Credit and collections clerks, who may also wear the title “bill collectors,” operate in an environment of extensive consumer laws and with people facing financial difficulties. The credit and collection clerk job description demonstrates the patience, communication and persuasive skills needed for creditors to recover their loans or portions of them.
What Does a Credit and Collections Clerk Do?
Calls to delinquent customers garner much of the public and regulatory attention. However, the job description of a credit and collections clerk reveals much more. The tasks include research, understanding a debtor’s current financial difficulties and negotiating or proposing realistic repayment options. Clerks in this role often must practice patience and courtesy more so than hard-line approaches.
Credit and Collections Clerk Job Description for Resume — Responsibilities
- Locate and contact account holders and customers with past-due accounts or retained merchandise for which payments have not ben made
- Speak with customers about reasons for late payments or missed payments
- Obtain information on customers’ financial conditions and ability to pay debts
- Propose payment plans, settlements or compromises based on financial status of debtor
- Pull credit reports, driver’s license records, motor vehicle records and other records to locate customers who have moved or whose addresses are not current
- Maintain log and records of calls, correspondence and other efforts to collect debts
- Respond to calls and letters about accounts from customers, their personal representatives and attorneys, and court agencies
- Update status of accounts, including payments in full, satisfactions in full, death of account holders and bankruptcies
- Refer seriously delinquent accounts for foreclosure, repossessions or legal proceedings to collect
- Negotiate settlements, payment plans or compromised balances
Credit and Collections Clerk Essential Skills
Communication. Credit and collections clerks must be able to speak and write to consumers. These messages must clearly, but within legal requirements, convey what consumers owe, how they can cure the defaults or how to settle or establish payment plans. Listening helps the clerks obtain valuable information to find and contact consumers about their accounts. Some employers may prefer multilingual applicants given that creditors lend and sell to non-English speaking customers.
Organization. Credit and collection clerks need ready access to information about the account holders and the accounts they attempt to collect. Organizational skills include scheduling reminders for payment deadlines, follow-up contacts and referrals of accounts for lawsuits, foreclosures, filing of claims in bankruptcy court and repossessions.
Persuasion. The job description of a credit and collection clerk involves skills in persuading customers to cure their defaults and pay their bills. Persuasion entails the ability to negotiate compromises or establish payment plans that can accommodate the debtor’s finances. Clerks also attempt to spur action through placing debtors on notice that negative reports to credit reporting agencies or legal actions may occur if payments are not forthcoming.
Research. To locate consumers and contact them, credit and collection clerks need to know where to find criminal, driving and property records for addresses and identity of properties owned by debtors. Skills in researching include how to access nonpublic records.
Becoming a Credit and Collections Clerk
Credit and collections clerks attain their positions normally through training and experience that hone the necessary skills. A prior work history in customer service or credit handling can especially prepare clerks for their positions.
Education and Training
Generally, credit and collection clerks do not need beyond a high school education to qualify for these jobs. According to O*NET, nearly three out of four of these clerks graduated from high school. Ten person did not complete high school, while seven percent hold an associate’s degree.
While a diploma will normally suffice, some post-secondary classes can enhance a clerk’s chances to be hired. The curriculum should feature basic computer skills, communication, business writing, foreign languages and credit collection and consumer laws.
Collection companies afford training for new hires and either provide or require continuing education for credit and collection clerks. In these sessions, the participants learn the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act and a host of state laws on the conduct of debt collectors. These rules address when, where and how debtors may be contacted. For instance, collectors generally may not threaten criminal prosecution against debtors for not making payments.
Other training covers tactics for negotiating with debtors and an introduction to the legal system. As to the court system, credit and collection clerks study the difference between civil and criminal law, remedies for having property foreclosed upon or seized to satisfy debts and bankruptcy.
Depending on the company, a credit and collection clerk may spend one to three months in training.
Credit and collection clerks can accumulate prior work experience through positions that involve customer service and use of telephones and computers. These may include customer service representatives at call centers run by retail stores, credit card companies, banks and utility companies. In these prior roles, candidates for credit and collection clerk jobs have fielded and answer customer questions, explained company policies and billing procedures and perhaps offered deals for customers.
Similar customer service experience can come from working in customer retention departments.
Most credit and collection clerks work full-time. Some may occupy part-time or contract positions that allow more flexible hours. Shifts cover weekdays and usually weekends.
Due in part to debt collection laws, collection positions normally do not encompass late nights or early mornings. Under federal law, a debt collector may call only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time. In addition, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act prohibits collection calls on Sunday if the collector knows it is not a convenient time to call a particular debtor. (https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/can-debt-collector-sunday.html) To avoid the risk, some collection agencies do not operate on Sunday.
The broad extent of credit in the United States economy would seem to sustain the demand for credit and collection clerks. According to ACA International, outstanding debt in the United States stood at $12.07 trillion as of the third quarter of 2015. Nearly $672 billion – over half of that – was past-due.
Despite significant demand for and activity in debt collection, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a decline of six percent in employment of “Bill and Account Collectors” by 2024. This translates to a drop of 19,600 jobs by that year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics attributes this trend to software, the ability of companies to automate collection calls and letters and the combination of collection agencies so that only a few large companies control the market. With fewer companies engaged in debt collection means less available positions.
Prospects may remain strong especially in the health care field. ACA International reports that, in 2013, the healthcare industry accounted for 38 percent of the collection of debts overall. Hospitals, physicians’ offices and clinics use credit and collection clerks to submit insurance claims. Nearly twenty-five cents of every dollar of debt collected came from student loans in 2013.
For credit and collection clerks, job opportunities may prove strong in healthcare and student loans. Technology and its ability to automate collection efforts stand to replace the human collector of debts.
Those who enter this field must bring the ability to understand and, then, persuade delinquent debtors to pay their bills. Their work requires persistence, research to locate hard-to-find debtors and adherence to applicable federal and state collection laws.