The Effective Collector

Having the following qualifications will help you become an effective collector:

  • Clear handwriting. Memos, letters and their signatures that go to the debtor need to be simple to read, and the notes on a customer’s file must be clear to others in your firm who review that file.
  • A voice that indicates strength. Being able to speak with authority represents an effective collector. However, there are successful collectors whose modest voices mask a strong-minded, unwavering person.
  • Good grammar. Bad grammar can make the caller sound like an unknowledgeable employee which becomes a representation of your firm.
  • Clear use of language and communication. Phoning the debtor is part of the collection process which means the collector needs to be easy to understand. You want to avoid poor communication that could cause a shift in the direction of the conversation – “What are you attempting to say?”

Effective phone contacts with debtors

Typically, the best way to get paid is by calling debtors which is the most successful at the start of the collections process. Speaking with debtors as soon as possible about the financial problems the customer is having and any disputes over the bill, will help assist in the collection process.

Structure of an effective call

Assemble calls to debtors as follows:

1. A short opening. You want to identify yourself and quickly state the reason of your call, most often ending with a question.

2. A calculated pause (the pregnant pause). This drives a reply and changes the load of the conversation to the debtor.

Example: “Hello, Mrs. Smith, this is Charlene Dunn of B&A Company. Our records indicate that the actual balance in your account is $_____. [short opening, brief statement of reason] When will you be mailing the payment?” [planned pause, which requests an answer]

3. Detailed request for payment and precisely when it will be sent.

Example: Continue asking until you get an exact date. “When will you be sending it? We need payment immediately.”

4. Verification of the precise address for the debtor to mail the check.

Example: “Please send your payment to Alice Smith, Accounts Receivable, H&H Company, 10 John Street, Orlando, Florida 72814. Kindly read back to me the address I gave you, to ensure I gave it to you correctly.”

5. Friendly closing that consists of validation of payment.

Example: “We appreciate your continued business. I’ll require your check no later than Friday, April 26.” Write that date on your calendar, and if the check doesn’t arrive, phone that day.

6. Send a short letter to the debtor validating the promise to pay.

Example: “Dear Mrs. Smith: I want to verify our conversation today

and to confirm that you will be mailing us a check for $_____ to: [your address].” To ensure payment is sent to the correct address, enclose a postage-paid envelope.

The importance of written confirmation was verified in a study*:

28% of an oral message is forgotten after 1 day

48% of an oral message is forgotten after 1 week

70% of an oral message is forgotten after 1 month

Scheduling of phone calls

Ensure you know the debtor’s business hours (or at least that industry’s hours) and time zone prior to booking calls. Avoid calling:

• Monday mornings, when people may be busy with mail or urgent matters; and

• Friday afternoons. when it may be difficult to get someone to write a check.

• Soon after executives get to the office or are about to leave for lunch or for the day;

*“133 Ways to Handle Customers’ Complaints,” by Blanding, Harps & Henry