This image above is an actual complaint posted on the internet from a client of Total Debt Freedom. You can click on the complaint to read the details. Our debt settlement program is very successful for many people; unfortunately it is not the best fit for everyone. It requires discipline and commitment to the process and procedures. We take complaints very seriously, and use them as an opportunity to learn what we could have done better.
Please note in the interest of protecting our clients privacy, we have not published their name and censored any identifying marks.
We are committed to provide exceptional service but our client feels that was not the case here; so lets take a deep dive into what happened.
I would like to address what this client appears to be concerned about, and what we have done to try and make them a raving fan. A couple of statements in her commentary stood out to me:
- “Well that is her job, that is part of the deal for their fee” – Client feels like we aren’t doing our job
- “I have been with them for… two years and only one debt settled” “asking for more settlements and all I get is not yet” So they also feel that we aren’t doing our job and settling the debts enrolled. As a result she also painted us as “incompetent”
Harsh stuff right?
I’ll deal with the first issue. All clients enrolled are advised throughout our relationship that we cannot stop collection calls; we explain why creditors will call and what options they have for dealing with collection calls. In British Colombia the BPCP Act, allows for the use of cease and desist letters, we advise our clients there are steps they can take with the provincial ministry to stop the calls. The act states in section 116 (4) (a) (i) (ii):
(4) A collector must not continue to communicate with a debtor
(a) except in writing, if the debtor
(i) has notified the collector to communicate in writing only, and
(ii) has provided a mailing address at which the debtor may be contacted,
So, what went wrong? Our client wanted us to contact the BPCP to complain about the continued collection calls. The problem is this the ministry only takes complaints from the debtor, so our responsibility is to make sure we give her clear and concise instructions on how to stop the calls. She made one attempt, but didn’t follow the instructions fully and instead, blamed us for the continued harassment. It doesn’t help that some collectors are persistent wolves that break the law, and will pretend they never received the letter to stop the calls. In such cases the consumer must repeat the steps and escalate the matter to a manager.
So what could we have done better? We now have a clear written step by step guide for stopping calls in BC.
In her second point, she talks about being in the program for two years and not receiving settlements ultimately calling us incompetent. The truth is, we did settle one of her debts for 39% of what she owed, but in order for us to negotiate settlements on all debts the consumer must stick to the budget and contribute to their settlement savings fund monthly. But she didn’t. Simply, without those funds we cannot arrange settlements. Upon review of our electronic notes, we learned that this client has had an unlucky year. Every client deals with the stress of credit card debt and annoying collection calls, but she was also going through a difficult separation, being auditing by CRA, had medical problems, and to top it all off she also was experiencing some car troubles. As a result, she made the independent decision to deplete her settlement savings fund to pay for these costs.
So, what went wrong? Client did not stick to the savings budget for us to settle. We simply cannot pick up the phone and negotiate a settlement without a lump sum of money available. We do this because nearly as soon as creditors accept a settlement, they want the money, so there is no point in negotiating a reduction until funds are there.
So what could we have done better? In this case, not much. We actually made every effort possible to help her by putting service fee’s on hold and extending the program under her promise that she would deposit into her savings so we could negotiate with creditors.
I still needed to truly understand where this complaint came from, and if there was any more we could have done to avoid it.
This client first reached out to us using Twitter, our CEO Richard Cooper posted a tweet and this client replied as you can see below:
Our CEO was puzzled and notified me of the response, he asked me to investigate because I handle all social media issues in addition to my Chief Raving Fan Officer (CRFO) role. So I replied to her with this:
My Twitter account can be seen here. For those that aren’t fimiliar with Twitter, the biography is clearly written after the name. I was confused about her reply, I wasn’t sure why she said “who are you?” However I replied to her with this tweet:
I never heard back from her.
So what could we have done better? I think its obvious at this point, but I really should have picked up the phone and called her since she didn’t reply to my tweet.
Instead, I spoke with her Customer Service Representative (CSR) Ana, to see if I could get a better feel for what her concerns may have been, that’s when I learned about her struggles noted earlier. Also when I talked to Ana, I was surprised to learn this client referred her father and a friend into our program for help. I’m confused by this, if we are “incompetent”, why refer family and a friend into our program?
Total Debt Freedom takes accountability for what we can control, and in the interest of transparency we also fully disclose how the program works so all clients walk into it with their “eyes wide open”. We try to guide and encourage our clients as best we can, but ultimately they are in control of restricting their spending, and adopting the savings budget we set out for them so we can settle their debts.
We truly care about all our clients and make every effort to graduate them debt free as fast as possible. I’m proud of the raving fans we have created, and there are over 3,900 fans of our Total Debt Freedom Facebook fan page where we have hundreds of love notes from thrilled clients.
In a perfect world every client would be a raving fan, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Although this complaint is negative in nature, I am excited to have learned what went wrong by investigating and blogging about this matter.
Here’s my big take away: At the end of the day, its not what you do, it’s what people’s perception of what you do that matters. I think we did everything in our power to help them save funds by assisting with budgeting, and holding the file while they caught up on saving money so we could settle the debt. We even suspended our service fee for a period of time. However in this case, we clearly didn’t provide easy to use instructions on how to stop collection calls. We have since corrected that with a simple and easy step by step guide for stopping calls in British Colombia.
If you have any questions, please post below, or simply contact me at CRFO@TotalDebtFreedom.ca
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