Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, June 1, 2012

Collection Tip - Deflect Conflict Using 'I' and 'We'

Often, a conflict is created in credit or collections because the debtor perceives a demand for money as a personal attack, and sometimes will shoot the messenger, as it were. Often, a credit manager or collection agent must make great efforts to display that this is not a personal attack on an individual, and there is no malice, but a business transaction – but often, this is because a debtor has misconstrued their initial conversations.

A small step to avoid conflict is to create empathy, by differentiating the negatives and positives, through the subtle use of language. If used throughout the conversation, it can impact the listener by differentiating between the individual speaking to them, and the business transaction represented by the company or client’s identity.

When ever you are using a positive comment, such as deferring a payment date, not listing an item to the credit bureau, extending credit terms, or accepting payment arrangements, take personal credit for it by using “I”. In this way, you are taking credit for being lenient, reasonable, or accepting of what they have to say.

When delivering consequences, proceeding on a file, applying interest, or sending the file to a collection agency, distance yourself personally from it and creating a corporate identity for negative effects by liberally using “we”, or “our company”, or “our client”. This also puts the full weight of your company or your agency behind your words, rather than seem like a petty attack.

Using this language can also directly lead into a situation where you can use empathy, and say “I would rather not take action, but my client demands it, what would you like to do?” This puts you on side with the debtor, and builds trust without removing authority.

Don’t say:

“John, I am starting legal action today on this file.” 
“I will be cancelling your line of credit effective today”
“Because your account is 120 days past due, I am sending your file to our collection agency”
“I won’t accept that payment plan.”

Try saying:

“Mary, our company wishes to start legal action immediately on this file”
“Our company requires me to cancel your line of credit effective today”.
“Because your account is seriously past due, it is our company policy to send it to a collection agency”
“I don’t think our client will accept that payment plan you are offering. “
 “I can accept your arrangement of $500.00 per month, with post-dated payments arranged today”.
“I’m pleased we could avoid sending your file to collections by working this out today.”
“Your settlement offer seems reasonable – let me see what I can do on your behalf to get it accepted”
“I can extend you 15 more days for payment in full, as long as you assure me this will be resolved.”

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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