Collection Calls- The Perfect Approach

What you’ll learn


  • Learn the importance of collection calls and its impact on your company’s cash flow system
  • Explore essential tips for making effective collection calls
  • Understand the importance of debt collection negotiation

Collection Calls- The Perfect Approach

We know people who are great at conversations, and we know people who are great at client calls. But certain people can drive productive conversations during a client call. Who’re they? Well, generally, we call them effective communicators, but in the finance world, we call them collectors. Collectors are not just a medium for effective client calls, but also the mediators of the entire cash flow system. From improving the company’s bottom line to improving client relationships, a collector needs to maintain effective communication with the client.

So what should be the tone of their corporate chat? How should their equation be? Neither the softness of a friend nor the harshness of a foe, but an unbiased business relationship with the perfect partnership between the client and the collector. Ergo, two teaspoons of “empathy” with two teaspoons of “emphasis” and congratulations! You just had the most productive collections call.

To help you get started with the perfect collection call, here are some essential tips to follow:

1. Pick proactive, ditch reactive!

Be proactive now than reactive later!

The secret to being successful is often good preparation. Most businesses pivot their collections activities around the due date and start only after the due date has passed. More often than not, this reactive approach is what might be leading to ineffective collections.

Some people might think that calling a debtor and asking to clear their dues could be a straight-forward job. However, to get your customers to pay, you need to be well prepared and arm yourself with facts. When it comes to getting your customers to pay the amount that is owed, having the facts and important information at hand is essential to keep the conversation in your favor.

For starters, set up a goal for your first call and do your research on what’s important and what’s not. Prioritize your requirements, and at minimum, be sure to keep the following supporting documents at your fingertips before the call:

  • Customer details
  • Product/Service details
  • Delinquent invoice details
  • Payment terms and conditions
  • Payment history

2. Grasp the importance of documentation

Act like a human journal!

Taking notes is a critical part of effective debt collection. You must keep a record of every important detail from your conversation with the client. Documenting key aspects, including your customer’s feedback, could help you in resolving disputes faster in case there are any. The details that you could pen down while having a conversation with your client could include –

  • Call time and date
  • Promises
  • Planned payment date
  • Required set of actions
  • Agreement or commitments, if any

Another good reason to keep a detailed note of previous collaboration is to allow another collector to follow up with delinquent accounts in the absence of the original collector. Without easily-accessible notes, the new collector might have a hard time making any progress on the account. Taking notes and digitally keeping track of them is a proactive approach that could help ensure faster access to accurate and relevant information.

3. Empathy- The secret ingredient!

Money is the goal, but Empathy is the way!

Empathy, from being a buzzword, has come a long way to becoming an essential quality that every collector needs. What’s important to remember is, even if your customers fall behind on payments, they still matter! But how to maintain goodwill between you and your customer? A pinch of kindness is all it takes. Exhibiting empathy during collection calls could go a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship with the customer while improving accounts receivables. You could exhibit empathy in three key ways:

  • Educate your customers: Sometimes, invoices and billing statements could be confusing. A customer might not be able to pay just because of a simple misunderstanding. You should take the time and patience to explain to your customers what they owe in a cordial manner.
  • Be their partner: Lack of empathy could straight away lead a customer to become more defensive and difficult. To avoid such situations, you must exhibit friendliness, respect, and kindness to increase your chances of getting paid.
  • Be a good listener: Customers often have a lot to say. Understanding their pain points could make things easier for you. Listen carefully and work with them to set them back on track to payment.

As a collector, showing empathy could create an environment of trust and respect for your customers. And, when there is compassion involved, your conversations get a lot easier ensuring customer satisfaction.

4. Jump to truths, not to conclusions!

Unlike Kangaroos, who jump to get around, humans often jump to conclusions!

Arriving at conclusions is easier to do than discovering and tackling the actual issues. When it comes to a collector’s job, patience is an important virtue to have. Understanding your customer and helping them work through the reasons for late payments can prove to be far more helpful than displaying a bashing attitude towards them. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Ask open-ended questions to get as much information as possible from your customers.
  • Analyze the problem and try to identify the root cause. Remember, the goal is to confirm and not to make assumptions.

Analyzing customer issues in-depth provides a better view of the bottlenecks faced by the debtor and could be used to give out better assistance in clearing payments.

5. Prepare for the usual- Defensive Customers!

Build a defense for the defensive!

As it is rightly said, “Expect the unexpected!”. Not all customers are easy to deal with, and many tend to get defensive when confronted with facts or faults. Keeping a few methods to tackle such customers always comes in handy while facing a situation with a difficult client. Here are some pointers to remember:

  • Don’t get manipulated: Sometimes, customers might get aggressive and use it as a tactic to end the conversation. Do not take it personally and fall for the trick.
  • Don’t argue back: Fighting fire with fire will eventually destroy everything. Hence, do not argue with your customers. Instead, show the customer that you care about their feelings and shift the conversation to working towards a solution that leaves both parties satisfied.

It is better to know what must be said in the right fashion beforehand than to have yourself misunderstood. Misunderstandings might cost you a customer and ultimately result in loss of revenue.

6. Tone it down!

Set the tone, right!

At times a lot of communication parameters don’t depend on what is said, rather on the way it is said. Applying the right tone of voice based on the type of account, customer profile, and use-case could go a long way in improving customer experience. Being assertive but not being rude is the way to go for an ideal collector. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t underestimate your voice: Often, the pitch of your voice has an impact on the listener. You need to use the right tone of voice and speak slowly to improve communication with the customer and ease the flow of conversations.
  • Positivity is contagious: A smile is a more acceptable greeting than a frown. While handling a client, they may not see you smile but will recognize the zeal in your way of talking. To have a positive impact on your client, treat every interaction as the first call on a good day. Remember to take breaks between calls and start afresh with every customer.
  • Use pauses to unpause the conversation: Speaking continuously with your customer during a call could hinder the purpose of it and also slow down the communication process. It is important to know how to use silence to your advantage. Take pauses after asking a question and wait before responding to your customer. Pause your way to a less congested conversation.

7. Action items speak louder than words!

Don’t leave things on a cliffhanger!

For a productive collections call, there must be some well-defined action items jotted down with you at the end of the discussion. After all, what are efforts without results?
Aim for constructive results in a client call. You must actively seek out information regarding the following:

  • Expected date of payment and confirmation of the invoices that are past due.
  • Documents that may be required by your client for clearing payments and who should be receiving those documents.

It is essential to have all important information collected and confusions sorted during the call instead of trying to reconnect later with your client and starting from square one.

8. Follow-up for payments to follow through!

Be a professional stalker, follow-up!

When it comes to collections, consistency is the key that locks a payment eventually. Any job left incomplete does not bring any outcomes. Similarly, a client call is incomplete without proper follow-ups. Here is why it could drive your client to pay you sooner:

  • Follow-ups serve as a reminder to your client and keep the communication channel open for further discussion.
  • Follow-ups can be used as a source to educate your client about the consequences of being unable to pay and make your clients aware of your requirements.
  • Follow-ups are a good way of gauging the next step required to get the payment, such as helping the customer to choose the right payment option.

If you follow up well, timely payments are likely to follow.

Conclusion

Even after focusing all your efforts in the right direction, you might not get what you anticipated. Clients can be tricky, but collections is a gritty job. If a client is unable to pay at the moment, it is a wise decision to be empathetic towards them, but at the same time, devise payment plans that could suit your client’s financial situation. Using the right negotiation tactics and securing the minimum amount of payment possible to be made at the earliest could help avoid bad debts. Upgrading skills and learning the art of negotiating with a client could go a long way in the collector’s journey. Adopting the right approach and techniques helps the destination of timely payments to arrive sooner and contributes to escalating business growth.

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