Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, September 18, 2015

Collection Tip - How You Say Hello

First impressions are important in most business deals, and the collection on an account (business or commercial) is no different.  In this day and age, collections is performed now over email and by SMS text, but the telephone is still a primary tool in the communication about a debt.  First impressions really start when someone answers the phone, and says 'hello'.

If you are working in a collection department and your phone rings, how you answer your phone may be the first step towards building a relationship with a consumer or company, and working towards a collected account.

In my opinion, you should not sound brusque or stiff to put someone's guard up right away, and should not sound too casual or subservient.  Certainly, it shouldn't be misleading either -- that's a collection agencies act violation!  Here are examples of things I don't think are ideal greatings -- and I've heard them from collection agencies over the years ...

"Dave here"
"Susan speaking, how might I help you today?"
"Legal Department"
"What is your name and telephone number?"
"Mr. Williamson speaking, what's your account number?"

Ideally, I believe a greeting should have a small amount of authority but create an open environment for conversation.  It should not rush the later parts of the call (looking up the account, determining if the person is going to pay voluntarily or not, and definitely discussing consequences for non-payment).

"Salina Rose speaking, may I help you?"

It can be that simple.  If you use your first and last name, you create a sense that this will be a somewhat formal conversation, and if you lead with an opening question, you are inviting the person calling in to share their issue and imply (and hopefully follow through on) that you have intentions to help them resolve their account.

Now, you *may* have to state other things, like the mini-miranda when speaking to a consumer in a state like Georgia.  That can be dealt with in the call menu before the call, or immediately following the greeting -- please consult your state laws and the compliance requirements of your clients.

There's time after the greeting to get into the rest of the call, like objections, consequences, payment terms, deadlines for follow up, and so on.

If you have questions about telephone etiquette relating to collections, whether you are working in a third party collection agency environment or work directly in the accounts receivable or collection department for a creditor, I'd be happy to chat -- feel free to give me a call or drop me an email.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Cambridge, Ontario

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