Turns out nice guys may not always finish last.
Access Receivables, a Baltimore-based debt collection agency, is finding success using a novel approach to its business: Just being nice. The company's strategy embodied in its slogan, "nice people collect more," aims to emphasize customer service, according to InsideARM, a website that says it wants to “ shift the public conversation” about the debt collection industry.
Since putting the strategy into action, payments have increased 40 percent overall, according to a press release.
Access Receivables' new tactic runs counter to many of recent trends in the debt collection industry. Debt collectors are increasingly using threats, lies and insults to get debtors to pay up, according to an April report from Marketdata Enterprises. And debt collectors are difficult to avoid. One in seven Americans is being pursued by a collection agency.
Last year the industry was responsible for a record number of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, the Wall Street Journal reports.
To avoid such complaints, Access Receivable has required credit counseling certification for managers, provided employee perks for favorable debtor testimonials and changed its online platform to make communication easier, company President Tom Gillespie told InsideARM.
Still, it seems that it may be some time before other companies follow suit. One debt collector threatened to exhume the body of debtor’s deceased daughter in an aim to secure a payment, while another illegally impersonated police officers. A debt collector in Oregon harassed a debtor by falsely telling police she was threatening suicide.
Access Receivable may be trying to lead the way for a kinder, gentler debt collection industry, but it’s not alone in fighting back against abusive collection tactics. Just last week, Rep. Pete Stark (D-California) called for a federal investigation of hospital debt collector Accretive Health for alleged "abusive" tactics. While in February, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed increasing supervision of the biggest debt collection agencies.