Calling a past-due customer is never fun and can take even the most skilled caller out of their comfort zone. Making in-house collection calls often are placed last on the “to-do list”. Most businesses fear they will lose a customer by “bugging them” by calling or create a bigger financial problem than the money that is owed to them.
As a commercial collection agency, we at C2C Resources utilize collection calling and phone etiquette best practices.
Here are our top five tips for greater success and confidence with your business debt collection.
Confidence is Key.
When tackling an in-house business debt collection call, you need to appear more confident and authoritative on the phone, even when you may not be. Your mental state during the call has a strong impact on the communication between you and the debtor.
- Smile and Dial
o Yes, the person on the other line of the phone will not be able to see you, but it is a known fact that people can “hear” you smile when you talk on the phone. And remember, a person who has a past invoice may not be happy on the phone, but having a smile can make the call more pleasant.
o A UCLA study found that when communicating, 38% of people comprehend the way people communicate by how the words are spoken (tone of voice), while only 7% comprehends the choice of words. From the study, 55% comprehend from one’s facial expression and body language, which means you have to work much harder on the phone.
Follow best practices for phone etiquette. The tone, pitch, speed and inflection of your speech will have a lasting effect with the debtor for this call and future communication.
- Never chew gum, eat food or sip a drink while on a phone call.
- Focus on the phone call. Do not check email or doodle. Act like you are in-person with the person on the other line and provide eye contact.
- Pause more often than you normally do on the phone to allow the debtor to respond. Even when the pause feels awkward, you may not be allowing the person to speak their thoughts.
- Speak at a moderate pace and enunciate your words.
Nervous about making your first in-house call?
Practice with a test call. Record your introduction and, if you have a partner, talk through a practice call with a fake scenario. Then, listen back and make notes on what things you will change. Preparation is important for a successful call.
Keep Debtor Contact Information Up-To-Date.
When planning on making in-house business debt collection calls, always track all of the communication with the client. It will allow your business to more effectively track the communication efforts with the client and nurture the client to pay their past-due invoice.
Make sure to include:
- Terms of sale
- Exact amount owed
- Product/services purchased
- Original payment due date
- A place to record who you spoke with and when you spoke to them
A great tool to use is our free web-based accounts receivable management system, Profit Maximizer, which helps minimize bad debt and maximize your profit.
With our free web-based system you receive:
- A contact management system to record notes and schedule call backs for timely follow up on delinquent accounts
- A set of collection letter templates that can be sent via email, fax or mail
- Reports to measure progress
- Multiple import options including a direct link with QuickBooks allowing automatic sending and updating
- Recommended actions and call scripts to help you choose the most effective action for your delinquent customer
By keeping all of your communication efforts in one place, not only will you be prepared throughout the collection process with the customer, but your company will be able to approach the situation with a professional attitude and have all of the facts together.
Ask Open-Ended Questions.
By asking open-ended questions, you can learn more about the debtor’s situation. Always first confirm that your information is correct and the company has truly not paid their debt.
The goal of the collection call is to ask questions that provide the information you need so you can show the debtor a way in which their company can pay the debt. The older the debt becomes, the less collectible it will be.
Here are some sample questions that you can ask that will provide you more information for a successful payment.
- Instead of… Will you be able to pay this month?
Ask… When do you anticipate being able to pay your past-due invoice?
- Instead of… Did you realize you were delinquent on this bill?
Ask… I am looking through accounts receivable and noticed this is waiting to be paid. Is there anything I can do to help you?
- Instead of… Will the payment be coming from a bank?
Ask…. So we don’t miss your payment, what bank will it be drawn on?
Finalize Before Hanging Up.
Verbally confirm with the debtor a summary of what was discussed on the phone. Include these items before ending the call:
- How the payment will be made
- When the payment will be made
- Who the payment will be coming from
- Your address, account information, or any details the debtor would need to make the payment
- What forms will be emailed, faxed, mailed, etc. to complete the payment
- How it will be communicated that the payment will be made
- When the caller can call back if no communication occurs