Returning Enforcement Agents: What has changed?
In this weeks Leading the Way blog, Bryan Wall, Assistant Enforcement Agent Manager, considers how the typical day of an Enforcement Agent has changed, and explores the reaction towards enforcement activity resuming.
Over to Bryan …
It has been two weeks now since restrictions were lifted and Bristow & Sutor Enforcement Agents (EAs) were able to return to work. In many ways, it has been a ‘back to normal’ approach, but there has also been important changes made to the way we operate day-day to-day. I am proud to say as part of these changes, I was promoted to the role of Assistant Enforcement Agent Manager. One of the benefits of my new role is even more insight into the way our team is performing, and what I have seen so far suggests a very exciting future.
At Bristow & Sutor we are in a unique position with new contract wins coming in where we are recruiting heavily also. Whereas lots of companies are struggling in these uncertain times we are leading the way and offering new opportunities, with fantastic packages.
According to our statistics, we are meeting and resolving a higher percentage of cases than before lockdown. This can be attributed to more people working from home but also our agents communicating as safely as possible with debtors at a distance. I have personally been hearing from EAs that more contact and communication is taking place with the debtors than ever before.
More cases getting resolved does not always mean a paid resolve of course, as this includes identifying and moving vulnerable cases over to the welfare department. Workloads are getting even busier as time goes on, with more and more clients opening the doors and allowing us to start resolving cases.
A reaction towards an EA can change from person to person, but the response to our agents paying visits after five months has better a lot more positive than you might expect. Compared to even our own expectations, and considering the changes to processes and procedures required, the general feeling is one of business as usual.
Bristow & Sutor EAs have mainly been meeting with people who want to resolve their debts and want us to act quickly to provide support. I have not personally heard of any major incidents or situations where there has been a bad public interaction involving out team since we returned a fortnight ago. Neither have I seen (at time of writing) any formal complaints, suggesting our interactions are being appreciated and people realise we are doing our jobs correctly, enforcing only where it is safe and reasonable to do so.
We have even received some unexpected complimentary feedback from one debtor during this period, who took the time to message the office and praise the approach, professionalism and helpfulness of one member of staff.
New techniques, same principals
Bristow & Sutor EAs are now actively visiting properties to try and resolve debts that are outstanding, going out in vehicles and attempting to communicate with debtors. In the first week, we visited over 10,000 doorsteps. At present, no agents are entering properties unless under exceptional circumstances. Fortunately, our employees have already been trained comprehensively, so their methods remain at the same high-quality standard as they have always been.
I am very proud to work for a company where we already take extreme care and attention towards vulnerable people. Admittedly, there are more potentially vulnerable people out there due to COVID-19 related issues. But, for the past fortnight especially, all our EAs have been identifying this and immediately withdrawing from doorsteps, passing these cases back onto the welfare team so people get the correct support they need. Our agents are also expert in identifying where there are not any issues and should proceed as normal in a safe and responsible way.
The most obvious change to a typical day-in-the-life of an EA, is the process they now must through to ensure safety remains the top priority. The entire management team have been working hard throughout lockdown to ensure it is a safe environment for EAs to return. For example, visiting our office is now managed by strict rules, including allotted times to attend allowing time for cleaning of desks and chairs in between visits. A one-way system is in place to allow for safe access, hand sanitizer available and gloves where necessary to handle paperwork.
Our commitment to safety has involved lots of big changes including a massive purchases of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Our agents are fully equipped with facemasks and filters, disinfectant spray, antibacterial gel, bin bags, disposal gloves and rubber gloves.
But providing PPE is only step one. Every employee visiting members of the public has been trained on how to use PPE correctly and safely. Virtual meetings and ‘back to work’ training has been setup with every single agent ensure they are fully compliant with the use of PPE and so any questions they may have had were answered before returning to work. Alongside this, every agent has completed CIVEA training to educate them on the latest advice, guidance and rules for visiting properties safely. Examples from this training included the most hygienic places to knock on a door and how to maintain a safe distance from the doorstep.
I have had no concerns or complaints from any EAs about PPE, so I believe they are happy with the processes that are in place and keeping them safe. Every Bristow & Sutor EA seems happy to be back working and positive about being out on the ground.
The management team have really dug deep when it comes to safety and helped to create a renewed team ethos and atmosphere. I am proud that everyone is continuing to go above and beyond their expected duties to ensure safety and achieve success.
To read Bryan’s previous blog on a typical day in the life of a Bristow & Sutor EA, click here.