7 Tips for Making Collection Calls that Get Results

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November 28, 2017


According to Debt Collection Answers1:

  • More than 30 million Americans have at least one debt in collection
  • There are 4,100 debt collection agencies in the U.S. employing more than 450,000 individuals
  • In 2010, businesses placed more than $150 billion into collections
  • Of this amount, debt collectors were able to recover only $40 billion (26.7%)

Why So Much Failure?

Said differently, these metrics indicate that almost ¾ of all debt placed into collections is never recovered. There are many reasons for this high failure rate. According to ABC/Amega2, one of the main reasons is the debt collectors making calls:

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"For most people, picking up the phone to call a customer and ask them for money isn't the highlight of their day. In fact, in most over worked and under staffed credit departments, collection calls are placed dead last or fall off the "to-do list" altogether. Why? Reasons vary. But basically, the truth is that making collection calls takes most people out of their comfort zone. They don't feel confident with the process, so they fear embarrassment or failure."

That's unfortunate, because there are proven strategies which can improve debt collectors' success rate, including the following 7:

  1. Be prepared to handle the excuses: the police officer who hands out speeding tickets has heard all the excuses, and he or she knows how to handle them. Debt collectors need to be similarly prepared to handle the typical excuses for not paying debts in a timely manner. If, for example, someone tells you "the check is in the mail," ask the respondent for the check number, as well as the amount and date on the check. If someone says, "I just don't have the money right now," offer to help him set up a payment plan.
  2. Know the relevant facts: if a debtor doesn't make excuses, he might challenge you on the facts. He might, for example, tell you he already paid, or that you've got the amount of his debt wrong. If you don't have the facts, you'll have a hard time challenging such assertions. To keep the conversation on track and stay in control, make sure you have all the key facts at your fingertips, including (at minimum) the amount of debt, what was purchased (or subscribed to), and the payment due date. If possible, you should also know the customer's payment history, and whether this non-payment is typical, or an anomaly.
  3. Don't get unhinged: when you push someone, the natural tendency is for them to push back. Confronting (or, worse yet, insulting) a customer won't persuade him to pay what he owes—it will simply drag him into a futile back-and-forth of accusations and counter-accusations. People appreciate courtesy, even when they're trying to avoid paying their debts. Stick to the facts and remind customers of their responsibility to pay what they owe, but do it with a positive and professional attitude.
  4. Acknowledge the customer's feelings: when it comes to debt, there are facts, and then there are feelings, and both are important. Most people don't want to avoid payment—they might be going through tough financial times, juggling bills, anxious and worried. It's a mistake to pretend those feelings don't exist, or that they're unimportant. If someone says, "I just don't know what I'm going to do," validate that feeling, perhaps responding, "I can certainly understand why you feel that way." This will reduce defensiveness and keep the conversation on a positive track.
  5. Use open-ended questions: your job is to collect debts, but that's often a multi-step process. To resolve debt, the first step is sometimes to gather important financial information, information customers are typically reticent to share. Instead of asking questions like, "What's the name of the bank where you have your checking account," ask an open-ended question like, "Will you be sending a check?" Assuming they say "yes," respond with, "OK. To be sure we don't miss your check, what bank will you be drawing it on?"
  6. Keep thorough notes: you're not always going to get payment on the first call, and you won't necessarily be the collector making subsequent calls. To ensure continuity and complete information for the next call, listen carefully and take copious notes.
  7. Get a commitment: every collection call is a step in the process of getting full payment, and it's important that every call makes some progress. If you can't get a customer to commit to full payment, try to get him to commit to a partial payment, or even an agreed upon time for a follow up phone call. Before you end the call, summarize the conversation, the commitment the customer has agreed to, and the importance of living up to that commitment.

Conclusion

Making debt collection calls isn't easy, which is why some people are much better at it than others. Above all, to improve your debt collection success rate, you need to be competent, empathetic, professional, and fully-trained.

To learn more about the ways our continuing education training services will foster your employees' professional growth—and help you grow your business—contact us today.

Sources:

  1. Debt Collection Answers: Debt Collection Statistics
  2. ABC/Amega: Six Tips for Making Collection Calls That Get Results

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