Eastern Account System A workplace culture they didn’t expect
It’s probably fair to say that very few children imagine their careers spent in cramped cubicles with auto-dialing computers and the pressure of trying to get through to as many debtors as possible in a day.
Even fewer daydream about growing up to spend their workdays on the phone, staring bleary-eyed at a computer screen while an enraged person barks at them over the phone.
But if you ask employees at Eastern Account System, a collections agency in Fairfield County, collecting debts for a living isn’t so bad.
Many Eastern Account System employees say they love their job and that’s why the company won the No. 1 spot in the small employers category in this year’s Hearst Connecticut Media Group Top Workplaces awards.
Eastern Account System’s Danbury office collections manager Becky Ribeiro said she never expected to work for a collections agency.
“If you had asked me 12 or 13 years ago if this is where I would be the answer would have been no. It just happened,” said Ribeiro. “We had closed a business and I was looking for work and didn’t have time to waste. The opportunity came up and the rest is history.”
It’s not what she expected.
“I am sure there are horror stories out there about collection agencies. I have heard them. Eastern Account System is anything but that,” she said. “You hear laughter and you see smiles, and this can be when they are talking to each other or someone on the phone. Eastern is not just a collection agency; it is a family and you feel this from the moment you step foot into our office. It starts with the owner and vice president and spreads through out.”
Founded in 1982, Eastern Account System is a privately owned collection agency working in the health care, cable and communications industries. It specializes in debt that has not formally entered collections and employs about 50 full-time employees. Its larger subsidiary, E-Center Inc., also locally run, has 350 people full time who focus on debts in full collection mode.
Eastern Account uses a full range of the latest debt collection techniques designed to bring flexibility for both the debtor and the employee. This includes technologies such as “emotion analytics” that enable the company to locate and assess the debtors.
“We want to provide a foundation for our employees that includes everything from email etiquette to customer service to basic business skills,” said Human Resources Manager Holly Sullivan said. “To do that we offer plenty of training opportunities to grow that skill set. Each agent is not lumped together, it’s really individualized. We are conscious of tailoring training to each employee.”
No experience collecting debt? Not a problem.
“We are not looking for the most stellar resume. We are looking for those intrinsic values that add to our culture,” Sullivan said.
“The employees who do well are ambitious but do not necessarily have a background or degree we are willing to train from the ground up and if they have the right attitude they can go so far.”
Jennifer Ortega, a collections manager at Eastern Account System, has worked for the agency for 12 years.
“I have been very fortunate to find a job doing what I love and working for Eastern. I am treated with great respect and my hard work has been recognized and appreciated. This is one job that I can honestly say that hard work does pay off, literally,” Ortega said.
Priding itself on having a diverse workplace, Sullivan said Eastern Account System is built on the core values of respect and inclusion.
“One of the things that people find when they start here no matter what there experience or background they are accepted here,” Sullivan said.
“Some people start here and may have never had a job outside of retail or food service industry and now they’re in management roles learning how to lead others,” Sullivan said. “If they have that ambition there is no limit to how far they can go at our company.”
Because employee satisfaction is essential to the agency’s overall success, Sullivan said it’s crucial to offer incentives that excite and inspire staff.
“It’s a fast-paced environment that we work in. In order to keep up with that, we like to counteract our workload with fun things like catered lunch, a performance-based point system where our employees can earn points and pick out things like flat-screen TVs and bicycles from a catalog and discounts at local businesses in the community,” Sullivan said.
While the average employee spends at least a year on the payroll at Eastern Account System, many employees are with the agency for well over a decade, Sullivan said.
“These are people who care about other people and it translates to other employees. We see them as people first and that appreciation and recognition adds to the family culture here.”
Perks, culture and benefits round out the list of reasons why folks at Eastern Account System love their jobs. Still, opportunity comes out on top every time, Sullivan said.
“The environment here is adaptable, flexible and always changing,” she said. “It really comes down to opportunity. Everyone in this organization has the opportunity to succeed and they do.”