Effective phone tactics

Here are ways to increase your chances of success:

Call the debtor to see if they’re still in business and if there is a disagreement about the invoice. Many steps in the collection process must be skipped or rushed, if a debtor is out of business.

Review the customer’s file for the following, before calling:

  1. any former questions about the bill
  2. specific conditions—if your firm is willing to agree to partial payment, or wants to offer a discount, and how much that discount will be
  3. amount due
  4. due date for payment

Ensure you talk to someone with permission to create checks. Speaking to someone who has to go to a company authoritative may be of no use but you need to have that formal approval.

Finding somebody who can create a check

If you are unsure who has permission to write checks, contact the receptionist for the person who is the chief financial officer (CFO) or general manager (GM).

Once you confirm the person of authority who writes checks, make a note of their name and ensure to verify you have written and pronounced it correctly. It is good practice to call reception and the name you were given. If that person is unavailable, leave a message: “Tell Mr. Smith to call Jane Hill at 819-666-3456 today before 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, as it’s time pressing.”

Using the words “time pressing” creates urgency and by leaving only your name and number, you have increased your chances of receiving a call back. Avoid giving the name of your company to decrease your chance of them finding out that you are owed money, so you can ensure you will get a call back.

However, the receptionist may ask where you are calling from, if so, provide the company name. You want to avoid being caught lying, which in turn leaves the chance of being discredited in the future. Follow-up with a phone call if yours has not be returned in a certain amount of time.

Keep a pleasing but strong voice. Remember, you are still working with a customer that your firm may want to sell to again.

Since you would have verified the other person’s name and pronunciation, individualize each conversation by using the other person’s name each chance you get.

If a disagreement arises, for a quick solution you’ll want to provide the specifics about it to the appropriate person in your company. Most disagreements are typically no collection problems, but rather customer. Though, debtors will often use any dispute as a reason to not pay.

If it becomes a complex problem, attempt to break it down into easily understood components, then begin the smaller, easier parts first. Provide answers to the first part(s) before moving to the remaining problems.

Ensure you respond nicely, if the receptionist tells you the debtor is on the phone: “Good Afternoon. This is Carol Smith; how can I help you?”

Everything else should be kept as friendly as possible, as the topic of having to make payments can be unpleasant; be aware of your tone of voice, style and choice of words. At the same time, when the caller says, “I’ve received a message to call you,” get to the point quickly. “Your account shows an outstanding balance of $_____. I called to see when we should expect to receive payment.”