Last month, insideARM published an article about how debt collectors—who, like many others, are currently facing uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic—can fill the country's need for contact tracers. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself states that contract tracing is a core disease control measure and is a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19. Debt collectors are experienced in contact center work where they deal with people's sensitive financial information and understand the heightened need for consumer data privacy. However, the COVID-19 contact tracing saga turned into a big mess in Texas (and it is not related to a debt collection agency).
Texas awarded a whopping $295 million contact-tracing contract to a company called MTX Group. The contract called for MTX to hire contact tracers and to build a new contact center to handle the calls. The problems started almost immediately, with concerns being raised about how quickly the contract was granted and questions about the company's experience in handling such work. Most recently, the Houston Chronicle reported several other concerning allegations:
- That the CEO of the company falsely claimed to have a Ph.D.;
- That the company mistakenly uploaded some training documents to their workforce that were not supposed to be disseminated, raising concerns of how well-equipped the company is to handle sensitive information; and
- That employees are using their personal computers and email addresses despite dealing with people's sensitive health data.
Oddly enough, a lot of the issues addressed above could be alleviated using debt collection agencies to do this sensitive, critical work.
- Collection agencies have call centers that are already built and staffed, alleviating the need for building new contact centers or training an entire new workforce.
- Collection agencies are accustomed to dealing with sensitive consumer information and preventing third-party disclosure of such information.
- Collection agencies already work on secure systems which take compliance, data privacy, and data protection into account, largely due to the highly regulated and highly audited nature of the industry.
- While shifting their agents to a work-from-home environment, collection agencies provided company-owned equipment so that agents can work from those secure systems.
- Many collection agencies conduct background checks upon hire of their employees, and certain state regulatory bodies—like Nevada—require a review of information about the company's officers in order to get the company licensed.
- Collection agencies are experienced in training a call center workforce, especially in pivoting as client requirements, regulations, and laws change—which they do often.
- Collectors do more than just collection debt—they are skilled in customer care and in listening.
If ever there were an application that is uniquely matched to an industry, this is it. Contact tracing and debt collection require the exact same skills. And many in the industry stand available to be deployed right now. This just requires some pivoting. Reach out to your local health department—they are the ones coordinating the effort.