For some, picking up the phone to ask people for money doesn't come naturally and them out of their comfort zone. They don't feel confident with the process and fear embarrassment or failure.
If debt collection is part of your job responsibilities you can become more comfortable and successful by following a few basic tips.
1. Always Be Prepared
Take your time to read through any relevant notes that you may hold and make a quick summary before the call including details of the product / service provided, the amount owed, the current arrears, details of the last payment and / or the payment due date and any reasons for non-payment that have been offered up before. Having a very basic fact sheet allows you to control the call. You want the call to flow seamlessly so the conversation doesn't get sidetracked by a question you can't answer.
Also know exactly who you are calling, and we don't mean the customer personally as such;
- What's their payment history like?
- Do they usually pay on time?
- Are payments getting later and later?
- Are late payments uncharacteristic?
These little bits of information will generally allow you to create a quick mental profile of the account and the customer.
2. Think Positive
Your mental state has a strong impact upon how you handle a collection call and how the customer may respond to you. If you were frustrated by the last call take a moment to compose yourself and think the next call will be better and you'll get the result.
3. Speak Profesionally
We take our voices for granted but the tone, pitch, inflection and the speed at which we speak can be a powerful tool. Try to record a collection call and listen to yourself. Make the necessary adjustments and try again. This will not only improve as to how you come across to the customer but it will build your confidence.
Speak slowly and use a lower pitched voice and pause more often than you usually would.
4. Take Control
Calls can be managed in such a way that you can control the customers response. Some tips we've come across over the years include:
Addressing the customer by their name. This personalises the call and shows on your part respect and commands their attention. Don't overuse their name though as this starts to sound contrived and annoying.
Ask open-ended questions
to try and get as much information as you can from the customer. If the customer has promised a payment ask how the payment is being made, which bank is the payment being made through, etc
to how the customer responds to those open-ended questions. As you gain more and more experience you'll be able to pick up small clues as to whether or not the customer is serious about making the payment.
Using silence can really control a call
. Take you time to respond to a question or statement from the customer. Those silent moments will often prompt a customer to fill the void which leads to more information being obtained.
on the purpose of the call. Some customers will try and avoid payment by complaining about the product or service they've received. This is purely a tactic. Be polite and even validate their opinion but always steer the conversation back to the purpose of the call which was their unpaid account.
Don't let the customer manipulate you
through their anger or use of derogatory language. This can be a ploy as well to upset you and end the conversation. It can be difficult however stay calm and try and remind the customer that you can't resolve the situation if they're yelling. If this tactic doesn't work indicate to the customer that it may not be a good time for them to continue the conversation and arrange an alternate time to call back to discuss the debt. Alternatively place the customer on hold for several moments. A few moments of silence can often calm the customer and you can return to the call to work toward a resolution.
5. Get A Commitment
A call that doesn't obtain payment in full or a repayment arrangement is often a wasted call. Why did you call in the first place? To obtain payment of the account.
If the customer can't commit to payment and needs more time make sure you control the timing. Instead of asking, "When can you get back to me
?" ask, "Will you call me back by Friday
Also don't hang up the phone without summarising the result of the call: Reiterate their commitment, your expectations and the consequences if your expectations aren't met. Place an emphasis on urgency and stress the importance of the customer calling when they said they would or making the payment on or before the due date.
Finally if the customer doesn't follow through on their commitment make sure you follow through on the consequences or it's unlikely that the customer will take you seriously the next time you make contact.
Following our advice will help improve the effectiveness of your collection calls. Every customer is different and what works for one may not work for another but if you focus on the facts and listen to the customer you'll be a debt collection expert in no time at all.