As I write this I am beginning my 36th year in the debt collection business, which began July 1, 1980. Fresh out of college with a degree in Business Administration, I was young and naive. There was no computer, therefore no computer files or electronic record storage. Everything was contained on printed paper and if you lost or misplaced the paper record you could not collect the debt until it was relocated. In today’s world this is not an issue. There was no predictive dialer, as a matter of fact the push button desk telephone was the most innovative telephone communication device of that time. There was no “voice mail”. Messages were left if a human answered the telephone, who had to find “pen and paper” to write down what message you wanted conveyed and to whom. There was no caller ID until the person who answered said “hello”. The basic collection “process” hasn’t changed all that much, but the way we go about the process has changed dramatically, due to the technology we have today. I’ve seen a huge change in attitudes about debts and bankruptcy from then until now. While there have always been people who do not pay their debts, back in my early years bankruptcy was not an accepted avenue to debt resolution. Today, many people seek bankruptcy as a quick and easy way out of debt and it is an acceptable means to start over financially. Many years ago bankruptcy meant living without the ability to obtain credit for many years, now it is just a short term set back to new credit. Finally, the laws and regulations we face in doing our jobs have become a tremendous burden. I believe consumers do have rights and we should follow the law in our collection activities, but there should be more emphasis given to creditor’s rights who have extended credit with the expectation of being paid promptly in return. The creditor and debt collector are being looked down upon for demanding to be paid when they just want the consumer to meet his/her financial responsibilities.
Our longevity in the collections industry is a proud accomplishment that wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing, dedicated team members. Longevity is not only a term we use to describe our time in business, but also one, I’m proud to say, we use when we talk about many of our team.
The questions below were answered by two of our highly seasoned veterans, Jean L. and Kim N.
When did you first start at UCS?
JEAN: I started with UCS when I was a senior in high school in April of 1965. The original owners were Hubert (Hub) and Corrine Kartes. I was hired to do general office work (answering the phone, typing, filing, Dictaphone, etc.)
You've seen a lot of changes take place in the collections industry. Talk a little bit about these changes.
JEAN: One change is the fact that there are very few family owned collection agencies now. Unable to compete with the "big" corporations, many have had to close their doors.
Of course, laws and regulations are continuously changing.
What's the biggest change you've seen here at UCS?
JEAN: I would say the biggest change would be United Credit Service becoming the first "paperless" system in the state.
When I started, everything was entered manually--either typed or written. We used index cards to keep track of any activity on an account. We used a 3-fold folder for a consumer's personal information and anything pertaining to the person's debt(s) was contained in that small folder.
What's been the most rewarding aspect of your career here at UCS?
JEAN: The most rewarding aspect would be to have been able to watch this company grow from a small two-room, three- person office to our size and location.
I have met and worked with so many people over the years including new owners, co-workers, attorneys and sales rep's. Some for only a short time--others for years.
I have met a lot of clients in person, others I have only had a "telephone relationship" with, but it amazes me how well you can get to know someone and strike up a friendship with them by talking to them on the phone.
Your first day was on your birthday (November 3rd, 1997). Tell us about that day.
KIM: I personally knew a few of my co-workers so I was only a little nervous when I arrived. I was greeted with flowers and balloons at my desk and a birthday cake to share at lunch. First impressions do mean a lot; I realized immediately what a caring company I had signed up to work for.
You had a connection with UCS before working here. What was that connections?
KIM: I worked as a cashier in Patient Accounts at a hospital that used UCS as a collection agency and frequently spoke to Client Services to reconcile bad debt.
You've worn many hats for this company. Tell us a little bit about each role. What's been the most challenging aspect of your position?
KIM: I began as Clerical Support, answering phones and applying new business. Shortly after I started, a medical clinic was closing their operations so I was given the responsibility of billing and collecting their receivables. What started out being a project, turned into a position as more businesses utilized UCS to mange the closing of their accounts. I have worked as an extended business office financial counselor, collection specialist/manager, payroll and human resources and am currently a pre-litigation manager.
Diversity is something I enjoy but can be a challenge in itself.
The collection industry can be a difficult industry to work in. Why did you stay and make it your career?
KIM: I stay because I enjoy helping people and I work for an agency that understands "bad things happen to good people". Treating consumers with respect and dignity is our way of doing business and makes me proud of the work I do.
Over the years, what's been the biggest change you've seen at UCS?
KIM: There has been an enormous amount of technological advancements since 1997.
In 2008 we converted to a new debt collection software program. Since then, there have been several upgrades installed to increase the level of automation, thus improving collector's productivity and efficiency.