Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, May 25, 2012

Collection Tip - It Takes Two To Communicate

Your role is to create a sense of urgency, and authority, but often the most effective collection agents are the ones who stop and listen to what the customer has to say. Whether it is a dispute over service, outrage that they have been sent to collections, or an ongoing and lengthy discussion about the debtor’s current financial situation, it is important to take a deep breath and allow the customer time to speak, and not be a verbal bulldozer.

• An effective collection call may take more than three minutes – arbitrary limits on call times should not limit an effective conversation! Some calls will take a while, especially if you are getting into details of a dispute, directing the customer to refinancing options, or laying out the consequences of what may happen if the account isn’t resolved.

• Listen to what the customer has to say! Often there are details in there about their financial situation and assets that will help you direct them to pay the bill in the best manner possible.
 • Give the customer their time to vent. If a debtor can get the emotion and frustration out, often they will calm down and listen to what you have to say. And because you gave them time to speak, they should do the same when it’s time for you to respond.

• Don’t talk over a debtor! There’s no point – if someone is talking, they aren’t listening. It’s not professional, and just causes conflict.

• Watch your tone. It’s natural for people to match tones to the people they are talking. If the debtor is getting agitated, angry, or aggressive, is your tone matching theirs? Take a deep breath and speak calmly and with an even tone. Often you can bring the conversation back to an open discussion simply by moderating your tone and volume when things are beginning to spiral out of control.

• Don’t go in circles – if a customer is repeating themselves over and over, or worse yet, you are repeating yourself, break the cycle and end the building frustration by heading back to the original position you wanted to make when you started the call.  Don't beat the customer by thinking repeating yourself over and over will get the desired result.

• It’s simply polite to listen to what someone else has to say. If you treat people respectfully, most often they will treat you respectfully in return.  Speak to people in the same manner you expect them to speak to you in return.

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 Wettlaufer
Kingston Data and Credit
Cambridge, Ontario

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