American Association of Credit Counselors

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Cambridge Credit Counseling

Individual(s) in Charge: Christopher Viale
Email Address: cvialeatcambridgecreditdotorg

Company Name: Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
Company Street Address: 67 Hunt St, Agawam, MA, 01001
Company Website URL: cambridge-credit.org
Telephone Number: 1-800-226-2743

Services Provided:

  • Nonprofit Credit Counseling
  • HUD Housing Counseling

Questions

1. What is your company position on putting consumers first in providing debt relief services?

Educating consumers is our mandate as a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency, so providing the best possible counseling and community education programs are our priorities. When our counselors encounter a consumer for whom a debt management plan is a viable option, it is presented in just that way – as an option that they might consider, along with whatever other alternatives are appropriate to their situation. For those clients who are enrolled in DMPs, providing ongoing education and support through our post-counseling program is our way of maintaining focus on the individual.

2. What is your approach when helping people with problem debt to find the right solution?

Successful remedies, financial or otherwise, can only be determined after a thorough examination of the individual’s circumstances. Our counselors, whose average tenure is currently more than 8 years, work with each consumer to create an accurate budget, a step that helps many individuals recognize the imbalance in their spending behavior. An Action Plan will eventually be developed, accommodating the individual’s short- and long-term goals, and any problems will be specifically addressed through this process.

3. How important is customer satisfaction to you and your company?

The individuals who contact us for assistance are often standing at a financial precipice. They may be faced with foreclosure, a reduction or interruption in income, or mounting credit card debt. Each of these circumstances can be debilitating. In order for our clients to be financially successful, we must be successful in meeting their needs. Providing a smooth transition to a debt management program, foreclosure prevention option, or other viable solution provides the necessary support to empower consumers.

To enhance our own performance, our Quality Assurance Department closely monitors consumer satisfaction, and hundreds of improvement forms are submitted annually by the staff of all our departments, creating an atmosphere of ongoing service refinement.

4. What steps do you take to make sure customers are happy and satisfied with the services you deliver?

Cambridge’s agency culture of satisfaction is driven from management’s commitment to client success. We are an ISO 9000 registered organization, which is a quality standard that provides guidance for organizations to adopt and maintain a Quality Management System (QMS).

Cambridge’s QMS helps our organization to continuously improve all aspects of our business related to quality and to ultimately increase customer satisfaction. Our registration requires that we be able to demonstrate that, not only have we established these processes as a part of our normal routine, but that we are constantly looking for ways to improve every aspect of our service.

The pursuit of enhanced client satisfaction is aided by the data we gather, and its analysis. Our team collects data on a variety of service provision points and is reviewed by management on a quarterly basis. New directives are developed and implemented as a result of these QMS meetings.

5. How can consumer’s best communicate with you to reach a staff member quickly?

Individuals can reach Cambridge by contacting our office at 1-800-CAMBRIDGE (1-800-226-2743), or by completing our convenient inquiry form located at http://www.cambridge-credit.org/start.html . Our hours of service are Monday to Thursday, 8AM to 10PM, and Friday and Saturday 9AM to 5PM.

6. What is your standard response time to consumer inquiries?

Inquiries received during our normal business hours will be returned promptly. Any calls for services received during off hours will be returned the following business day.

7. Do you require the consumer to provide any personal information prior to being able to review the contract you will ask them to sign?

The financial analysis performed by a counselor invariably requires the provision of personal information, but the various codes of ethics our counselors abide by help ensure confidentiality at all times.

Some states, most notably Indiana, now require a much more extensive documentation of the consumer’s circumstances prior to their being offered a contract, and those disclosures can also contain personal data that we might not have asked for ordinarily.

8. Are you willing to share your company performance numbers and do you feel that information is important for consumers to know?

We are strong advocates for the sharing of performance data and participate in several counseling association working groups that promote this activity. We have to remember that, as non-profit counseling agencies, there is no real competition. After a consumer contacts us, the reputation of the entire profession is on the line. In that sense, we owe it to each other to encourage the adoption of best practices. We aren’t sure that the general public would appreciate all of the data that we might share with each other, but there are certain statistics, such as program success, that a consumer could appreciate.

9. When a consumer elects to utilize the services you offer, what is the process to get things rolling?

If an individual’s financial assessment indicates that, despite his or her income, they will not be able to pay down their unsecured debt in a reasonable timeframe without significant concessions from creditors – such as interest rate reductions or fee waivers – our counselors will present the option of enrollment in a debt management plan, or DMP.

Please bear in mind that a DMP is not the recommended course of action for everyone. Historically, only 15% of the individuals we talk to in a given month are presented with that option, though the number has been trending upward in our current recession.

If a DMP is the best course of action, our counselor will process the client’s information, particularly with respect to specific creditors, and review every possible aspect of the program. 

The counselor will inform the individual of his or her monthly payment, which creditors are likely to grant concessions and which may not, and let the consumer know how long it would take under the plan to pay off debt.  From there, our support staff coordinates the remainder of the enrollment process with creditors.

10. What states do you provide services in?

Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Dist. of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming

11. Are you licensed in and/or meet all requirements in the states your service?

We are fully licensed and meet all the requirements of each state that we service.

12. Are you willing to work closely with any regulator or legislator to better understand the services you or the debt settlement industry provide?

Absolutely. Our Compliance Department already works fairly closely with many state regulators, and Cambridge has been active in several consumer protection initiatives. In our experience, regulators and legislators provide critical direction for the provision of services; however, it is imperative that those within the profession provide realistic advice and commentary about any measure under consideration. Realistic legislation and consumer protections are required to maintain the viability of service, and we welcome the opportunity to share our experience and insights.

13. What is your opinion on the need for companies to provide transparent information to consumers?

As with any relationship, an atmosphere of trust and comfort is critically important when dealing with vulnerable or apprehensive individuals. This is especially true in our profession, since we’re dealing with the individual’s finances.

Transparency allows clients to receive a richer understanding about what they will experience when using a debt relief service. As with any financial matter, the relationship is contingent on the full participation of both parties. Establishing a realistic appreciation of what our services can and cannot do allows for the cultivation of a successful working relationship.

14. Is debt settlement the only solution for consumers or are there times that a debt management plan, loan, or bankruptcy might be appropriate solutions?

There are circumstances when each of these remedies might be appropriate.

15. Describe what you feel the AACC means for consumers and why you are a part of it.

The various forms of debt relief services are misunderstood by the general public, and promoting education about them will only help. Membership in the AACC provides our agency with another opportunity to collaborate with industry leaders to develop ethical and transparent standards. It is our hope that the work conducted within this association will result in a balanced and successful experience for those who need advice or education about managing their personal finances.

16. Why do you help consumers to deal with problem debt?

The lack of financial literacy in our country has helped, in part, to produce the recession we’re now trying to overcome. Many of our friends, family members, and neighbors have seen their personal wealth dissipated, and they need competent financial guidance to deal with their changing circumstances. We feel a certain amount of professional pride in being a resource for those who are struggling, and we’re continuing to expand our services to help provide the various forms of counseling they need.