Ethics in Collections Means Walking the Talk
We pointed to some desirable qualities of a professional collection company in the post: Debt Collection for Improved Profit Recovery and Client Retention. Taking the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) to heart is in part evidenced by results pointing to the company’s commitment to ethical standards. And that’s just one piece of walking the talk of ethical considerations in collections.
As active members of The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA International) we attended the association’s Fall Forum Conference held recently in Chicago. Working with a collections company intent on following the ethical standards and guidelines established by the ACA is an important consideration for doing business with them. After all, where else are trust, integrity and the highest of ethical standards more important (or needed) than in the process of debt collections?
ACA International’s Code of Ethics and Code of Operations provides a sort of playbook for walking the talk of ethics in collections. Here are some of the highlights from an educational session we attended at the Fall Forum.
Benefits of Adherence to Ethical Collection Practices
Companies who follow ethics programs can avoid hidden costs associated with unethical behavior. These costs surface through loss of business if customers perceive the company has a less-than-stellar reputation where ethics are concerned. Furthermore, unethical behavior may result in poor publicity and could lead to civil or criminal penalties.
On the flip side, when leadership models ethical behavior it can help drive increased productivity. Some of the key points to enhance productivity through ethics include:
- Putting the company’s mission first results in making more productive decisions based on the company’s welfare rather than on personal considerations.
- Increasing mutual understanding by using a common language of values such as the well-known Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.
- Living up to ethical standards supported by employees’ values means they’ll identify more with it, feel greater pride and be motivated to do more and better work.
Impacts of the Code of Ethics on Daily Operations
Having grasped the importance of implementing an ethics program for a business, it’s next helpful to explore how the ACA’s Code of Ethics should impact daily operations. Some of the key points from the Fall Forum include:
- Promote and encourage “the highest level of integrity” within the industry. In practicality this may mean cooperating and abiding by the Association’s self-regulation efforts (Ethics Rule I.D). Adopting an internal code of conduct and acting to place any ACA member on notice of any alleged violation while seeking to identify a solution are other ways of demonstrating active involvement.
- Be fair and respectful to employees, associates, competitors, customers, the public and employers. For example, Ethics Rule II.A.1 says: Treat consumers with consideration and respect. And Ethics Rule II.A.6 states that members have a duty to “not threaten or initiate collection litigation on time barred debts.”
- Commit to the development and use of the highest standards and practices for processing and handling consumer, customer and competitor disputes. Again, self-regulation is a common theme in the Code of Ethics and members’ commitment to protect consumers from “bad actors” while promoting those who collect ethically and professionally.
These are but a few of the ethics in collections standards developed by the ACA and supported by its members. In an industry that has often been tarnished by unprofessional and unethical conduct, we hope to have conveyed both our commitment to not just talk the talk, but to be actively involved in walking the talk: doing our part to achieve the highest possible standards of ethical behavior in collections.
It is our mission at Optio Solutions to treat customers, consumers and associates with respect, integrity and in a professional and ethical manner at all times. We understand that even though you may need to send someone to collections, you most likely want to keep their business in the future. A diplomatic and respectful collection approach is highly effective in both getting your delinquent A/R collected and preserving your valuable customer relationships.