One of the distinguishing characteristics of the consumer finance industry is the close, personal relationship that finance companies often develop with their customers. In competing with banks and other larger financial service providers, finance companies emphasize that customers are more than mere account numbers. They are real people, with real financial needs, that can be fulfilled with a traditional installment loan made by a traditional installment lender.

This point was driven home to me recently when a client shared a story of a potential identity theft that was uncovered and addressed by an observant CSR. The finance office received a suspicious credit application in the mail. Understanding that there was a serious risk of identity theft and that the true consumer's credit standing could be adversely affected, the CSR acted.

The CSR contacted the potential identity theft victim, confirming that the application did not come from such person, and alerted the person to steps that should be taken to avoid ID theft problems. These steps include obtaining a credit report, and placing a security freeze and fraud alert on one's credit file with each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

The consumer was initially disturbed by the call from the CSR—who was the bearer of the news. However, a few days later, the consumer wrote a lovely email to the company, thanking the company for the CSR's diligence and rapid response. The consumer realized just how big a problem was avoided because he got such a quick response and such good advice from a company and a CSR who did not owe him anything. The thank-you email said:

“Because you all were so quick to contact me, I was able to get ahead of this. So again, thank you. Thank you so much. You all are a credit to the credit business, pun intended. I live in Southern California, but if I lived anywhere near you and ever needed the services you provide, you all would be my first and only choice. THANK YOU!

This finance company's CSR made his employer very proud; and, this type of response is what has made traditional installment lending and installment lenders a valuable service provider for over 100 years.

Practice Pointer: We do well when we do good.