Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

The exact date of this quote is unclear; nevertheless, it has stood the test of time.

With that said, as a collector, you need a rock-solid approach to building a trusting first impression with the consumer so you can get to the solution side of the call.

Here are nine steps to getting along with the consumers you talk to every day.

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Think to yourself: “Is what I’m doing getting me closer to my end goal or further away?” How is your attitude? What about your tone? Are you listening to respond instead of listening to understand?
  2. Remember that it’s not all about you. If you’re only thinking about yourself and what you want throughout the call, you’re missing the mark. It’s not up to you if the consumer makes a payment. The attention needs to be on the person who has control of the decision.
  3. Focus on the HOW – not the WHAT or WHY. Legally, you need to talk about the What and the consumer will naturally explain the Why, but this should only be 20% of the call. The What and the Why are the problem. The Hos is the solution. Spend 70% of your time on that, with the last 10% on closing the call with a recap of the How (even if the call doesn’t result in a resolution).
  4. People are emotional first and rational second. Our goal is to help consumers see the positive feeling associated with paying their debt versus the negative felling of being in collections. Warmth and empathy go a lot further than logic and evidence in achieving this goal. That said, it’s important that these attempts are genuine and not over-the-top to avoid seeming fake and deliberately manipulative. The importance of resolving the consumer’s debt may seem obvious to you, but remember it takes a mix of compassion and action to help consumers reach a logical solution.
  5. Assume nothing. If you don’t ask for payment in full, the consumer may not know that it’s an expectation. It may seem obvious to you, but you need to say it so they are aware of it too.
  6. Time is different for everyone. The statement “I can’t pay today” means something different for everyone. You might hear, “I can never pay that bill” but the consumer thinks they are saying, “I can’t pay today but can when I get paid on Friday.” Do not assume they know paying next week is an option. The consumer may think you are not there to help them and will be on the defense, so remember to present other options when it’s the right time.
  7. Be genuine. Remember there is a real live person on the other end of the phone who needs to know they matter. Have a genuine conversation with them – the kind where you listen and respond to what is said. On the flipside, you are also a real live person. Make that clear to the consumer by meeting them halfway and helping them resolve their account while considering their unique situation.
  8. Do not make on consumer pay back taxes on another consumer’s debt.  The reasons consumers are unable to pay may all seem the same, but it’s actually unique to each individual. Treating them like they are the same is not fair to you, your client or the consumer. For example, being unemployed does not always equal inability to pay. It means something different for everyone. Take the time to determine what it means for every consumer instead of assuming it is a stall or a refusal to pay.
  9. End on a positive. You know the saying: “It’s not a matter of if they can pay, it’s a matter of who they will pay.” That applies to every stage of a collection call. Not everyone can pay when you ask them to, but there is always next time when they call you back or you follow up. Closing a “no” call in a positive way will always create a better return and leave the door open for the consumer to pay

Originally published in ACA International’s Pulse Magazine – Written by Kelli Krueger