By Pol Arellano
Talking with clients over the phone isn’t always a walk in the park. Especially when you want to talk about something they detest — debt.
But it has to be done — debt has to be collected. And as any debt collector knows, the task comes with its own stresses.
It’s great if you have your own debt collector on your team, or if you’ve contracted a debt collection company’s service. But if the responsibility of collecting debt falls in your hands, it’s a good idea to learn tips that would help you do it successfully.
1. Get a game plan.
Before you even pick up the phone to make a collection call, make sure that you have a game plan ready. Here are few things that you should include in your collection call checklist:
- Create your collection call schedule. It would be helpful if you set a constant time within the day or a day of the week, wherein you’d call to collect debt. This way, you can mentally prepare for the task at hand. Important note: Watch the hours — don’t to call debtors before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Have account information handy. It’s important to have accurate details about the debts you’re calling in about. Some debtors would need some reminding, and it would be really helpful if you could remind them accurately how much they owe, and for what service or product it was for.
- Be smart about voicemail messages. Leave clear and concise voicemail messages with a positive tone of voice. You don’t need to disclose that you’re calling about debt collection.
- When you get a return call, have them acknowledge the debt. Courteously have them acknowledge the amount of money they owe. One way to do this is to ask them if they have any queries or clarification about the charged amount.
- Be ready to help. Remember, they are your clients, too. You could offer installment plan payment options or propose to take credit card payments over the phone.
- Document everything. It’s important to take down notes, especially about your clients’ payment commitments. It is also equally important that you let your clients know that you’re documenting everything, too.
You can add or adjust this checklist according to your company’s needs. What’s important is that you list down everything you need to make the collection call as efficient and as successful as possible.
2. Listen well.
Being a good listener can put you in good stead not just with your life partner (or your parents), but also with debtors. It is hard to get them on the phone, hence when you do get to speak with them, take the time to listen to what they have to say.
And you have to be mindful about it, too. Research shows that we are only able to retain and understand 17 to 25% of what we hear. And that’s not ideal, to say the least.
Related read: Hear Ye, Hear Ye! 5 Signs that You’re an Effective Listener
When talking about a sensitive topic such as debt collection, it’s important to establish a connection with your client. And listening to your clients would be the fastest way for you to find that connection. The better you are at listening to their concerns, the more chances you have of finding a win-win situation for both the client and the company when it comes to paying off the debt.
Listen to what they have to say. Everyone has a story, and everyone wants a listening ear.
3. Be clear and to the point.
You’d be surprised at just how a positive, clear, and confident greeting can affect the outcome of your collection call.
First impressions can be made so early in the debt collection game — and you’d need to be able to make a great one. Mind the tone of your voice. Do not be monotonous. Do not sound as if you detest calling them. It will only make it easier for them to hang up on you or pretend they’re not there if you do.
Related read: 7 Powerful Words and Sentences for Great Over-the-Phone Business Conversations
You must also be straightforward — in the sense that you would need to ask specific questions to your debtors — without being disrespectful. You have to know how to guide the debtor into answering pertinent questions specifically geared towards making payments. Remember: Always pause after each question, so that the debtor will be prompted to give a response.
4. Be sensitive and patient.
In this line of work, sensitivity and patience go a long way. Hence, it’s important to have empathy and the ability to keep one’s cool.
Calling clients to tell them that they owe you money — no matter how small or great the amount — is awkward and distressing. It’s only natural for them to feel this way, and you would need to be sensitive to their feelings. These phone conversations can quickly take an emotional turn, and you should be able to exercise empathy.
No matter how irate they get (you will hear a lot of foul language), or how frustrating it is to hear countless excuses and broken promises, always take the high road. Remember, you’re a professional.
When talking to clients, be careful not to snap at them, or shout at them, interrupt them, or shower them with sarcastic remarks.
When it comes to speaking with enraged debtors, have hope that there’s a calm after the storm (of emotions).
5. Learn the job.
Debt collecting is more than just picking up the phone and asking for money for an unpaid bill.
Can you contact a debtor at any time you please, or at the time most convenient to you? Can you post debtors’ names on your website or on your storefront, with the hopes of embarrassing them so much that they’d just have to pay up? Can you pretend to be a legal representative of the company over the phone? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no.
There are rules to debt collecting that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces. And getting well acquainted with all of these would certainly save you and your company from a lawsuit.
It’s also important for you to know the types of payment options you can give your debtors. Would you be amenable to installment plans or reduced lump sums? Learn just how flexible your company is when it comes to debtors’ paying off their bills.
It is also part of your duty to educate your clients. Some people do not know just how a debt can affect their credit rating, and what would happen if they get a bad credit score. Some do not know what the legal implications are of not paying their debts.
Educating debtors of the possible outcomes and implications may help guide them towards thinking about paying their debts off as soon as possible. However, it is not always the easiest thing to do. So have patience.