Let’s face it: No one likes making collection calls. So it makes sense to try to get the most out of each call. Making collection calls is a skill you can develop. You have to be able to anticipate what the customer is going to say and be ready for anything, and you must remain in control of the call. For your call to be a success, it must always result in agreement on what is to be done.
From a business owner’s standpoint, a collection call is one more in a long list of things to do. Here are a few tips that will help you get your collection calls done quickly and
- Schedule a regular time or day each week to make collection calls.
- Have all account information on hand.
- Leave messages, but do not reveal that the call is about an unpaid bill.
- Get the debtor to acknowledge the debt by asking if there was a question about the charge.
- Offer to take a credit card over the phone for payment.
- Ask when they will pay – and wait for an answer.
- Let them know you are documenting whatever commitment they make about a payment on their account.
You must ask questions that require specific answers when you are making collection calls. Speak with precision and make the transition from questions to a payment arrangement. Each question should be clear and to the point, with silence after each. An example:
Debtor: I can’t pay; I don’t have any money.
Collector: Are you working?
Debtor: Yes, but I just started a job and don’t get paid for two weeks.
Collector: What day will you get paid?
Collector: On Saturday, you can do an EFT for R250.
This scenario can go in several directions depending on how the debtor responds. You have to be positive, confident and compel the debtor to agree to make a payment. Once you have come to an agreement, send a confirmation letter with a payment envelope.
Then call on Friday to remind them to mail the payment the next day.
Avoid the excuses
Keep in mind that people will use a lot of excuses to avoid paying. I have had debtors tell me they did not receive the confirmation letter with the payment envelope and don’t have any envelopes themselves, so they can’t make the payment.
Be ready for anything; you will never stop hearing new and different excuses. I told this particular customer that I could send her another payment envelope but I also needed a new address so I could make sure she would receive it, and then she could make two payments when she received it.
The other option was taking a payment over the phone.
It’s essential to convey confidence when speaking to customers about a past-due bill or discrepancy.
Here are four tips for a confident phone voice that will help you to collect more money:
- Your greeting. People often make a judgement about you in the first two seconds of an interaction. It’s not what you say in that short time that matters most, but how you present yourself. A dull monotone will leave your listener with little confidence in you. Smile when you speak on the phone; it will be noticeable in your voice.
- Your voice. Sit up straight in your chair and picture the customer across the desk from you. Pay attention to how different your body language is. Now slump in your chair, and notice how people react to you differently.
- Eye contact. Since there is no eye contact when you’re on the phone, try to remain focused on the call and not on anything else going on around you. Think about how it feels when you are talking to someone who keeps looking around behind you to see what else is going on. Focus on your caller and be aware and alert.
- Confidence. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is an example of someone who has an air of confidence about him. You won’t see him wringing his hands or rubbing them repeatedly through his hair, shuffling from foot to foot, or jiggling the change in his pocket. He comes across as someone who won’t cower or retreat, just as a bill collector should act.
Be ready for some emotional reactions when you make calls to past-due customers. They might be angry, embarrassed, sad, or frustrated. They might cry, swear, and yell. But keep in mind that the purpose of your call is to get the bill paid.
You can listen, let them know that you understand – even offer solutions – but get the bill paid.
Getting paid faster
Five ways to ease the hassle of debt collection.
Getting customers to pay on time is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs as the economic recovery drags on. And when the problem persists too long, it can ultimately shut down your small business.
Here are five tips for getting paid faster.
- Send invoices ASAP. It’s all too common for business owners to finish their work for a customer and neglect to submit a bill. You can’t believe how slow small business owners are at getting their invoices out, and the truth is the client has no obligation until they receive the invoice.
- Explain every single charge. Don’t send your customer an invoice with only a rand amount on it. Itemise everything the customer has bought or every service you provided and highlight any discounts given.
- Make deadlines crystal clear. Don’t allow the opportunity for any confusion. You need to tell your client when they sign the initial contract how much time they have to pay you. Also, reiterate your policy on both the billing invoice and packing slip. It needs to be there so there is no ambiguity as to when that bill should be paid.
- More invoices for smaller amounts. If possible, you want to avoid hitting your client with one, giant bill. A client is more likely to sit on a bill that is overwhelmingly large. Make it easier for the client to pay you. Also, by getting paid in small, frequent increments, you protect your business from losing a lot of money should your client go belly-up while they are sitting on an unpaid invoice.
- Make a personal connection. Send a handwritten thank you note on a fairly regular basis. The next time there is a bottleneck in the payment schedule at your client, the accountant will remember you. When they see your invoice come through, you are not just another vendor.