Debt collection does not have to be a drama. In fact, training your collection agents in good debt collection techniques can result in a higher rate of successful collections and less stress for your agents. People expect the debt collection agent to be the heavy and the bad guy, so giving them someone personable and professional may be enough to get them on board with a payment plan. Training your collection agents with good debt collection techniques means that they are compliant with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Let’s look at some common-sense training techniques, scripts, and strategies.
Ask any outbound call or what modern invention they most hate, and the answer will probably be caller ID. This little technological marvel is a stable feature on mobile phones and comes in most fixed location phones. The best debt collection software suites allow the company to generate a local appearing phone number. This makes it more likely that the person you are contacting will pick up the phone. That local number is often a key to contact. It’s easy to get frustrated when no one picks up your call and instead either blocks the number were immediately sends calls to voicemail. However, agents should take full advantage of automation to leave a voicemail every time. Discuss with your agents how often to call back and how to avoid the appearance of harassment.
Anyone can enter the words “debt collection” into Google and come out with a list of debt collection fouls that can land a company in hot water with the regulatory agencies that can include the FCC and the FTC. Download this information and train your personnel with it until they can repeat it in their sleep. These regulations were passed into law because of bad apples in the debt collection industry, and they have more than a passing resemblance to a parade of scams including IRS scams, grandparent scams, or scams that masquerade as legitimate companies. Using heavy pressure and scare tactics makes a collection agent sound like a potential scammer. It also helps if the collection agent cheerfully volunteers the rights of the debtor as a way to inoculate against the impression that debt collectors are heavy-handed bad guys.
Scripting and Procedure for Good Debt Collection Techniques and Strategies
Keeping scripts on hand makes sure that agents don’t go off on their own trying to make a debtor cough up. If the collection agent is unfamiliar with the client and the debt, have them fully review the file including the type of debt being collected, the date and amount of the last payment and how far past due the account currently stands.
- Identifying the client. Make sure that you are speaking directly to the person concerned with the account. While agents may speak to third parties, information directly concerning the debt is only to be relayed to the debtor directly. When reaching a third party the agent may identify themselves as a debt collection agency, ask for up to date contact information, and leave contact information for the agency and agent.
- When the debtor verifies their identity, the agent should immediately identify themselves and the company, then relay the information that this is a debt collection call. State the account that is past due, the amount, and the days that the account has been delinquent. Ask if they can pay the full balance at this time.
- If the client cannot pay the balance in full, the agent needs to change gears. This is where most debtors will expect the heavy pressure and harassment to kick in. Surprised them by being pleasant and helpful. Understand that most people do not go out and plan to get into debt, entering into an agreement for items or services without intent to pay is called fraud. Most of these people are not fraudsters but caught between a high pile of bills and a low pile of money.
- Ask what happened. There are various reasons that people become delinquent in their accounts. Some are not financially literate, others may have lost a job or had another life-changing event occur. They or a family member may have incurred a raft of medical bills, or they could have become a victim of fraud, or there may have been a life-changing event in their family or personal life.
- Help. Ask the client if they can make a small payment today and offer to work out a realistic payment plan for them to pay down the balance over time. Remember, sometimes you must give a little to get a little so be prepared to negotiate. If they can pay a quarter of the balance now, offer to cut out the accrued late fees. If they can pay half the balance now and the remainder in another month, offer the amount of interest that is building up on the account.
When Things Go Wrong
The five steps above are the best-case scenario when using good debt collection techniques. However, collection call center managers and agents need to recognize that sometimes people behave in less than optimal ways when confronted with something that they feel they have done wrong or are ashamed of. Debt is no different. Some people will be belligerent, profane, insulting, and obscene when confronted with a collection call, even one using good debt collection techniques and strategies. There is little to be done aside from telling agents not to take it personally, to take a break and get a cup of coffee, and to talk it out with a more experienced agent. Management should support agents, and recognize that this is a stressful job, but one that is appreciated.
To find out more about good debt collection techniques and strategies, download ChaseData’s free e-book: http://info.chasedatacorp.com/debt-collection-agency-strategies and contact ChaseData for a free trial of debt collection call center software. Let the technology make it easier for agents to contact, collect, and track accounts.