Empathy, Adaptability, and the Future of Debt Collection – [FULL INTERVIEW]

The future of collections is being shaped by several key factors, including the rise of digital communication channels, a focus on customer treatment and empathy, and the ongoing debate surrounding remote work.

In this discussion Blair DeMacro-Wettlaufer explores these trends and their implications for the collections industry, highlighting the importance of adapting strategies to meet evolving consumer expectations and leveraging technology effectively.

Find out more about Kingston Data & Credit -> Here.

Key Points:

  • The use of digital communication channels, such as email and SMS, has become increasingly important in collections, with agencies tailoring their approach to consumer preferences. Email communication has gained traction in the US due to regulatory changes, while SMS remains relevant for certain consumer segments.
  • While artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots hold promise for improving collections processes, current AI capabilities may not yet be sufficient for complex negotiations or financial discussions. Chatbots have shown potential for automated decision-making in offering payment arrangements based on predetermined algorithms.
  • Building a culture of empathy and treating customers fairly can lead to improved collection rates and customer loyalty. Agencies that prioritize empathy and create a positive working environment for collectors tend to see higher liquidation rates over time.
  • The shift towards remote work has been met with varying responses across different regions and companies. While some embrace hybrid or remote working arrangements, others prioritize in-office presence for security or cultural reasons. Striking the right balance between remote and in-office work is crucial to maintaining a positive company culture.
  • The pandemic has fundamentally changed people’s behavior and expectations, resulting in increased anxiety and a shift in social dynamics. Companies will need to adapt to these changes and consider the long-term effects on consumer behavior and preferences.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Collections agencies should align their communication channels with consumer preferences, leveraging email and SMS based on individual needs and regulatory requirements.
  2. While AI and chatbots hold promise, their current capabilities may be better suited for simple tasks rather than complex negotiations or financial discussions.
  3. Prioritizing empathy and fair treatment of customers can lead to higher collection rates and customer loyalty.
  4. Finding the right balance between remote and in-office work is crucial for maintaining a positive company culture and maximizing productivity.
  5. The long-term effects of the pandemic on consumer behavior and expectations should be carefully considered and incorporated into collections strategies.
Interview Transcript

So hi everyone. I’m here with Blair DeMarco Wettlaufer. Today who’s the president and CEO of Kingston data and credit Blair, thanks very much for joining me.

No problem. Happy to be here.

So I know you also have a key role in the in the RMA as well Receivables Management sociation in Canada, and I know we’ve been chatting quite a bit in terms of receivables, the Canadian marketplace and what’s going on there. And we’ve had this recent survey out as well, just in terms of like questionnaire that you guys have been in partnership with what’s so arrears levels, what are some of the things that that you’ve been picking up in the Canadian market, at least anyway, recently,

what I have noticed personally, working in the third party collection agency space is there’s, we’ve been inundated. And there are a couple of reasons for that, obviously, people have bounced back to pre pandemic spending habits, a number of people lowered their debt load during the pandemic. Equifax did a lovely survey saying people under the age of 40, reduced their credit card debt by 30%, over a period of six months. And a lot of there was a lot of discussion of that back in 2021 or so. And obviously, the biggest reason for that is there was was no opportunity for impulse buying, you didn’t go to the mall and ended up walking out with five pairs of jeans you didn’t expect to buy. If you wanted to buy something you had to go on Amazon, you had to wait two days, it was a planned purchase. And obviously, everything opened back up. And now people are have returned to previous buying habits. I want to go to the movies, I want to go out to dinner. But going out to dinner now is double the cost of what it was in 2020. Debt levels have risen on the other end of the spectrum. The other issue we’ve had is we reached we went through another contact from the RMA, we reached out to the Ontario Registrar of collection agencies and pre pandemic to now are 2019. Till now, over half the collection registered collection agencies in Ontario, which is fairly reflective of Canada are gone. We went from 400 Odd registered agencies to about 170.

So the big consolidation, then in the market that consolidation happened, do you think?

So I am certain there’s been consolidation, I’m certain that the bulk of the ones that vanished were smaller operators that the pandemic caused stresses that they couldn’t cope with either technology stresses or manpower stresses, or they had all their eggs in one basket with two clients who said stop collecting during the pandemic and they couldn’t weather that storm. But a number of the larger agencies have have struggled with manpower and whatnot. So I think people have been merging for Manpower more than oh, I want to acquire your portfolios or your executive suite.

And so the raise levels seems like they’re starting to pick up again recently, I suppose. However, as the agency will be reacting to that, what do you see the future in terms of how that plays out? Because it feels like it hasn’t really flowed all the way through yet. Certainly, when they’re in the NFL raise levels, we’re on the cusp of maybe going up or going up more significantly, but it felt like it was it was waiting to happen rather than actually being live and the new volume versus existing volume. I suppose

we’d seen that bubble of business hit us in certain segments. We’re seeing it in fitness, telecommunications, utilities, household expenses that’s already flowed through to the agencies, it’s already been an a large increase, I’d say 20 30%. More like client, the clients that have consistently listed with us pre pandemic are now listing 20 30% More than they did pre pandemic,

and does that present things like resourcing challenges and how’d you get through the volume, etc. Other challenges, such as the current issues,

hiring hiring has been a challenge during pre pandemic, we have multiple branches. So we might post an ad local to one of our branches in Abbotsford, British Columbia or Sarnia, Ontario, and pre pandemic, we post and we’d get 80 applicants during the heart of the pandemic, we post and we get five applicants and it’s thought quite a bit we’re now getting more like 60 applicants, and I’m sure it will be a higher number of applicants if we were in the GTA or what have you. So it’s better but we’ve got the steamroll effect of all this extra business and business we’ve received that we wouldn’t have had pre pandemic because agencies that we’re getting at are no longer there, or creditors are making changes themselves or creditors are short handed manpower wise. So we’ve got a we’ve got a double a knock on effect of we have extra business, and we need to man to it. Now, we’re lucky because we have a number of modern technology tools like SMS and email and what have you, so we can make our team members more effective. Obviously, a predictive dialer can call 500 calls per agent per day, but it gets a 0.4% response rate. But we can use SMS and email for 500 contact attempts per day and get a five or 10% response rate.

So there’s one of the things that definitely struck me is the transformation into digital or the adoption of digital and where it sits. Where do you think that kind of sits generally across both creditors. And then in the agency market,

consumers have already moved to digital communications, we all get a little bit of dopamine when we respond to the blinky red light on our phone, we know that you and I know that. But creditors, larger creditors are fighting the way through their compliance and legal departments to be allowed to text people and finding vendors that can provide digital communication services or large creditors developing their own. I talked to a creditor at one point and they’re like, Oh, we’re gonna send these many texts. Okay, how are you gonna respond to them, we’ll call them know, if they’re texting you, you have to text them back, and that sort of thing. And agencies, agencies, same thing, agencies often work on off the shelf CMS software. And not all those communication programmes have the options of digital communications baked into them. So they’re having to bolt on third party vendors and figure out how to make that work. The workflow agencies haven’t, as a whole haven’t figured out that workflow yet that live response time. Because if somebody texts you, and you respond within five, five minutes, you expect someone to respond back to you within five minutes. If they respond to you the next day. You’ve lost all that sense of urgency.

And what’s the whole optically from a creditor point of view in terms of adopting some of these new technologies? Because I think you’re right, which is consumers who adopted it walk in the street in Toronto, at least anyway. And people on the phone in Toronto, like they are anywhere else in the world, it’s digital seems to be pervasive. So what’s the hesitation? Do you think that you’re hearing

your credit managers jumping up and down saying, I want to use these tools? And they’re getting internal friction? How can we know you’re talking to the right person? How are you know, you’re disclosing personal information about it that how are you going to do it in a reliable, safe manner? And compliance departments obviously, sometimes are their own worst enemies? If I call you and say, you know, I get a file for Chris Warburton, and it has your telephone number. And I phone you and say, hi, is Chris Warburton there? And you say, Yes, this is Chris nice dress. You Oh, tell us $867 I verified you through to put pieces of information, I had your phone number, and I verified you by name. If that’s acceptable, it should also be acceptable in the digital world. But if I tech Union address, this is very important. I need to speak to you. And you say, Well, this is Chris, what’s this all about? Okay, now, I verified you through two pieces of information which the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says you must have your disclosing personal information, you must have a process. They don’t dictate the process. You just have to have one. But compliance departments tend to escalate internally going, this could happen or that can happen. And we’ve had in over the years, I’ve had creditors, you had a piece of paper out on a desk on a third storey office, somebody could look in the window. No, they can’t. So sometimes it gets unreal. Yeah.

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Do you think if there’s I suppose a wave of volume coming through in a wave of rays coming through, it’s going to cause a bit of a cost crisis? And digital is obviously one way of solving that. Do you think that’s going to make it easier to adopt some of these technologies, just in terms of the internal discussions? Because it sounds like you guys are already doing it? But it’s the internal discussions getting the clients to agree to it, isn’t it? Do you think that’s Do you think that’s a potential that actually can happen in terms of being the burning platform to make the change might

open the doors a little more, it might give the credit managers who are already screaming for these tools to be put at their disposal to have numbers to back them up saying if you don’t give us this tools, it’s going to hurt our bottom line. And that would be lovely. Because SMS or email over telephone calls are still integral, you can’t have fine negotiation over a $20,000 defaulted mortgage via text, you need to have a cotton, alive conversation with somebody. But right now, the collection agencies and not just us, but other collection agencies, the challenges in convincing someone to pay the challenges in this last decade is connecting with somebody. Because in the 80s If I phoned you, and your phone was bolted to the wall, and you know it’s ringing, and all the phones in the house are ringing and someone’s yelling, would someone get that you’re right to answer the phone. Now, I call you, you see a toll free number you don’t recognise in your contacts, let’s come up on your phone, you swipe to Silent you put your phone upside down. So you need to encourage consumers to have contact with you. And sometimes a text or an email can start that conversation in a non confrontational way, a non scary way that encourages communication and then the consumer isn’t, doesn’t mind the communication because people who will money are stressed, right. And their natural reaction. Sometimes it’s the ostrich to stick their head in the ground. But if you reach out in a non aggressive manner, Hey, I just want to talk to you, hey, you have a couple options. Hey, this is serious, but I’m here to help you. Then the consumer communicates with you they have relief that you’ve helped them. You haven’t pushed them down. You’ve lifted them up. And then the consumer the creditor gets paid and everybody’s happy.

Yeah, yeah, I know. We’ve talked for at length for many years around customer treatment and how to treat customers and those kinds of things. What kind of approaches are you finding best together? initial engagement isn’t that softer approach in terms of trying to just try and get once you’ve got someone engaged, then you can have the rest of the conversation. What’s your sort of secret sauce to certainly?

Well, I’ve always, even with telephone communication started soft and escalated when I worked in a collection agency back in the 80s. They had the opening done under a piece of glass. And we had to say it verbatim, then Mr. Jones, you owe $10,824.56. At what point today, can we expect payment? No, that never worked? Because it creates a confrontational environment? How about starting the call? Hi, Bob, my name is Blair, how are you? So you can still carry on that kind of tone in email or SMS. Now, obviously, you have to make sure you have you can’t just disclose everything, you can’t just vomit forth. Hey, you owe this much money. Here’s the payment link. Great. That’s awesome. You actually have to verify you have the right contact, you can’t email somebody at a work email address. Blindly some good life, fitness sends me 5000 accounts and I email 5000 accounts, including Bob at ABC Widgets, Bob’s not at ABC Widgets anymore, his email has been forwarded to Marsha at ABC Widgets. And no, I’ve disclosed third party information and you’ve got to use it responsibly. But you can reach out Hi, this is I’m trying to reach you it’s very important we communicate and then see and give the consumer so if we text a consumer, we put a live collectors name, and it’s not please text back Kingston data credits, please text back Selena rose, you know, this is Selena rose texting you, here’s my phone number, here’s my email address or text me back. And then the consumer gets a choice. They can pick up the phone call, they can respond via text, or they can email whatever channel they prefer. And then we identify it as this is a this is an email consumer. And then we shut down all the other consumer channels, the communication channels, and focus on email, because that’s what that consumer wants.

I suppose I know you do work in Canada as well as the US as well. Do you find this different differences? The differences between the two markets and even between states right within the US or provinces in Canada? How do you see the differences? Do you adjust your strategy by the different locations? Is it very different,

very different to November 2021. The FDCPA was in the States was silent on digital communications. And then they passed regulation F. So they added a 456 page appendix to a 20 page law. And of course, it’s clear as mud. But it states now that if you’re making a telephone communication with somebody, whether you contact them or leave a message on their answering machine, you can only try once every seven days. So you have to slow down the telephone communication. I’m not sure what other agencies in the states are doing with their predictive dialers. But I would imagine they’re shutting them down or paring down the number of ad communications significantly. Nevermind, that was a legislative landmine, if you accidentally used a predictive dialer, to call a cell phone in the States, you were you could have a TCPA violation for $100 per call that sort of thing. But they also put in regulation F, that electronic communications and they identify that as email, you can send an unlimited number. Now, I don’t think you should email somebody 30 times a day. I don’t think that’s I don’t think fishing with a machine gun is an effective strategy. But we consumers in the in the US versus consumers in Canada still have their smartphones still are responding to the blinky red light. So yes, you can use a similar strategy. But in the US, you’ve got to have the FDCPA mini Miranda, you’ve got to have if they live in the state of Georgia, you have to have this disclaimer. So we’re relying more on email than SMS in the US because it’s, we’re less, we’re more bomb proof versus a frivolous lawsuit. But we still are communicating via SMS. And certainly when a consumer says I’m driving, Can you text me? Absolutely. We can identify that consumer as a as an SMS consumer and communicate with them via SMS. But we’re doing more email in the US.

And I suppose how much of you do you think is driven by that? I mean, it’s these things. It’s that I talk about the smartphones, right? It just feels like you’ve got this multi communication device that sort of sits in the palm of your hand. And it’s I suppose, anything that goes to that you think there are other communication channels we need to use this is about email on it’s got telephone on, it’s got SMS on but as what’s apps out there, I suppose there’s other kinds of chat or chat kind of processes that are out there. Where do you think what else do we need to look at chat boxes and exam plants

are a good place to start developing? Now, obviously, that’s not a that’s not an outgoing communication channel, that’s incoming consumer goes to your website and wants to chat. And we see that through Google business. And obviously, we’re trying to bid right now we’re developing a chatbot on our website that will basically just bring in the Google Business chat right there. But it’s technologically challenging, right, especially when you have multiple Google business locations for each of your branches. So I may have made my life more difficult a few years ago when I decided to do multiple branches, but certainly and obviously, a lot of people are talking we can get AI where came? I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t think the AI chats are capable enough to negotiate with people. I don’t know. Have you had a chance to play with chat? GPT at all?

Yeah, I have. I’ve seen I was gonna, that’s gonna be my next question around what you think of it?

I find it making up. And actually I read an article on this this morning. They’re finding that Chuck GPT. When it’s asked to write an essay, it makes up imaginary quotes from imaginary people. Yeah. So it can’t quote something reliably. Do we want it discussing finances with somebody? I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

It does sound like a lot of social media, though they do people just make things up. And he’s got pieces, in fact, on some of these, maybe he’s been reading Twitter too much. I don’t know, the fact that it seems like that’s a challenge. But where do you think there are applications for the kind of stuff that you see in chat would be one, although sounds like it’s not there yet.

It’s not there. I think a couple agencies are breaking the ice there. And I know, I know, pra when they were active capital, even a couple years ago, before pra came in. So that’s about 40 years ago, they had an excellent chat function on their website they had and would you like to work out payment arrangements, please punch in the following information. And they had an algorithm. So it wasn’t AI. But it was a decision making machine that said, if they say this, and this then offer them this settlement or this payment arrangement. So I think we’re getting there. But it’s not completely intuitive yet.

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Yeah, certainly thing things like tone of voice and being able to change tone of voice and communications those that seems much more adaptive than I’ve ever seen before. It’s just this that kind of stuff. It’s like magic a little bit, you understand a little bit about the maths, but I don’t really it still seems like magic? I don’t know. But maybe do you think do you think that’s gonna enables almost like more tailored collections, do you think we’ll be able to become even more specific and tailored around customers individual circumstances, or how they would best respond to particular approaches, in terms of advisory around getting them out of debt or support,

they like to see that, obviously, that to build those machines, or build those processes, that’s going to require collection agencies and creditors to have empathy, and to sympathise with consumer situations. And sometimes we don’t see the tree for the forest. And that empathy, that moment of empathy gets lost. Now, obviously, if you have a creditor jumping out of an agency, all we need you to collect $200,000, or we’re going to give your business to another agency. Obviously, that’s driving numbers not empathy, or collectors sitting in their, in their cubicle, and they’re being told, if you hit this, you get a bonus. Okay, money is more important than empathy. So you have to it depends on the structure you built. One of the things we do with our staff, we do a monthly scorecard that affects their salaries and how they’re doing and how much time they can spend working from home. And we’ve factored in Google reviews. And if if a collector gets a positive Google review, they get a very significant score bump on their scorecard, because we want to encourage that and because we’ve encouraged that it’s fostered a community of collector a talking to collector B, hey, you got a Google review? That’s amazing. How did you do that I was reasonable. And I took my time. And it foster if you gain out the results you want and build the structure that rewards the behaviours you want, then you can encourage people or people they go to work, they want to be recognised, they want to do a good job. And if you can make them feel good about getting a positive review from a consumer, then they’re going to they’re going to lean in that direction.

I’m going to ask the question first. And we’ll talk about talk a little bit about the UK afterwards. But taking that almost like softer approach in terms of collections, and what have you seen that do in terms of actual collections itself in terms of like, dollars collected and the actual collection rates that had any effect. So

what ends up happening is, if we were against hardcore, I want my $10,824.86. Today, the hardcore agency will out collect us in the first 60 days, because they’ll spike up their liquidation. And then it’ll stop where ours is more of a slow build bell curve. Because we’re being a little more patient with people we’re being a little more reasonable. It ends up with a longer tail end, because we have an alienated people. If you’re if your binary, give me the money out or else we’ll the people who don’t give you the money, you’ve gone to the or else you can’t go anywhere. Whereas if you’re being reasonable, you know, okay, you’ve worked out payment arrangements, you’re getting payments, people are reaching back out. You were kind to me and I 60 days ago, and now I have a job and I remember you weren’t yelling and screaming like the other four agencies. So now I’m going to pay you first. So you end up with this trick tail end and you do end up with 20 to 50% Higher liquidation than the competition. So sometimes when you’re working with creditors dealing, we’re not the fastest out of the gate. You’ve got to bear with us. If you look at our liquidation at the 12 month mark, I guarantee it will be higher and here’s why. And here are example cases and what have you, but it will perform better but it takes long Hunger,

as it was, the fable is almost like it pays good things come to people who wait exactly the things that happen, certainly in the UK, and obviously, as we’ve chatted before, there’s been a lot of sort of focus around treating customers fairly. Now there’s a consumer duty that’s out there, and this whole sort of approach around that. And that was certainly our experience over here, which is, is there’s a lot of brand equity that you build up, and it doesn’t have a negative effect in terms of collections. But it’s just interesting, sort of like, do you think that that kind of approach is shifting in North America? I mean, we’ve chatted about it before and you’re clearly bought into that whole kind of approach around supportiveness, do you think is going to change? Do you think it’s going to change? Is it changing, it has

been for a number of years, like you remember that United Airlines fiasco where somebody was volunteered to come off the plane, and somebody recorded it with a phone and United Airlines shares dropped, like they lost a billion dollars in 30 days in their share prices, that sort of thing is already cluing creditors into brand awareness, and creditors that don’t have to go through an RFP department or compliance department, they already get it, they are already realising Hey, it one angry consumer can take a negative experience and put it on the internet for ever, and will forever harm our brand reputation, bigger companies that are still doing RFPs and going to the lowest bidder, and they don’t care about brand reps. Like sometimes there’s a disconnect. And certainly, only I’d say 10 20% of the agencies out there have ever even Google themselves. So I think it’s advanced in some areas. But we’ve still got a long way to go and and others.

Yeah, I just wonder if particularly if we get into an economic deterioration, does that sort of, you’re not going to get those fast payments in quite the same way as they were because the capacity to pay isn’t. So if you look over the longer period where customers situations have time to change, does it lend itself to that kind of approach?

Yes, it does. But it’s getting everyone to buy into that and being patient. And obviously, creditors and companies and agencies, they all have stressors of we have to pay the bills and keep the lights on. So it’s a balancing act. But it’s always been about

now, and we talked a bit about volume, and we talked a bit about staffing and getting new employees employees, and one of the big sort of friction points has been is really around remote work versus in the office. Right. So I wanted to chat a bit about that. And it does feel like there’s quite a difference between certainly what I hear in Europe and what I heard in North America in terms of the approach that’s been taken. In North America, there was much more of a push to getting people back in the office. Even some of the large even some of the large banks in the UK and in Europe are much more open to hybrid working, remote working. It’s really hybrid working, and it’s gradually tending to go back in the office rather than you will get back to the office. What’s What are you kind of hearing over there? What’s your kind of view in terms of what we’re,

obviously the pandemic hit? March 14 2020. Everybody go work from home. And again, I was very fortunate that I made a number of mistakes that made our company pandemic resistant, because we had multiple branches. And first of all, we went from a culture of at that point five branches to 50 branches of one. So it wasn’t that big a leap. We already had internal chat programmes to communicate with each other we already had. If somebody’s not physically there, this is how we communicate that was already there. So I’m going and also having multiple branches. We didn’t have one high rise office in Toronto, where we had to send 400 people home, they all tried to log in. And that high rise agency in Toronto didn’t have enough internet bandwidth to support 400 remote locations. We were very lucky that one. And what we did, we decided as the pandemic as the rules were loosening for, for being able to work in the office because Canada was very regimented. It was these you have to work from home during this lockdown or what have you. We actually surveyed our staff, because obviously our some of our staffer, I never want to come back to the office and some of the staff were I need to work in the office. I have two teenage children for the love of God. Let me come back. Gotta get and so we ended up serving our staff and we ended up building our back to normal planner and a plan. Whenever of all the pandemic was lifted, and everything was unlocked was okay, let’s go for it with the N day plan. And then two weeks later, oh, everything’s locked down again. Okay, we’ll postpone the N day plan. But we ended up with we ended up putting that plan in place in late 2021. And we said, Your us and experienced staff member if you’re not a compliance risk, you’re working fine from home, you have no worship issue working from home, you need to come into the office four days a month. We couldn’t care less what four days. You want to come in every Monday. That’s fine. You want to come in the first four days and we don’t see you for a month. That’s fine. Now we’ve always been a millennial friendly, just deliver the results show us that you’re working. We will leave you alone. So that’s translated well now during the pandemic we had some because collections is an art form you end up with have a sense of osmosis if you have 20 people in a room? Pardon me, and they’re all making calls and someone makes a bad call, someone will turn around go. Why did you say that? You lose that if people are working in isolation at home, it’s not like their programmers coding. So we did have a couple staff who started veering off to the side, and we listened to them. And why are you saying that? That’s confrontational and they didn’t realise because it was by millimetres, that they changed their approach. So we did have to develop that plan, say, okay, you’ve gotten off the beaten path, let’s get you in the office 10 days a month, and get you back on track. And then you can go back to four days a month, and we can do a course correction and let you go. And we also found during the pandemic, obviously, when we were hiring, we were trying to hire, we’re like, okay, come in, you’ve been trained for two weeks go home, you know, and that was a far too quick, booting people out the door. So we had to work. Okay, your first 30 days, you’re in the office every day, you’re being trained. Okay, next month, you’ve had a positive staff scorecard. Now you can work from the office only 10 days a month, your second scorecard, okay, four days a month. If your scorecard slips to this point, you come back. So we ended up with a gradiated, almost not in the office, half the time in the office, always in the office, and people can move around that. So talking to other agencies, a lot of them are all over the board somewhere. Everybody’s back in the office. And sometimes it’s because they lost productivity. And they don’t know why. Sometimes it’s because the creditors are demanding it, we want to our compliance department says everybody has to be in the office physically for security requirements. If you want our business, you have to have everyone back in. It’s a variety. But I have noticed, obviously, I remember our office out in British Columbia, one of the we posted an ad normally I was saying we get like 3040 applications. We got 90, and they were almost all from one agency. And we’re what’s going on. And we interviewed a couple candidates and they’re like, yep, they told us to come back into the office full time, I’m looking for a new job. People expect the ability to work from home at least a little bit at this point.

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And is that still written an unwritten rule that’s out there that people employees really are still looking for that flexibility, even though maybe employers are trying to move away from that a little bit?

And I don’t think it’s I think employers are bending, like, certainly consumers are the employees that you want to hire are going to drive the bus on this. I do believe that companies are trying to accommodate people working from home. But it’s finding that fine balance, because working in isolation is not good for the long term culture of your company. Because you don’t have a culture because people are sharing space and communicating. We had one staff member, great staff member she was I never want to come back in the office. Oh, and we, we said okay, you have to come in for days, the first day she came in, there were only two people in the office that day. And she did her work. And she turned around, and would you believe that last call to the other person in the office. And she went out to lunch with them and came back. And she came into the office at the end of the day and said, You were right. I needed that. I think people, people making decisions in boardrooms or in compliance departments, they’re sometimes forgetting the human, the human part of things worked a lot in different companies on culture, culture is important. If people like where they work, and they feel valued, they will give 110% And you can’t, you can’t buy that loyalty, you have to earn that loyalty by building an environment. That’s Frank, if you create an environment, you know, pre pandemic where you didn’t hear your target, you’re fired, you create a sense of disposable employees, they’re not going to care about your company because they could be gone next month. If you create an environment where you shame them, you have a whiteboard and go write your collection numbers for the day on the whiteboard. And you’re shaming the people not succeeding, you’re not lifting them up. If you create a dog eat dog environment where people it’s a free for all, and somebody can take a collection file, and but this person was nice to them. There are all sorts of little things. And I’ve written about this on my blog, here are ways that you can sabotage your collection agency and create an environment of fear and hate and uncertainty. You don’t want that. And if everyone’s working from home, you can’t build a fostering environment as easily. So you need some in person, but it’s what’s the right level?

Yeah, but that’s some fundamental work that you need to do beforehand. So like people will come back in the office, if they want to be back in the office, and if it’s going to be better for them to back in the office than being at home. And that’s environmental, isn’t it? It’s cultural, right?

make it worse. I have a friend who works in it. And they called her back into the office 50% of the time, and she worked for an insurance company. And they had reorganised the office. So her desk wasn’t her desk. So she had to anything she wanted on her desk. She had to bring in with her at the beginning of the day, and take out at the end of the day. So she couldn’t create a space because her desk was being shared by someone else later. That’s a cost cutting measure that harmed the culture of that person coming into the office and maybe coming into the office, a negative experience. They don’t have a picture of their kids. They don’t have their coffee cup their little simple things. Sometimes it’s important to leave their desk empty, and it’s their desk. So they know when they come in, it’s their space.

It’s interesting. Isn’t it interesting how culture goes throughout the whole of it. And sometimes this can be stuff that’s happened for the last 10 years as well, that sort of has been building up, isn’t it? So it’s like, it takes time to change the direction to

alter is incredibly hard to turn 100%. Yeah.

So we’ve been through this, we talked about about digital, we talked about customer treatment, talking about employees, where do we go next? From here? What’s, what’s next, what’s next in the environment, and what we’re gonna look out for in the next year or so.

Obviously, there are a lot of stressors being put on consumers, housing prices are out of control. People aren’t able to go out for dinner once a week anymore, that’s the cost has doubled. Come, companies are still figuring out what their new normal is. We can’t really predict what the future is going to be. Like, when I went to Spain, going out for dinner was an experience like the North Americans, can I have the check? I’m done. And they’re like, No, you’re gonna be here for four hours. That was very alien to me. I would not be surprised if we start getting into that going out for dinners and experience because it’s going to be 100 $150. Going to the movies is going to be a rare experience people living outside of big urban centres, where housing might be affordable, and having remote work is likely, I can’t tell you for sure. We’re definitely in a space where things are changing where they’re going, I don’t know. But we need to be we need to be flexible. The companies that are inflexible are the ones that are closing their doors, the companies that are willing to look at new communication channels, new ways to treat their staff, new new workflows are going to be the ones that are going to be standing five years from now.

Yeah, it’s interest, it’s going to be an interesting journey in terms of what’s happened and you just feel like it was a bit of a an inflection point in society. It seems almost like before the pandemic and they were after the pandemic, and these things don’t happen overnight. They happen over about a decade. So and you wonder if the Spanish Flu

of 1914 and then the roaring 20s You know, everyone would bounce back to the super social, I think we’re gonna have the something 30s That 2030s by I don’t know what’s going to be I don’t when it’s going to be a React people have been fundamentally changed by the pandemic. There’s a lot more anxiety in individuals, there’s a lot more. I joke with my friends, everybody went a little bit crazy in the pandemic. I know, I’m one fellow, he decided to buy board games, he has 200 unopened board games. Everybody was effect I find. Normally I’m fairly extroverted. I find after I’ve been in a extroverted social situation, I’m exhausted peopling is hard now. Everybody has been fundamentally affected. So how we go as a culture through that’s going to be interesting.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a fascinating time blur. Thanks very much. I know we chatted quite a bit and usually we find plenty to talk about. So I appreciate you taking the time. And finally, we’ve done the interview and got you on I got your help. I didn’t know it’s perfect. And I will say just for everyone watching that the RMA survey. I think it’s still out there. We’ve got some early results have been sent out to people but I think we’ll put it in the links. We’ll put it in the links below just if people want to join it and then they’ll get a copy of the results as well. super interesting. I know and I appreciate the RMA for helping partner on that. That’s good. Okay, thanks very much, Blair. Really appreciate you taking the time.


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