Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some Debt Collections Outsourced to India

A few weeks back I posted about the proliferation of jobs in the Buffalo area related to debt collections. That may prove to be a short-lived phenomenon as many such jobs are now being outsourced to India.

If we aren't able to pay our debts for whatever reason, why reward us with jobs in which our function is to collect unpaid debt?
Americans are used to receiving calls from India for insurance claims and credit card sales. But debt collection represents a growing business for outsourcing companies, especially as the American economy slows and its consumers struggle to pay for their purchases.

Armed with a sophisticated automated system that dials tens of thousands of Americans every hour, and puts confidential information like Social Security numbers, addresses and credit history at operators’ fingertips, this new breed of collectors is chasing down late car payments, overdue credit card debt and lapsed installment loans. Debt collectors in India often cost about one-quarter the price of their American counterparts, and are often better at the job, debt collection company executives say.

I suppose I have to look on the bright side. I'll have a legitimate excuse to hang up on them when they catch me answering my phone. Because I've shut off my land lines I only have a mobile phone. Even when I had a land line, if I was getting technical help or other assistance from someone in an Indian call center it often sounded to me as if they were talking while under water. On the few occasions when I've dealt with anyone in India while on my mobile phone it was far worse.
“Are you sure that’s all you can afford?” one operator in a row of cubicles asks politely. “Well, how do you take care of your everyday expenses?” presses another.

Hello? Hello?? I'm so sorry, but I can't hear you. I must hang up now. Please try your call again later.

FYI, if you are struggling with credit card debt and are unemployed, they have their eye on your upcoming stimulus check, on the off-chance that you might not need it for anything else.

“One hundred thirty million U.S. families will get a tax rebate this season” as part of the new economic stimulus package, Manu Sharma, the team leader, explained to a roomful of top-earning collection agents, most in their 20s.


Start bringing up the rebate during calls, he told them. “This gives you an advantage so you can increase your wallet share,” he went on. “Get them set up on minimum balance arrangements” based around their tax rebates.

I'm so glad I have spent much of my life in multi-cultural cities. I realize that not everyone in the world is named Julie, Richard, Justin and Danielle. I'm not sure why these call centers based in India require their employees to change their names.
Manju Muddanna, 27, who uses the name Michelle Green when she is on the phone, is one of Encore’s best collectors.

Is a debtor more likely to pay if the person on the phone is named Michelle rather than Manju? Or do they think debtors are less likely to pay if they suspect the collection agency is based in India and represents just another in a long line of lost jobs in the US?

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