Collection agents, whether they realize it or not, are in a position of authority. They have the ability to affect someone's credit bureau at a push of a button, or can initiate a civil claim in court that can result in a wage garnishment, lien, or seizure and sale.
To properly wield this authority, it's important to avoid using the words "I can't" ... those words totally undermine your authority, and hurt your ability to negotiate. Avoid saying the following:
"I can't tell you when this debt is from"
"I can't tell you about this because [debtor's name] is the only name on the file"
"I can't accept your payment arrangement"
"I can't hold your file from the credit bureau any longer"
Try saying instead:
"The client has not given me the date of delinquency -- I can give you their number if you would like to investigate this"
"Can I ask what your name is? I'm afraid that [debtor's name] has not indicated that we have permission to speak with you"
"Your payment arrangement is outside of the parameters given to me -- let me see what I can do on your behalf"
"Please understand we have until [deadline] to resolve this before I am required to list this on the credit bureau"
By emphasizing what you 'can' do instead of what you 'can't' do, you maintain your authority and remain on-side with the debtors to negotiate resolutions on accounts. You want to reinforce your power and authority in a benevolent manner, and reinforce the options for resolution, rather than inadvertently focusing on your shortcomings, lack of information, or limitations put in place by the client.
If you are a fellow credit and collections industry colleague and want to discuss collection techniques, or are a client who want to discuss our approach to collecting debt, which we refer to as the APPRAISE process, feel free to give us a call.
Blair DeMarco-WettlauferKingston Data and Credit