Saskia Hill - Walk In As A Guest And Join The Family
Saskia Hill, owner of MCS Debt Recovery, says that the success of her business has been based on treating her staff as assets and believes that happy staff equate to successful collectors. She says, "Our vision is to be a leading debt recovery company, providing excellent service to our clients, in an environment where our staff can grow and develop."
Says Hill, "We promote a family type culture with both our staff and our clients. The business slogan, 'Walk in as a guest, and join the family', is one that we all embrace."
MCS Debt Recovery was established in 1995. Hill, then the accountant for the business and staying true to her entrepreneurial spirit, acquired the business in 2009 on the retirement of the founder Mr Jo Tets. Since then, Hill has increased the number of clients tenfold and has grown the staff employment number from 40 to 220.
MCS Debt Recovery has also moved from small, rented offices to larger, owned premises. The business is now located in an 860m² building in Cornubia's light industrial area, accommodating all the staff and includes a generator room, staff canteen and a training centre.
Hill's passion for client service is evident in that she personally liaises with clients when required. "In our 22 years of existence, we have never lost a client, which is as a result of our business practice and ethics, as well as the fantastic relationships we have with our clients. We have consistently remained top achievers with our biggest clients who are in the financial services, retail and vehicle tracking sectors."
MCS Debt Recovery has an experienced management team, which has been built over time, often due to promotions from within the staff complement.
During the first few years of taking over the business, Hill did all the management tasks herself but then realised that having senior people to help her would really assist in accomplishing more. She says that due to her accounting background, she is very systems driven and her goal has been to work smarter and to keep abreast of technology and new trends in the industry.
Hill has attended debt collection conferences in both the United Kingdom and USA, bringing back valuable learnings and sharing the progress South Africa has made in both the ICT and debt collection sectors. In addition, Hill served on the ADRA board (Association for Debt Recovery Agents) from 2014 to 2016, contributing to various industry body discussions and changes in respect of the debt collection. "We are proud to have representation by Lee Anne Dhorie on both the current ADRA and Council for Debt Collectors' boards. This enables us to keep abreast of all industry changes and allows us to contribute significantly to legislative changes," says Hill.
As the well-being of the staff is always top of mind, MCS Debt Recovery has a highly productive workforce. Staff are recruited from the neighbouring towns. Over the years, job opportunities for both employed and unemployed people have been created; training and coaching has been provided in order that they may become successful debt collection agents with the possibility of being promoted to managers and fulfil other key roles within industry.
One of her favorite quotes, about your employees is from Richard Branson: "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to".
Motivating staff in the call centre environment is of prime concern and MCS Debt Recovery retains staff by offering good incentives and delivers on what is promised. Hill is very hands on in her interactions with the call centre agents. The location of her desk on the call centre floor (alongside the other members of the management team), enables her to constantly monitor collections. That way, Hill says, she can quickly acknowledge an agent who handles a telephone call well or is able to discuss a difficult call.
She commented that the current collections and financial management (credit providers) industry are facing some of the greatest challenges that they have ever faced. Debtors are under enormous pressure and this situation needs to be handled with incredible foresight. "I remind the staff to have empathy when dealing with people who are in debt - you never know what the person on the other end of the phone is dealing with."
In addition, a dedicated wellness manager works together with management and staff to create employee engagement strategies. This strategy includes sending a daily motivational email which contains motivational messages, South African news, highlights of the previous work day, and recognition messages.
Motivational speakers deliver talks to the whole workforce once per quarter. Quarterly staff surveys to ascertain employee satisfaction as well as obtain feedback on areas where improvements can be made are undertaken. Employees are also encouraged to share ideas for new strategies which are implemented if appropriate.
"We are also consistently looking at innovative ways to engage with our employees. We gamify existing processes by playing games which have rewards to encourage agents to get to the next level and consistently strive to increase their performance in respect of their specific KPIs," says Hill.
Hill is as passionate about giving back to her staff as she is to the wider community. "We include our staff in regular charity drives which involve various organisations and communities. Our staff appreciate being part of these activities and are also encouraged to, "pay it forward" when receiving an incentive reward."
MCS Debt Recovery has been involved in several projects with the Robinhood Foundation including the donation of books, groceries and clothing on an ongoing basis together with sending volunteers to assist with certain programmes.
Other initiatives include:
Quarterly blood bank drives (where the blood bank comes to the office)
Sunflower fund: staff have joined the register for stem cell donors.
Feeding the homeless on the beachfront
Supporting the annual "slipper day" and "casual day"
KZN Deaf and Blind Society: Contributing towards their cause as well as bringing staff from the Deaf and Blind Society to educate our staff and interact with them
Phoenix Child Welfare: Donations
Cornubia Primary School: We have "adopted" our local school and ask for a list of their needs every quarter
Previously disadvantaged entrepreneurs: Three emerging black entrepreneurs have been provided with finance to buy much needed equipment to enhance their small businesses. This is done on an annual basis
Staff members' school fees: If the staff have children at high school their fees are paid in full. If they themselves are studying at tertiary institutions, a payment towards their tertiary fee is made
Hill says that a highlight of her call centre journey has been watching the growth of business. However, this has not been without challenges, as well as many sleepless nights. Being a woman in business and having three children - Lara, Matthew and Ross, she has often had to juggle her time and work long hours to ensure that all her commitments are met. She reflected, "I miss being able to attend all the coffee mornings with my friends, but I wouldn't change my life at all. My friends and family are a huge support to me."
As a member of the Entrepreneur Organisation in the Durban Chapter, Hill also actively promotes entrepreneurship in South Africa. She says, "I would like to instill a sense of entrepreneurship in my children so that they are equipped with the mindset to have a stronger appreciation and respect for business, and to be diligent in their goal settings." Hill has recently returned from an Entrepreneurs' Organisation Global Learnership Conference in Canada where 2 000 international entrepreneurs met. "It was an incredibly rewarding and inspiring week to network with business owners from around the world."
In her free time, Hill may be found indulging in her love of sport, be it through supporting her children and husband Grant in their sporting endeavours, watching a rugby game, or cycling on a tandem.
Hill concluded by saying that every day is a "school day" where we should challenge ourselves to learn something new. Set goals and hold yourself accountable for achieving them. "Don't be afraid to chase your dreams, reach up for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground."