Fair Debt

Hosted ByLex Patterson

Unlocking Possibilities...

Episode 26 Stop thinking about accounts and start thinking about customers

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

According to many experts a majority of financial service organizations – 64.3% this year — are now focused on growth and innovation data initiatives, what many call offensive initiatives, compared with 5-10 years ago, when organizations focused more on defensive initiatives including regulatory, compliance, and efficiency goals. In this episode we will discuss the key foundational components of becoming a data first culture, and the lessons the software development lifecycle can teach you about the culture, cohesion and psychological safety needed to ignite innovation.

Key Takeaways

Keys to creating a “Data-First” Culture

The benefits of aligning company vision and technology strategy

The role team diversity plays in innovation

What the software development lifecycle can teach us about improving culture, recruiting and retaining talent

Areas AI and ML are making an impact in ARM companies

Finding cross domain sweet spots and patterns

Guest: Kristyn Lefler  Sr. Director of Digital Strategies for Resurgent Capital Services

Kristyn Leffler is responsible for driving revenue performance through digital channels while also elevating the overall user experience for Resurgent’s customers. Her teams are responsible for all digital campaign operations from strategic and algorithmic customer segmentation to content design and delivery and finally execution and oversight. Previous responsibilities since joining Resurgent in 2012 include managing a team of portfolio and strategy analysts, overseeing the inventory integration of large 3rd party acquisitions, and defining non-performing judgment strategies. She holds an MS in Applied Economics and Experimental Statistics from Clemson University and a BS in Business Administration from Duquesne University.

When she’s not working, parenting, or hosting a weekly pizza night for friends and neighbors, Kristyn enjoys reading (almost anything) and listening to podcasts on long morning walks.


Website: https://www.resurgent.com/

   LinkedIn Personal: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristynbradyleffler/

Email: kristyn.leffler@gmail.com

    Company LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/company/resurgent-capital-services/

HBR Why becoming a data driven organization is so hard

The 4 most common mistakes plaguing data science and AI for Debt Collection

Interactions ARM trends survey

Three lessons from the software development lifecycle to improve recruitment and retention

Matt Mullenweg Podcast The Future of Work

Additional Resources:

Interactions ARM Trends Survey

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

A Customer Found a Short Note With Their McDonald’s Delivery. It’s a Master Class in Marketing

The Long Way Up Series


Lex Patterson 0:11
kindred force media According to experts, a majority of financial service organizations are now focused on growth and innovation data initiatives compared with a few years ago when organizations focused more on defensive initiatives, including regulatory and compliance goals. In this episode, we’ll discuss the key foundational components of becoming a data first culture and the lessons the software development lifecycle can teach you about the culture, cohesion, and psychological safety needed to ignite innovation. With Kristyn Leffler, senior director of digital strategies at resurgent capital services. Here we go. Welcome to the podcast. Kristyn.

Kristyn Leffler 1:06
Thank you for having me. This is my very first podcast.

Lex Patterson 1:09
Oh, nice. Yeah, I’m excited to I mean, we’ve been we’ve been trying to put this together for a while. So I really appreciate you joining me. Yeah. Before we kick into this though, How’s your summer going?

Kristyn Leffler 1:21
Summer is going great. We got to take the kids on a little vacation, took them to the beach. It’s been you know, beautiful here and Greenville, South Carolina. See some family so no complaints. And complaints. Yeah,

Lex Patterson 1:35
yeah. Well, this good. It’s been busy. Deena, my wife, and I went on a motorcycle ride up. We go with Harley’s. We’re on a Yamaha venture. There’s three of us in the in the tribe that we call, and we just got back from the Columbia River Gorge. And then Deena had scope on her knee. Oh, how she recovering some nice knee surgery. So she’s in the other room. I’m taking care of her. She’s, she’s doing well, though. She’s doing really well, um, it wasn’t what they thought thought it was a torn meniscus, but not a tear, had what they call a loose body in there, which is kind of weird. So hopefully we’re hoping for good results from that. And we’ll see.

Kristyn Leffler 2:12
Yeah, wishes for a speedy recovery.

Lex Patterson 2:16
Thank you, Kristen. I really appreciate that. So tell us how you got into data driven accounts recovery and collection?

Kristyn Leffler 2:23
Yeah, sure. So I my start here in collections was one of those crazy serendipitous events, right? So my husband was playing rec league basketball with somebody who happened to be a litigation director at resurgent, I was finishing up grad school at Clemson for Applied Economics, experimental statistics. My husband’s like, Man, my wife really needs to get a job. So, you know, that litigation director passed my resume off to somebody, every surgeon floated to the top of the pile. Somebody was like, oh, yeah, let’s bring that one in. So I ended up starting as an analyst I resurgent, focused on legal recovery, specifically in the non performing judgment pool, then kind of worked in reverse from traditional collections. I started in non performing judgments like all the way at the end, and I learned more about the litigation process, and more about agency collections and how we think about, you know, inventory segmentation here, what are the critical factors that matter? And then in 2018, I moved into digital kind of our fledgling digital group and have loved being able to like in a small way, and it’s my pride, being able to change the conversation we have as an industry and the conversation that we’re having with our customers. So my undergraduate is actually in marketing supply chain and econ. So I have like a weird, weird background that is the perfect fit for somebody who wants to be able to understand why people interact with content, what content, say, the psychology behind that content, and then being able to quantify it. So it’s very fortuitous that I was able to find this particular job at this particular time that perfectly fits my

Lex Patterson 4:12
man, the universe was speaking there wasn’t I mean, wow. Right. Like, yeah, that’s really cool, though. So cool. Okay, well, thank you for that. I mean, that’s, that’s very helpful. So as I mentioned, you and I connected geez, quite a while ago, based on an inside arm, think different article that you wrote back in June of 2021, called the most common mistakes plaguing data science and AI for debt recovery. And I’d like to start this episode off by talking a bit about this technology from your perspective, because Kristen, you know, I admire your work. You’ve been working inside this for if I have this, right, a little over a decade. Yeah. And so you’re somebody that’s you understand it. You’ve walked the walk, so to speak, and in the Article , you referenced a 2020 ARM Trends Survey, which our listeners can find in the show notes of the episode. The survey indicated that most of the companies in the accounts receivable management industry have heard of how artificial intelligence tools are being deployed by collection agencies. However, a significant number 46%, were only somewhat familiar with the technology and indicated they had yet to see effective solutions. So I’m wondering, Kristyn, if you’re speaking to that approximately half of the AR professionals who are less familiar with these technologies, what steps could they take to determine if AI and machine learning technology is right for their organization?

Kristyn Leffler 5:43
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for Yeah, summarizing that, for me. The the study was put out, but I think it was interactions who are known for their iba and it struck me when I read that survey that either respondents that they described themselves as innovative or disruptive, but two thirds rated the phone as the most effective channel. And that didn’t really jive with what my experience had been. And that kind of led me down the path of, you know, this reminds me of conversations I’ve had and pitches I’ve seen where people are trying to use or sell a plug and play, quote, A AI tool, when really what they’re looking for are simple analyst questions and simple analyst solutions. It’s like bringing a machine gun to a spoon fight like It’s like way overkill, right? Not to say that there’s not a place for those technologies. I think there there are places for this technology is the Ivy is a good example, right? If you can deploy an ova that can handle your inbound calls, that’s great. But if your primary questions that you’re trying to answer are more in the realm of, hey, which client is my most profitable? Or how do I win this client scorecard? Those aren’t problems. Those are, those are like big dollar problems you can solve and they’re not, you don’t need an AI tool to solve that problem. So to your question of like, Hey, if you’re not familiar with these tools, where do you start? I think you have to start with, what are you trying to solve for your organization, write, write down a list, carve out half a day, write down a list, what are the problems I’m trying to solve, and then bucket those into, oh, this is something I should solve with the database in a spreadsheet, or some charts with a, you know, a bi style tool, versus this is a massive, repeatable problem with clear and consistent data that I could deploy an algorithm on. And if most of your questions are in that bucket, then it’s not AI that you’re after.

Lex Patterson 7:33
Okay, so I have this right, you’re talking more about the difference between deploying a an automated type solution, right, with data governance controls, and maybe an analyst workforce. And, and so talk a little bit about the difference there. I mean, you guys are pretty invested right in, in, in the data side of this. And some people just I think, when we hear these terms, it’s like, way, way of what’s going on. So we’re trying to go for that, bring the lens down and see if we can simplify this for some people and

Kristyn Leffler 8:10
working, you know, my background, having done every serving for 10 years is in that data first organization. So we capture it, and we analyze data on all the interactions that we have. And then we figure out like, how do we measure that chain? So that’s kind of what I think about, right? It’s where my base, my background, and my baseline is where every time we want to make a change, we think about, hey, not only Oh, I should change this, because the regulator said so which is obviously what we do. But I should change this. And I should figure out how am I going to track what happened as a result? How and if it’s appropriate, right? If it’s if it’s an innovative idea, and not a reactive idea? How can I carve out a testing control population to figure out what the true impact of the changes rather than we made a change in February, and in March, something happened? Oh, also, that’s in tax time. Oh, also, we had a system conversion, Oh, also, all of these confounding factors happened at the same time. If it is something that you’re doing strategically or as an innovation, then you can pull out a test school, obviously, you know, a regulatory reaction is separate from that, and you must do those things. But that’s how I think about data first culture is, what are you trying to do? How will you measure it? Where will you store that data? Whose job is it to figure out the answer to that question? And then you build for that? If that answers your question or not.

Lex Patterson 9:33
Yeah, no, it does. And so then I would guess that, you know, you’re looking at all these components. And there’s a lot of things that come into that data hygiene, obviously, you mentioned even if you have the data and where you’re storing it and how accessible it is, and, and all of those things. You also mentioned building a solid foundation to more fully realize the benefits of data science, including having a company Vision aligned with its tech strategy. You know, so speak to that a little bit. I mean, obviously, that’s got to be a huge component to this right?

Kristyn Leffler 10:09
I think so. So I think about this as being about transparency and trust in your downline colleagues, right. So let’s say, you know, the company vision says, we want to do, I’m just going to pull something out of the air, right? Let’s say, hey, you know, as a company, we want to deploy a chatbot. Because we have nobody’s, nobody’s paying on my website. So we need a chat bot? Well, that’s actually your interpretation of the solution to a problem and you haven’t empowered your IT teams who are probably if you’ve done your job, right? They should be smarter than you. So they are, they probably have a better read on what’s innovative, and what is possible and what you should be tracking. But if, if you’re treating your IT groups, like order takers, you’re saying build a chatbot. Okay, I’m gonna build a chatbot today, right? But if the question if you’re empowered to say, Hey, we are, this is what we want to do, we want to increase the number of people who are paying on my website, what do you guys think we should do? Well, then you might find that your problem that you’re, you know, your analyst, or your IT groups can come up with is, oh, this page has a long lead time, so people are dropping off. Or it might be, hey, when I Googled us, I couldn’t find our website. Or when I Googled us, we had really bad Google reviews. Or when I was on Tik Tok, and I searched for our company, there’s a terrible video, the problem, the problem that you’re trying to solve, may or may not be the, you know, example, again, like it’s not the Chatbot. That’s going to make that happen. Now, maybe if you solve all those other problems, yeah, maybe the Chatbot is the right answer, but like a super personalized chatbot that can answer all the questions and has natural language processing built into it like that, that is a really cool, sophisticated tool. But that might not be the right tool for your job. If you haven’t also already solved these other smaller problems. Yes. So that that is kind of what I think like, Hey, here’s my, here’s my company vision. Here’s what I want to do. Here, my tech strategy, I’m empowering my people to help me answer those questions, rather than being prescriptive about that solution. So

Lex Patterson 12:12
how do those discussions go with with that? Generally, I mean, in you mentioned, and I think this is a common tech problem, where you get the the, the Chatbot, will use that cuz you brought it up, you know that that vision, if you will, which is not really a vision, but it’s more of an edict coming from someone in an upper position saying create this, and then that that automatically tends to make everything very myopic, you know, because now you’re marching towards a single area, right? So talk a little bit about how you stay away from that, like, is it is there a framework or a process that you use, it can be helpful there.

Kristyn Leffler 12:51
So this is kind of this is like a sweet spot, why don’t say sweet spot, but this is kind of an area of interest for me. Lately, I’ve been reading a book recommendation for everyone. I’ve been reading a book called Range by David Epstien, that highlights, hey, the diversity of your experiences, and being able to have broad exposure to different genres or different areas of expertise allows you to find the patterns of behavior or patterns that exist across domains. So I promise I’m coming around to a point. So I think that that is super important, building your team with diversity of experience. So that and looking outside of your own like kind of narrow arm focus for what could be what what could be possible, hey, you know, we are having a problem. People. Again, my background here now is mostly focused on website, I’m in the Digital Strategy Group. So I think I will probably make a lot of website analogies here. Again, if I’m saying, hey, my problem is people aren’t paying my website. Well, if you’re requiring them to have you know, your unique account identifier, maybe they don’t know that, and your team, if your team has exposure to other solutions, well, they can bring those solutions to bear as long as your team does have diversity of experience. And your team also feels like they have the freedom to raise those suggestions. So if every time you know you’re having a meeting, and you quash ideas, even if even if somebody brings you an idea that is like totally off the wall, definitely not possible, might be illegal. We’re not going to do those things, of course, but you want to make sure that you are saying, Oh, I see. Tell me more about that and understand the why rather than just immediately shutting it down. And that helps your team builds confidence in themselves and helps your team create cohesion and the credibility to bring those ideas up. And that is how you get new and innovative ideas. You don’t have that same myopia. Yeah. Which

Lex Patterson 15:02
is very interesting. And I think when we’re going to dive into this a little bit more here in a minute about the collaborative culture and your your new article that you just put out, too, I want to get into that. And I do think you know, that there’s a lot of unrest in the work environment in general lately, you know, he got the great resignation, or some people are calling it the great reflection now, which I think is maybe more descriptive in a lot of ways too, because we’re waking up in a way in terms of what I like to call the hidden paycheck, which represents the purpose and meaning and fulfillment of our work, right. And so let’s talk though, for a minute about what because we’re talking about this, this collaborative culture and aligning the the vision or the overall strategy of the company with the tech strategy. And, you know, there’s a need, I think, in that to capture it, you know, there’s a need for a baseline, I guess, if you will, you know, capturing the right data points to lead you to what problem you’re trying to solve and all that. But what I’m trying to get at Kristyn is really kind of like that process of, I guess you’re including then when that diversity, you’re including not just the leadership, you’re talking about the tech tip. I mean, the leadership is basically pausing. If I’m reading you right here, they’re posing the question of, hey, we this is a problem we think we need to solve. Is that is that a better way to say that maybe is?

Kristyn Leffler 16:26
Yeah, I think I think so hey, here’s something Yes, strategic priorities, right. strategic priorities have to span teams, like, as a company, we want to build digital capabilities, right. That’s the strategic, that’s the company vision, and then it’s left to the downline folks to say, Okay, how should we do that? Tell me what the options are. Because if you’ve built your team, and I know I’m fortunate to come from a larger organization, if you built your team, then they probably have better domain expertise. And hopefully, they have good cross collaborative relationships where like, my team will say, hey, let’s do this thing. And then we’ll go over and talk to compliance. What do you guys think? And then we’ll go over talk to, you know, the engineering team, do you think you could build this, and then all of us will kind of come back around be like, okay, engineering said, we can’t do that. But we could do something like this. All right, come back to compliance. What do you guys think, but it’s a it’s a very collaborative environment, where we have the freedom to ask those questions to form those relationships. And I think that is how you can be successful, especially in these times of like change, it also helps, it helps employee engagement, right? If your job is just an order taker, you don’t feel empowered to you’re not making change, you don’t feel like you have a purpose, right, you’re just there to collect a paycheck. But if you’re problem solving, that is that is how you keep employees happy and engaged in it ends up making better products, right? If people are invested in the products that they’re building, whether it’s a software product, or whether it’s, you know, a true widget, whatever your organization might be building, keeping people invested in the process keeps people engaged day to day, and engaged, people catch mistakes more, and they feel proud, and they are happy to work. Again, like it makes the actual office environment more friendly, it makes the actual office environment more pleasant to be in. It’s everybody is engaged.

Lex Patterson 18:12
Yeah. And engagement for knowledge workers, as you as you alluded to, is, you know, just solving problems and contributing in those ways that they want to not like punching a die or something in a factory, you know, it’s taking, yeah, taking those really. So culture, then at its core, and I want to go back to you know, the data first part that you mentioned, data first culture is about creating meaning, designing purpose, and about finding that which unites us all do I mean, do I have that? Right? I mean, is that does that kind of summarize what you would say about the data? First culture is? Are there other pieces we need to know about with that?

Kristyn Leffler 18:55
Yeah, I think it does. The data first culture can have has to start from both top down and bottom up right at the top has to be asking questions like, Well, how did you get this? Tell me where this came from? And you have to have a call, like a data literate top right? Your management has to be data literate, to understand the questions that we’re asking which most people at the time they get to the top will have spent some time you know, business school, or they grew up in the in the industry, and they understand how those processes work. But you also have to empower your people to ask the question of, well, how am I going to how am I going to figure that out? Or where am I going to measure that? How should I present that and the ability to communicate those results both up and down? And then again, back to your point about having people be invested. If you have a data first culture and you’re you’re hiring, for data literacy, and you’re doing ongoing enrichments and trainings, that is another way to help your people feel and truly not just feel but be more invested in the process. If I’m able to quantify Hey, we worked on this thing and it added X dollars or it saved extra hours or improved our whole times are improved our customer engagement score, being able to quantify the impact that you’re having also helps drive engagement and purpose and meaning. So this this data, obviously, I’m biased, I grew up in an analyst background, right. But having a data first culture is important for not only your bottom line your business, but it’s also for your employee engagement. And it’s also for the products and the customer engagement that you’re having.

Lex Patterson 20:31
Okay, and that dovetails us nicely into the next topic that I want to talk with you about, which is your new article that was just published three lessons from the software development lifecycle to improve recruitment and retention. So again, I’ll put the link to that in the show notes. So Kristyn, set the stage for this on this article. I mean, why you felt compelled to write it?

Kristyn Leffler 20:51
Yeah, this was an another one I was, I was kind of going through my my team was growing, and we were adding some new roles this year, and we were promoting people. So we spent a lot of time defining like, hey, is this an FTE? Are we ready to hire a new person? Okay, if we hire this new person, what are they going to work on? How does that change the responsibilities of who’s left? And as we were going through that process, I kind of thought, like a lot like what we do in our development lifecycle. So this, the time I’ve spent in digital has been a lot around developing new software products, advancing the software products, you know, interacting very closely with our engineers, our software engineers, now application development teams. And once that analogy came to me, I had a couple of spitball conversations with some folks on my network. And I saw I was like, yeah, there’s probably enough to share here because again, when this was published, and Aaron kurz strategy and tech newsletter, and many of those folks have a little bit of a software background, and they are interested in digital, but not everybody is quite as deep in either area. So the three things that stuck out to me, right, you need a catchy title, if you’re publishing something like balance 3,4,2, citing

Lex Patterson 22:04
here come the marketing part, right?

Kristyn Leffler 22:07
I could, I could probably list off 10 Things that are similar between recruiting and retention and the software development lifecycle, but the three that I think are maybe most actionable to the majority of companies, or the majority of managers could be defining requirements, that’s a critical step, like what are people going to do, and making sure that everybody understands you’re on the same boat, and, you know, if I’m going to hire somebody, they know what they’re going to do, I’m not going to write a, you know, a vanilla job description, and then throw them into chocolate chip, or rocky road or whatever, right? Like, you have to, if you’re gonna hire somebody, you gotta know what they’re going to do when they get here, not only the job description, but ideally, the goals and you know, what they’re going to do for the next six months. And they, you can clearly outline that to keep them engaged, and happy, empowering engineering, which we’ve talked a little bit about already, right? Empower your people, make sure that you point them towards the direction you want to go and get out of their way. You’re hiring people, that you should feel confident that they know what they’re doing. Now, obviously, there’s some training and you have to, you know, get people immersed in your particular vernacular. But, you know, if you’re hiring quality people, and you’re investing in that process, then get out of their way once they get here. And then, you know, you might feel scared about that might mess up. But that’s where the third thing comes in, which is branching your code or isolating your risk. So making sure that you have kind of a safe sandbox, this is this is very common in the software development lifecycle. And we’re applying software products, right where you say, Alright, I’m gonna branch this code, I’m gonna work on this kind of safely, somebody’s gonna review it before I merge it back into my main stream, and I think, is super applicable to what happens when you’re training, whether that’s training in the call center, and you’re doing mock calls, or whether that’s an analyst playing over here, and then I’ll put a strategy in production until we’ve set it I think that’s very similar, again, driving employee engagement. And all three of those are kind of underpinned by the concept of psychological safety, right? The freedom for people to understand, hey, I value you for you, I don’t value you for what you did yesterday, I don’t value you for what you may do tomorrow. But I actually value you for who you are and what you bring to my team. And that means if you value the person, that means they won’t lose you or they won’t lose inherent value because they make a mistake. So that does allow people the freedom to make mistakes. Mistakes are the best teacher my opinion. That mistake is actually nerd alert. Here’s a fun fact for you, mistakes actually activate a totally different region in the brain that lets the brain grow. So mistakes literally, scientifically, are the best teacher they’re better than just doing something repetitively and rote. Right? It activates different neural pathways, the medial frontal cortex Z. And then so if you if you let your people make mistakes they learned but they also you know, probably come up with a better solution. And you know, having that concept of building psychological say fit into your team is something that an individual manager can control. You can’t, you know, fostering cross collaboration I value for you i value for what you can bring to this team. That is something a manager can control and in their messaging and the way they interact with their customers and the way they interact with their people. So when it comes to retention, I, I can’t change the fact that inflation is at 9%, I can’t change the fact that you don’t want to come back to the office, right? I can’t change that. But what I can do is I can create and foster an environment that you want to be a part of, and that you feel like you’re valued and that you’re contributing to both your team, your team, you know, is relying on you, you’re important to this team, you’re important to the rest of the group, and you’re doing something that matters. So that is where, you know, software, the three little software development lifecycle steps tie back into, you know, recruiting and retention, and the concept of psychological safety. Yeah.

Lex Patterson 25:56
And I might just add into that, that was very, very informative, and very much appreciated, what you just went through, I love the article too, by the way, and there’ll be a link in the show notes for that, too, as well. One of the studies you referenced in your article said that psychological safety is the engine of performance, not the fuel, and becomes the defining factor of synergy among individuals or groups for innovation and growth in highly competitive markets, which were very much a part of. And you know, Chris, and I’ve been involved in some high trust synergistic teams a few times in my career, I’ve also been involved in some ones that weren’t so synergistic and productive to you know, but in my experience, it was when you had that synergy working and that psychological safety you had, it seemed like, it was highly creative, the environment was highly creative, innovative outcomes almost always came out of those situations. And to me, it was like work really didn’t feel like work, right? You’re

Kristyn Leffler 26:57
happy to come if you’re part of that kind of a team, and you’re solving problems. And it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like work.

Lex Patterson 27:03
No, I mean, we had people coming in after hours staying late coming in on weekends. I mean, it was all about engaging. And there was I think that’s what you were talking about those different segments of the brain, were lighting up, and there’s just this, it’s hard to describe if you’ve never felt it, but learning

Kristyn Leffler 27:21
learning is like its own dopamine rush, right? Yeah. So what what in your experience? How do you build a team like that?

Lex Patterson 27:29
Oh, well, definitely. It’s what you’re saying. I mean, you have to you have to, I think diversity is an important part to that and welcoming that. And, and, but I think the biggest part of it is, is you just perfectly captured it. I mean, you use the road riding on it, I mean, you have to give, there has to be a problem that we’re trying to solve. But not, you have to have the freedom to try and fail fast and create experiments, if you will, I would say, and I think that that thought of looking at it, like it is an experiment, not not the pressure of OH, we’ve got to put something out. And it’s got to be out by this deadline. And we’ve got to have revenue producing things coming right behind it, it’s more of that fruit. Because I’ve always thought about that in terms of like, I’ll use a sports analogy, you know, you’ve got a soccer player, that’s got to kick that goal, you know, at the end of the game, or whatever to break the tie, or you’ve got the free throw at the end of the game on basketball, where they call the timeout and the ice the player and they’ve got to go out there, you know, you don’t want the coach saying, “oh, man, we really got to have this free throw”, you know, “it’s all on you”. But as a leader, you got to take that pressure off of the team and allow, like, okay, it’s an experiment, try and minimize that, to give them the freedom to make a mistake. Yep. Because I think that’s where then you can be more if you’re, if you’re, if you’re available to take that or feel like you can take that risk. That risk might be just what you need to break through. Right? Whereas if you’re tensed up, you’re not gonna be you’re gonna be very risk averse, you know?

Kristyn Leffler 29:11
Or that mistake might, you know, it might not work the way you wanted it to, but it might come and you might say, Oh, I didn’t realize that could happen. Oh, well, let’s continue to iterate on that. Right. Yeah. I think about it, you know, again, you’re you’re finding out I love a good analogy here, right? Think about like a tree. So a tree starts and it’s kind of you’re coming up the trunk, and then it branches, right? Each branch continues to branch and branch and branch and branch. And if those branches crossover, right, if you know, many branches crossover, well then that that limb dies, and it falls down to the ground, right? Because it’s not the successful branch. But that doesn’t stop the tree from growing bigger and bigger. And the biggest trees are the ones that have the most branches. Every every leaf is trying to find the sun right? And if a branch in the middle is crossing over, well, then it dies and the leafs fall off and that’s just how it goes. Like, that’s exactly how you can run a build your big company, right? You have to try a lot of things. Now, should you try everything that comes to mind? No, you should have a process, of course for like, ranking ideas, which ones have value? Which ones should we tackle first? Everybody works in a in an environment of limited resources, right? You can’t try everything. But come up with a crazy ideas and then figure out Yeah, that’s probably worth it. That’s where that’s where the 5% Yeah, sure. Let’s try that. I’m not going to do I’m not going to do that. Like, oh, I’m not going all in over there. Yeah, like, go 5% in. And as I get to five, you know, maybe I get a better return than I expected. Okay, well, let’s shove a little more traffic that way.

Lex Patterson 30:43
I love that perspective that you just gave about every every leaf is trying to find the sun, you know, that is so cool. You know, and that’s really the way it is, you know, that freedom to do that. And everybody really in their heart wants to contribute and add value to the situation. Yeah. And they can do that best if they are in that creative mode. And those those pieces of the brain are firing and you feel really engaged. And and then it gets it’s almost like it’s contagious. It just catches on, you know?

Kristyn Leffler 31:10
Yeah. Yes, it is contagious. That’s why it’s so important to have the right people on your team and invest in the process upfront, right? Not only hiring for pedigree, I don’t have to have a big fancy pedigree. So when I’m hiring for my team, I’m hiring for Are you like, great, do you have good culture fit, you have to be a good culture fit, you have to have skills, you have to be a good culture fit. And if I have to sacrifice skills, or culture, I’m unlikely gonna sacrifice skills, because skills are teachable culture is not if you don’t, if you don’t mesh with my team, the team that’s in place already. And it’s, it’s more disruptive to have a talented person who doesn’t fit in your team than it is to have somebody that they’re not quite as strong as I thought they were, I better send them to a class to learn something. Right? That’s, it’s super important to me that we hire for people that are.

Lex Patterson 32:05
Yeah. So let’s let’s talk a little bit about I mean, are there any areas that ARM companies are bringing business intelligence, artificial intelligence, machine learning to bear on that are seeing some what you feel like are pretty good results from your perspective? Or experience? I mean, her the summary, is that that and what I’m trying to get at here, Kristyn, is if we’re listening to this podcast, you know, and I’m, I’m, I’m in that 46%. Again, that’s going well, I don’t really understand it that well, but I was looking for that black box, but I just don’t know if this is really for me or whatever. Are there some areas where you’re going, Hey, you probably got to be a tip paying a little more attention in these certain key areas, because they really do pay dividends. Is there anything there?

Kristyn Leffler 32:50
Yeah, I think, again, I my experience is limited to just a company that loves data. Let’s say like on the most, most companies in the arm space, right? have the same needs around forecasting, making sure that your client data feeds are getting in correctly, making sure all your fields are mapped correctly profitability of clients, especially now, you know, we’re coming up with some pretty high inflation, you’re likely to see NSF scale up, you’re likely to see it in along with delinquencies and charge off rates. So it’s a good time to be making sure that you understand which clients are profitable, which clients need to cut. Because you’re gonna continue to see margin pressures. So BI tools are great for that you need an analyst or maybe you have some out of the box reporting, or maybe your vendor has some out of the box reporting, but somebody’s got to look at them. You can’t. Here’s my, here’s another quote for you think Peter Drucker Wright said you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So if you don’t have a report that tells you something like, Hey, what was my NSF rate today? And how does that change versus yesterday, if you’re only looking at that, at the end of the month, you’re gonna have, you’re gonna have a cash flow problem at the end of the month, right? So being able to manage that earlier up the process that is a place it’s relatively easy to deploy a BI tool like that Power BI is from Microsoft Tableau, right, all those tools, maybe there’s some the platforms have themselves. The other place, I think that is applicable to more companies in the arm space would be kind of those those IPAs, where you’re able to shunt off some of your call volume to your nonhumans. right to say, All right, if all you’re trying to do is, you know, answer a question of what’s my balance, you can solve that pretty easily with a bot. There’s also some companies that I think are doing cool stuff. I can’t personally vouch for them, but I know of them in the industry where you can do some natural language processing on your call monitoring for flagging. If you’re struggling with recruitment and retention right now, it’s pretty easy to automate some of those things. Companies that make real time coaching for your reps. That’s pretty exciting to see like, hey, I need to you know, improve my coaching my train. There’s a handful of companies that do that now. Those are those are True, true AI in areas met most

Lex Patterson 35:03
talking about like this the speech analytic stuff that can do scripting and yeah, so there’s based on speech recognition, like Balto?

Kristyn Leffler 35:08
I think Balto so yeah, I think there’s another one. I’m going to misquote it. So I’m not going to quote it. But there’s another one that does kind of AI coaching for. Right for the call monitoring solutions, I think there’s one that can actually listen to the calls and auto notate for you. So that’s pretty exciting. I think those are cool minor, I think that’s pretty exciting, then the really innovative companies and this is, you have to have a pretty refined digital strategy to be doing this next level would be companies that are deploying machine learning to figure out tweaking channel and message optimization. But again, you have to have strong digital presence, you have to understand data, hygiene data capture, to before it can get to that level where you’re truly trying to pick, you know, what message do I send to this consumer at what time of day? And does it work? And should I change it what I’m doing in the next hour, right? Those you have to be pretty sophisticated. Now, there’s a lot of power that can happen there. But you really, I don’t believe you can get there if you don’t have a strong infrastructure. Yeah.

Lex Patterson 36:17
Okay. Okay. Well, there was a webinar that you were on with Mike Gibb, and you were panelist, and Michael Meyer was on on the call as well. And you guys were talking about preference, and consumer and customer experience data. And Michael made a very interesting observation about machine learning and personalization. And he said that, in this industry, we have far less insight, and fairly short usage trends, and touchpoints, when compared to say, Amazon, you know, who has a lot of data on how we behave, and they’ve really capitalized on the experience that we have based on what they know, it’s almost like they know what we’re thinking before we’re thinking it, you know, it’s because they did. And he said, that makes our jobs in terms of improving the customer experience very difficult. And Chris, and I’ve been turning on that problem ever since Michael, who is a longtime friend of mine, and I admire him very much brought it to my attention. In that webinar, I was just thinking, you know, you have any other thoughts on that as far as the limited touch points in the data and the difference there.

Kristyn Leffler 37:29
As, as usual, Michael was spot on, I don’t pretend for a second, more useful in the realm of technology that Michael can. But that’s why that’s why again, here I come again, here the same talking point for me over and over and over again, that’s why the digital channels are so powerful, because it does bring more data more touchpoints into the realm that arm companies can leverage, right. So the data, the digital channels allow for much richer, richer information capture around, not only I think I’ve made this point a couple of times before, not, you don’t only need interaction data to tell you about a consumer, you also need the lack of interaction data. If you think about, you know, what’s the, what’s the pay rate on your portfolio, like app, call it within a six month placement of, you know, old charge off back book Paper, you’re like lucky if you can get a double digit pay rate, right? Like, that’s great. So if you’re thinking like, at least 90% of my people are never going to interact with me, there must be information I can glean from the lack of interaction, the lack of data is just like, you know, the lack of information is just as important as the positive information because it’s still telling you something, it’s telling you. I tried and it didn’t work, I tried and it didn’t work I tried and it didn’t work. That is also information. And the digital channels just allow for easier capture of that. Not that you can’t capture that from your analog channels, right? You could, you could say, I made this phone call, nothing happened, I made this phone call this time of day to this phone number. And I had done this thing before that you can get some some call like touch point, customer journey, interactions out of the analog channels, whether that’s letters calls, any other analog channels, as relates just letters and calls from you can build that same history, but it’s much richer information if you can capture it and automatically store it from the digital channels. The most powerful is when you mesh all those things together and say it what’s the pattern of behavior that I am doing as a as a collector that influences the likelihood of someone else to pay and beyond just like our outbound communications? What is my brand in the marketplace? What do people see? Put your shoe you know, stop thinking as an industry, right? We need to stop thinking about accounts. Like that sounds like a crazy thing to say right? And start thinking about our customers beyond each one of those customers as a human, a human who’s most likely thought something online scrolled on social media visited websites, and they have pre preconceived notions of what paying should look like not just paying us. But paying in general, like when you buy something, right, they have preconceived notions of what that should look like. Those notions are anchored to e commerce. It’s personalized. It’s like a little insistent. Hey, did you forget to check out, remember this thing you liked on Amazon while you’re reading this news article, they also have preconceived notions of debt collectors. And since the good guys tend not to want to draw attention to themselves, that leaves negativity as the prevailing sentiment. So you have to have a brand voice, you have to act like retail, like you can, you can fight against the current, you can try to swim upstream. Or you can be like, Hey, let me learn more about my consumers or my customers, right? Let me figure out where are they? What are their customers or their questions? What are their pain points? Where are they shopping? What are they doing? And then act like that? It’s not right. It’s not rocket science. Yeah. Wow. But we are so anchored to this account, this account this account and not the person behind it.

Lex Patterson 41:07
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that dovetails into something I’ve found recently, and I wanted to get your opinion on this Kristyn Ink Magazine article. That again, I’ll share in the show notes of the episode, but the art article highlighted what I felt was like a brilliant move, that fast food giant McDonald’s employed using insight data. And what they what happened here is they added a short note to an online order. And the note said this. “Hello, we’ve seen that you placed your order from a hospital. Hope you’re keeping well, your order is on us.”

Kristyn Leffler 41:49
Yeah, right. And it it cost them nothing, right.

Lex Patterson 41:52
I mean, and so that article touched on several points that I just felt were like aha moments in regard to what we were just talking about, about, you know, because usually a lot of this data is, it’s turned, it’s gathered, it’s turned it’s it’s this was like, what they termed in this article is fresh data, they found an opportunity to use fresh data immediately, they found that it came from a hospital, they knew that data, they were transparent in the way that they presented this back to the customer and said, we noticed this, you know, but it was fresh data, which just dovetails into the into the what you were just saying about the customer experience and not forgetting that we have a human on the other end of that line. Yeah. And and then the other point that I thought was so powerful is the use the data to benefit the customer. Yeah, so many times we use data that we collect to target our problems or business problems we’re trying to solve, or to the benefit of the company. And that can be easy to overlook that. It’s one simple thing that data, this really coming from the customer and the connection that we’re trying to make with them. You know, I think that’s at the end of the day, it’s people helping people, it’s we’re trying to connect with them to solve a common problem for both of us. Right. So, right. I mean, so I just want to get your perspective on that. And any, you know, any areas that you could highlight that you hope maybe we’ll see more movement in, in the future of that type of thing or anything?

Kristyn Leffler 43:26
Yeah, I’ve said this to my team, like we want to try to align the incentives, our teams incentives with the incentives of a consumer, right, but to do that, like, the consumer also wants to pay off their debt, they don’t want us to call, they don’t want us to call them they don’t want to hear from us. So how do we make that easy for them? How do we make it so we’re both, you know, rowing in the same direction instead of just constantly having, you know, confrontational is not the right word, but I’m constantly having this, you know, one directional push communication, how do we create a poll based brand strategy where people want to come to us, and we can help them solve that problem? So that’s not an overnight transition? Right. It’s a digital transformation project. Right. But that’s, that’s kind of how I think the future. That’s what I think the future looks like, where we try to align incentives. We don’t create, you know, incentives that work against the consumer, but you do have to understand what’s driving that behavior. And if you don’t invest some time and some resources and understanding your customers better, you can’t possibly be successful in that in that realm.

Lex Patterson 44:29
Yeah. So that overarching, you know, if you will, goal of the company might be that, you know, trying to really get into that as a as a goal. Right? Yeah. That’s very cool. Yeah. And

Kristyn Leffler 44:43
not maybe not just day to day, why did you call us how can we help you? Yeah,

Lex Patterson 44:48
not just even as a company but as an industry. I mean, I think it’s an industry it’s really where we need to be headed, right? Because which, which is not an easy thing coming from where we’ve been.

Kristyn Leffler 44:59
Here. I mean, everybody who participates in these kinds of forums right there, there were all the good guys were legitimate businesses, right? Or the good guys were combating decades and decades and decades of bad PR. Yeah.

Lex Patterson 45:14
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Well, I want to I want to maybe play a little game if you’re up for it. Well, you’re okay. Okay. Okay. It goes like this. Pizza or Tacos.

Kristyn Leffler 45:25
Tacos. Okay, but is this is this like? Okay. Tacos because chips and salsa are my kryptonite. And I will I assume that the tacos come with just salsa. But also tacos because one of something that my family does. We have pizza every Friday, we make pizza. And like, the neighbors all come over and we have this big like homemade pizza thing. And there’s 20 ish people on my house every Friday. So I’m tired of pizza.

Lex Patterson 45:58
Nice. Yeah, that’s good. I love that. Okay, here’s another one. Mac or PC.

Kristyn Leffler 46:05
PC. Okay. I grew up in a window shop. I am team Apple mobile products. Okay, well never own another son of an iPhone. I got my Apple watch. I got my air pods. Right. But the actual work work that I do. I’m Microsoft.

Lex Patterson 46:25
All right. All right. That’s good. Vehicle Electric or Gas?

Kristyn Leffler 46:33
That one’s actually a lot harder for me. I I currently own a gas vehicle. But I That’s because it’s old. Right? Don’t change cars that often. For me, personally, I don’t drive that far. So I could make do with electric vehicle. But in my family, I think I would want to be able to have both. I don’t think the infrastructures quite strong enough yet to go all electric all the time. So if if my next cars electric, we’ll still probably keep the gas car for for some portion of the foreseeable future.

Lex Patterson 47:05
Yeah, then maybe in a motorcycle guy if you ever get a chance to it’s just kind of interesting on that whole thing. It’s called the long way up. And Ian McGregor and Charley Borman ride electric motorcycles. Their electric Harley’s America. Yeah, from South America up into the LA area. But Rivian sponsored all the infrastructure that was needed and the problems they have with that is just really fascinating from what you’re talking about. So that’s kind of an interesting.

Kristyn Leffler 47:37
Yeah, my brother in law. Got it. A Tesla. And it’s like, awesome. We’re in so cool. But I guess stop and charge it. Yeah, they have like a small little girl. So they had to like, I have to like stop more times. I already had to stop for the bathroom. Now I gotta stop more time. So I think I think it can get there. But maybe, maybe not quite my only Yeah,

Lex Patterson 48:00
that’s what I feel too. Okay, let’s go into the Workfront chatbot, or live person.

Kristyn Leffler 48:06
I’m this might this might come as a surprise. I’m actually team life person. If I, I think that digital channels and self service is like really important in the future. But if somebody is like typing into the box, you want to have somebody answered that. That is like going to answer the question. I don’t personally, it’s just like me, my personal. I don’t. I don’t interact with chatbots. Because I find them super annoying. It’s like pressing, pressing, pressing. I just want

Lex Patterson 48:36
those ones are the ones that try to interpret your language. And you’re like, No, I said,

Kristyn Leffler 48:41
Yes. So I am actually team human on that on that particular guy.

Lex Patterson 48:45
All right, email or text.

Kristyn Leffler 48:49
Oh, good one. I’m gonna say text, it’s just more, it’s easier to get your like, there’s an immediacy, you know, people are going to see it, you don’t have the problem of spam. But email, for sure has its place because text does not lend itself to long form communication. So though you phrase this question as an either or I think it’s really message specific, which, which channel or which medium is appropriate for which message? It’s not all or nothing?

Lex Patterson 49:23
Good answer. I like that. Okay, how about remote or in the office?

Kristyn Leffler 49:28
I’m in office. I think this again, comes down to a culture question there. I listened to a great podcast a couple of years ago, like during the pandemic, right. And he outlined, hey, there’s, I think it’s like he outlined five different like phases of remote work. So there’s like, Hey, I’m all in the office all the time. And it’s part of my culture to like, walk around and talk to people and our messages are communicated by like the drive by right somebody like pops their head into your office. That’s like level one. And then level five is when you build an organization isn’t around having a remote culture, which means you have radical transparency. Everybody is so transparent where they are all the time. They put up like the Slack message like, Hey, I’m in the bathroom right now. Right? And in the expectation is that all work can be in destructured to be asynchronous, but it’s, there’s a lot of room in between those two areas. And it’s really hard to get somebody from level one to level five. So I, I like being in the office. I like having separation between my personal life and my work life. But I know, it’s kind of controversial these days. Well,

Lex Patterson 50:37
it is yeah, but it’s interesting, you bring up some really good points on that. Okay, so one last wrap up question for you, then. Maybe give us our listeners a little bit of hard won knowledge or some tidbit that you’ve learned maybe something you wish you knew, five to 10 years ago as a parting thought. I mean, is there anything that if I say that, you know, this could be career advice, this could be life advice, this could be you know, because you’re, you’re a different person today? For sure, obviously. And seven years ago, they I read a study that said every seven years, we totally change yourself cells in our bodies. Yeah, yeah. So we all turn over. So we’re totally different from what who we were seven years ago. It’s now go back? And what can you tell that person that that was seven years ago that you wish you knew that?

Kristyn Leffler 51:28
You know, especially when you’re a little more junior in your career, you want to have everything planned, you want, like, in five years, this is gonna be my title, and this is gonna be what I’m doing. But just be open to new experiences, like similar to how I outlined how I ended up at resurgent, right. Three, whatever, however, many years ago, that was, my husband took a new job, and I was like, Hey, I gotta move, and we didn’t have a remote culture. You’re like, wow, I just just like, stay on and finish this project. And I like the fact that I had to move is what, what got me to be into the digital department, they were like, wow, like, kinda like, you sound like maybe you could work on this other thing for a little bit. And like, that totally changed my entire career trajectory, this unrelated personal event of my husband taking a new job, totally changed my career trajectory. And just because I was like, not sure, where I left a little bit, so like, just be open to those new experiences, I never would have had this team, I never would have done the work that I’ve done. moved a bunch of times, because it was like, yeah, that’s, that’s probably not gonna ruin my life. No, try that. I don’t know. That’s not radical experience. We already talked about the mistakes and that’s my other one is like, mistakes. Your greatest teacher, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. I don’t believe in stupid questions. So ask all the questions, make all the mistakes, and be open to new experiences. Try to say yes. When somebody’s like, Would you be willing to do this thing provided? It’s not like dangerous, right? Yes, I will try that. And I might fail. And I will learn something.

Lex Patterson 53:02
Yeah. Isn’t it funny, too, that those those areas where you push yourself, sometimes, I talked with a friend on another podcast of this. And I actually had an example of it, when on a recent motorcycle trip where we, we had a rule, and we have a rule where we don’t ride after dark, you know, and stuff like that. I mean, it’s just, it’s more dangerous. You’re in unfamiliar territory when you go on these long rides anyway. But we broke that rule. And we went out to this island, on Cape Disappointment and went to this lighthouse, you know, and that adventurous type of thing. I mean, it just opens up so many different possibilities and memories. And, you know, I’m not saying always break that rule and take risks. But sometimes when you’re open to that risk, and you go into it, and you do the best you can, and you pour your whole self into it, it just creates these outcomes that yeah, can be magic, right.

Kristyn Leffler 53:52
You know, I mean, even even things like reading an article, I never wrote an article before. I’m on a podcast and I’ve never been on a podcast…

Lex Patterson 54:00
And when we talked before you had mentioned, you know, just even be more open to network, knowledge person, you know, a lot of the marketing people and salespeople they do a lot of the marketing, it is knowledge people, do we really take that opportunity network and build that network and make

Kristyn Leffler 54:17
COVID change that right? Like it made it, hey, I’m gonna talk to you it’s way less people not going to visit somebody in person and expend the cost to do that became normalized, right? And I think that allowed, you know, virtual conference. Well, now I met these people, I never would have been at this conference before. Okay, let me talk to you. Okay. You introduced me to so and so. Okay. I was in a, you know, a group discussion and I really liked to talk to you more. Can I talk to you more all of those things? Really, I didn’t as a knowledge worker, and especially as an analyst, right like a nerd alert analyst. I never spend time doing those things, but I have been energized I felt strange. I would label myself as an introvert but I have been in energized by talking to people whose experiences are so different from mine and being able to learn from them. This is kind of surprising to me and that actually, like, kind of spilled over into my personal life where like, oh, like strike up a conversation in the elevator. Like, I talked to the person in the seat next to me on the airplane.

Lex Patterson 55:20
There we go. Yeah, yeah, no, that’s really cool. Look, Kristyn, it’s been a pleasure I your work, and having you on the podcast.

Kristyn Leffler 55:26
This was so fun

Lex Patterson 55:28
And yeah, I admire your work, and I’m glad we were finally able to connect

Kristyn Leffler 55:32
Thank you for your patience.

Lex Patterson 55:34
Thank you for being on the show.

Kristyn Leffler 55:35
Thank you for having me.

Lex Patterson 55:58
Thanks for listening everybody. For links and resources related to everything discussed today. Visit the show notes on the episode page at Kindred force.com. If you’d like to support the podcast, the easiest and most impactful thing you can do is to subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts on Spotify, on Amazon music, or on Google podcast. Sharing the show, or your favorite episode with friends or on social media is of course always appreciated. And finally, for podcast updates and the inside scoop, subscribe to our newsletter, which you can find on any page of our website at Kindred force.com. I appreciate the love and support. I don’t take your attention for granted. Thank you again for listening. See you next time.

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