We all know that the words we choose and the tone in which we use them can make or break a collection call. From the outset, a customer receiving a collection call is already on the defensive. How do we keep the defenses down so the delinquent case can be resolved and closed?
Communication is most certainly an art form. No matter how long we live on this planet, we still manage to miscommunicate with words, tone and body language. As an example, say the following sentence putting the emphases on a different word each time and note how the connotation changes:
I didn’t say she stole my money.
With the emphasis on the “I”, the hearer may infer that, while YOU didn’t say she stole your money, someone else certainly did. Place the emphasis on “say”, and the hearer may conclude that while you didn’t actually verbalize she stole your money, you may have indicated it in some other manner. You see what I mean … the tone and emphasis can make all the difference in what the hearer hears even though it’s the same sentence.
For this reason, there are certain phrases that you might consider simply striking from your list of things you’d say to a customer. Because whether you mean what it sounds like or not, the hearer is likely to hear you in a negative light during a collection call.
- “That doesn’t make sense.”
Your customer may offer a payment solution that simply doesn’t make sense to you. We hear this phrase all the time in many contexts. The problem is, when we say that someone else’s thinking doesn’t make sense, we can be interpreted as saying, “YOU don’t make sense. YOU are illogical.” That’s just insulting.
Instead, offer a more practical solution to the problem at hand. If you come up with something better, they’re more likely to focus on your solution and forget the ideas that didn’t make sense.
- “It’s against our policy.”
While it may very well be true that the customer’s request is against your policy, there are ways to move toward a workable solution that doesn’t shut the door on dialog.
Instead, be quick to offer options that do fall within policy. Share their frustration if need be, but steer them in a direction that will work for both of you.
- “Calm down.”
As adversarial as collections can be, telling your customer to “calm down” is tantamount to suggesting they’ve given in to a bout of hysteria. Keep control of the conversation with respect and a calm tone of your own.
In the event that your customer’s tone becomes escalated, try making a connection: I understand your point or I have some ideas I think will help.
- “Listen to me.”
This phrase is often said when you’re frustrated and feeling unheard. We all get frustrated, but if you can control those feelings, you can turn an aggravating conversation around.
Try, “Let me explain” instead or perhaps repeating back to your customer the points he’s trying to make. “What I hear you saying is …”
Open dialog helps to keep your customer from becoming defensive. You’re much more likely to get paid if your customer feels heard and concludes you’re working WITH him.