Getting cash from past-due customers has never been such a struggle.
Not only are companies still feeling effects of the recession, but they’re also jumping through hoops with Obamacare and the current tax season. Point is, your clients are more likely now than before to see how long they can stretch you until ultimately having to pay up.
Now’s the time to really evaluate your A/R and collections staff and see if there are any areas in need of improvement. Here are some great tips from Robert Tharnash, VP of ABC-Amega, Inc.
Make sure they have the essentials
Check that collections staffers are only making calls when they have this information in front of them:
- exact amount owed
- terms of sale
- products/services purchased
- payment due date, and
- other open invoices, even those not yet past due.
It will also help out if your staff has the customer’s payment record with your company, as well as other payment history. Determine the characteristics of this customer. Are they getting gradually slower with their payments? Or is this an uncharacteristic mark on their otherwise immaculate payment record?
Listen to the conversation
A no-brainer for evaluating your collections staff is to listen to how well they perform on the phone. But do you know exactly what to listen for? Keep these signs of an effective collections call in mind:
- Addressing the customer by name. This shows respect but also commands attention. Just keep in mind staffers not do this too often, as it starts to sound forced after a while.
- Agreeing with the debtor. This doesn’t mean your collections staff should agree with the customer’s excuses. Instead, staffers should be understanding when a client gives their reasons or issues when it comes to payment. Staffers should be saying something to the effect of, “I can understand how that would happen.” This will open the lines of communication for a productive conversation.
- Let customers do the talking. Instead of taking the lead, collectors should be letting customers fill in the blanks for most of the conversation. By refusing to take the lead, your staffers are putting themselves in a position of power.
- Silence. Working off that last bullet, silence is one of the most effective tools in collections. Every now and then, staffers should wait about five seconds before responding to the customer.
Deal with anger professionally
Some debtors will get angry about a collections call before your side even completes a sentence. The key here is to not match their anger, but stay positive and resolute. When a customer starts screaming:
- Stay calm. Remind them you can’t help them if they’re screaming.
- Consider saying, “Can you hang on a moment? I can’t understand what you’re saying.” Then put the phone down for five to ten seconds. Pick up the phone and say, “I’m back” and continue the conversation.
- If all else fails, say, “This obviously isn’t a good time for you. When would be best for me to call you back?” If they’re serious about getting the debt resolved, they won’t want a call back – they’ll want to figure it out right then and there.