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It's all the same really... or is it?

Chances are, at any networking event, conference or workshop relating to credit and credit management, there will always be someone involved in debt collection in the room.

More often than not, this person will either be in sales or management and thinking of the business they hope to attract, and not necessarily the subject, content or topic of said conference or event. That's good though, it's part of the experience that is attending an industry or professional conference.

Having just returned from the AICM National Conference, I found myself looking around the room and counting the number of 'debt collection' people that were milling, chatting and promoting (and I admit I was was one of them) which got me to thinking: "What makes anyone of us better or different to the other?" "Why would a prospective client choose my services over another?" "What can/do I do that is different?"...

I also had the opportunity to look at the collections products and services on show and think about what sets each of us apart from the other. And to be honest, I didn't see a lot of difference. 't see a lot of difference. Debt Collection itself is a profession that has existed long before currency was even invented (out of interest it was first recorded around 3000BC, google it if you must). In the modern age, we send a notice (letter, email or SMS), pick up the phone, call and demand payment, advising of the consequences if it is not paid. In my opinion, in terms of the actual debt collection core process - this is how we all do it, just with our own 'spin' on it.

Yes, I hear you - "but technology, we use the latest technology! Auto-diallers, SMS functionality, automated workflows, integrated billings, 24/7 web access" and so on. That's great, but so does every other mercantile agent going around. I think the use of emerging technology in debt collection and credit management is fantastic, and I am a strong supporter of innovation in the industry but technology can't replace the power of human interaction. If the decision making process of paying a debt was made by machines, then technology would rule and there would be no place for the human element. However, machines do not make the decision to pay, debtors do. And debtors are people. People with thoughts, feelings, rationale, logic and emotion...see where I'm going?

People! We need real people, supported by this technology to interact with debtors. Technology aside, it's our people that set us apart because our people are trained and skilled in dealing with others who need to make decisions using rationale, logic and a lot of the time, emotion. I am not aware of any technology that can identify emotion and manage it effectively to enable a resolution. But people can deal with emotion, negotiate when there is conflict, show empathy and sensitivity when it is required. Our people form a relationship with those they are dealing with, gaining trust through mutual respect, enabling effective and open communication, and empowering decision making to reach the required resolution. People interacting with people.

And that there is the difference, and what I believe should influence our decisions on a service provider-client level when faced with the questions I asked earlier: people. It's forging mutually beneficial relationships, gaining and building trust. It's having great communication. It's establishing and delivering on expectations. It's about sharing the bad news as well as the good. And above all it's being open and honest and acting with integrity.

Technology, as amazing as it has become (and will continue to do so) won't do this for you, only people can. The differentiator in our industry is who you are dealing with, knowing that you can trust them, that they can get the job done right (technology and all) and knowing that they care about you and your business.

"People do business with people because they choose to, not because they have to. We can always find others doing the same thing or selling the same product, it's the personal connection that makes the difference."

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