Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Monday, July 15, 2013

Collection Tip - Pattern Interrupt

Recently, I was talking to a business colleague in the non-profit sector, and he gave me a great term for something that I’ve believed in for a long time, but didn’t have a label for … “pattern interrupt”.

What “pattern interrupt” means, in short, is to short-circuit a conversation with an anticipated outcome by doing something unexpected, and breaking a preconceived notion of the person you are talking to, creating an opportunity to have a real, honest conversation.

Unlike other collection tip articles we’ve done in the past, it’s hard to show the wrong way to do things, but if you are a collection agent, and you are being hung up on, argued with, yelled at, or dealing with constant refusals to cooperate, you might want to inject pattern interrupt into your presentation.  This is really a finesse tool, so you have to find innovative ways to insert this into your conversation, rather than follow a script.

Try something like this:

“Hi John, it’s Robert Jones calling from ABC Collection Services.  How are you today?” (Few people expect courtesy from a credit or collections department, and this can catch them off guard.  When the consumer says “fine, until you called”, you can have a small chuckle with them and completely diffuse any potential antagonism.)

“Mary, I’m not calling you to demand for payment.  Clearly, if you wanted to make payment, it would have happened by now.  I’m simply calling to notify you of your disconnection of service.” (By not engaging in a verbal tug of war over payment, you can throw the customer off guard and they may volunteer to take care of their account)

“Kevin, if you don’t want to pay this account, simply tell me.  I’m not here to chase you about.  We’ll just put this on your credit bureau and be done.” (By offering the consumer an A-B choice rather than a confrontational presentation of the debt, you can have them believe you are on-side with them and listen to their position)

“Susan, I see you made a payment of $100.00 today.  I’m calling to let you know we’ve received it, and we will send out a receipt to you tomorrow.” (Rarely does a collections person call for a positive reason – however, positive reinforcement is an important part of motivating individuals.  If a customer makes a partial payment, go out of your way to make a positive contact without asking for anything.  This will encourage them to continue making payments in a timely fashion).


Confrontation is not our end goal – if a consumer is anticipating or creating an antagonistic conversation, you have no room or time to negotiate.  By being creative, pleasant, and doing the unexpected, you can often take difficult accounts and turn them around into a positive experience for everyone.  By using “pattern interrupt”, you can take a conversation heading to a bad end and effectively “reboot” it.

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-Wettlaufer
Kingston Data and Credit
Cambridge, Ontario

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant tip, glad to see others are adapting this technique.

    It has worked wonders for me over my career.

    Cheers, Dafna Ziv, CCP