t even open about the results of their July survey that is the focus of their recent press release. They publish responses from their May poll, and not the July one they lament about.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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