Every business, no matter how laid back and personable with its customers, has to take money seriously. But when you work at Rewards Network, even the most uncomfortable financial conversations are handled with concern for the health of your business.
And that’s no surprise, once you start talking to Patty Bunkley, eleven year veteran with Rewards Network’s Retention and Recovery Department. Patty sat down with us to share why RN has been her home for so long, what her day-to-day business looks like, and why work-life balance is important to her.
Tell me a little bit about what you do at Rewards Network.
Well, I am the Director of the Retention and Recovery Department. On the retention side, we handle accounts that are “at risk” of breaching their contracts with us. We deal with accounts receivable and missing ticket issues. We are generally the first ones to identify if one of our restaurants closes, sells to someone else or files bankruptcy.
If the retention team is not able to fix those accounts, then they move over to recovery. We will try to mitigate the loss and recover the money outstanding on those accounts. Or as much as possible. Our team does a great job at that.
What does your day-to-day look like here?
My day-to-day involves a lot of emails. Surrounded by accounts. A lot of voicemails. Gosh. A lot of reporting — looking at trends of how much the team is collecting and how long accounts have been in the inventory. Measuring how close we are to targets.
I also meet on very large accounts that are in trouble, and work with Shane (my boss) and our sales and legal departments to figure out the best resolution. It’s a very hectic day. It’s consistent in that it’s very busy every day, but generally, it’s all about trying to resolve the type of account that is in trouble.
How big is your team?
I have a team of eight — three on the retention side, three on the recovery side, and then I have two support specialists. For the most part, my team has been very consistent in terms of staff. I’ve managed the recovery team for over eight years, and the retention team for over four. And it’s been pretty much the same core team the entire time.
I do want to really call out and recognize my team. They are phenomenal. I know that I probably would not be successful without them. They are very consistent. They get it. They understand that what we do impacts the bottom line a lot.
They are so much of why I love to come to work every day. I’ve been really blessed in that way. And I’ve been here 11 and a half years.
Wow! I’m sure you’ve seen the company change quite a bit then.
I have! I have ridden the roller coaster — the good and the bad — and I’ve managed to stay. Which is great, because I love working here.
I will tell you that one of the reasons I stayed at Rewards Network is that I’ve always wanted to advance my career, but at the same time, I am a single mom. I never wanted to advance my career at the expense of the relationship I have with my daughter. Fortunately, I have been able to do both — and do both quite successfully.
So, that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed at Rewards Network for so long. I’ve been able to have that work-life balance and have both worlds at the same time. Obviously, sometimes you have to do a little more here and then another week, a little more over there. But for the most part, I’ve been able to keep a balance that was comfortable for me.
And I know that for many of my peers in other industries, that is not as common. Often if you want to grow your career over time, you need to compromise in other ways. And fortunately, I have not had to do that.
It seems like overall a pretty intensive work environment — but then you go home.
Yes! Then you go home.
Another thing is: for the field that I am in — collections — this is not your typical environment. It’s never the same thing every day here. Other places, you’ll have a headset on and be on an auto-dialer. It’s just not mundane like that here.
We’re dealing with customers that have a unique set of issues. The goal is to try to keep them on the program. So when you’re doing that, it’s important to be strategic in figuring out how that will work for them and for us.
The focus is different than a straight collections environment, which is just “Get the money. Get the money. Get the money.” We want to get the money if you don’t want to be a customer. But if you want to be a customer, we’re going to figure out a way to work it out.
And keep their business going.
That seems like it must be much more challenging than just getting the money.
There is a lot of creativity to it, especially when you have merchants who have larger balances. If they go to collections, they end up going off the program, which is less customers for their business. Our members don’t benefit, because it’s another restaurant they can’t earn rewards at.
And typically, merchants can’t pay us all at once if they breach their contract. They have to go on a payment plan. If they do that, then you want to have them in a program where we can benefit (get paid), they can benefit (get customers), and our customers can benefit (get rewards). You want to set up the right structure so that all parties win.
Is there something specific you’ve learned in your time here?
So, I’ve had four bosses in my time here, which, for 11 and a half years, is not bad. I will tell you that each one of my bosses have developed skills in me that will stick with me for the rest of my professional career.
Some things resonated more than others, but one of the things that resonated with me early on at Rewards Network — and helps me do my job every day — is critical thinking. You have to be able to think outside the box in order to consider solutions that will work for everybody — and without blowing the deal.
Early on, I was able to get that intense training, and it’s been a great benefit for my career. Because of it, I feel like I am well-respected when it comes to providing input in regards to collections. You’ve got to present things the right way, but you also need to know the customers.
Customers that are referred to Recovery are generally not the happiest campers, and it is not unusual for them not to want to pay what is owed or, at least, to dispute some part of what is owed. Sometimes, it’s black and white, and you just need to be stern. Sometimes not so much. You really just have to listen — sometimes for up to 30 minutes — while they give you the story.
Your temperament needs to be variable in order to be successful. And you have to have excellent follow-up. Merchants are not the best in following up on a debt that they owe. You need to call, call, call. Follow up, follow up, follow up.
Is there something you do for fun when you’re not at work?
I love interior styling. I comb through books and take on little mini-projects to help people style their homes. I also love flowers, so I think in another life, I would have been a florist or even an event planner. That’s usually what I do, besides spending time with my daughter. My daughter is soon to be 17 years old and a junior in high school. I am extremely proud of her. She’s smart. She’s pretty. She’s kind.
She’s like her mom!
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