Your collection agency is a key piece of your receivables management puzzle, but not every past due account has to get to that point.
Whether you’re a corporate giant or a family business, here are three areas your in-house team can focus on to help get those receivables in the door – and keep your loyal customers too!
Stay in Control
- There is never a better time to collect the money than on the very first call.
- Always leave the call with a deadline for followup – deadline for sending docs, deadline for payment, deadline for following up with someone in their organization, deadline for following up with their attorney. The moment a deadline is broken, YOU follow up with the debtor.
- Tonality of your voice plays a monumental role in keeping control of the call.
- Making an outbound call is more powerful than accepting an inbound call.
- Ask open-ended questions. Try to get the debtor to give you as much information as possible. For instance, bank information is critical, yet many debtors may not want to share it. Instead of coming straight out and asking, “Where is your account?” Try “Will you be sending a check or a money order?” He will usually say “a check.” You respond, “That’s fine. So we don’t miss it, what bank will it be drawn on?”
- Use silence. Count slowly to five before responding to a debtor statement, and wait several seconds after asking a question. Leaving blank spaces in the conversation compels the debtor to fill them in.
- Stay focused. Some debtors will try to get you off track by complaining about service, or somehow shifting the blame for their delinquency to you. Be polite; even validate their opinion. But always bring them right back to the point of your call — getting paid the money rightfully due your company.
- Don’t let the debtor manipulate you. A screaming debtor could be using anger as a ploy to get you upset and end the conversation. At the very least, you’re not going to get anywhere with someone that’s angry.
- Go into every call with a focus. Strategize in your mind before you pick up the phone.
- Hostile debtors are the result of hostile collectors. Never get emotionally involved on a call.
- The best negotiators talk 20% of the time, and listen the remaining 80%.
- Listen carefully and take notes. You will get clues to whether the debtor is serious about paying. You’ll also have ammunition for your next call on the account and will be ready to counter any excuses that may have been tried in the past.
Work With Your Customer
- The intended outcome is a “win – win” situation — never an “I win, you lose.”
- Treat debtor with respect. Use formalities, no “hip” language.
- Knowledge is power.
- Address the debtor by name throughout the conversation. This shows respect on your part and commands their attention.
- Make the debtor right, even when they are wrong. You may not agree with what they’re saying, but you can still validate it. After an objection or excuse, say, “I can understand why you feel that way.” Or, “I can certainly see how something like that might happen.” Validating what the debtor has to say maintains open lines of communication. Understanding their point of view, even as you share yours, will disarm the debtor’s defensiveness.
- If you find yourself in a personality conflict with a customer, don’t let the account get away – refer it to someone else that might have more success.
Want to learn more about how we can put our experience and creative thinking to work in order to reach your debtors effectively? Get in touch with us.