Building Long-Term (Payment) Relationships
Too often, the focus in the collections industry is on how quickly a collector can collect on a past due debt and move on to the next account. Most companies typically require their employees to make an average of 10 calls per hour, leaving only 6 minutes on average to dedicate to each customer. Between servicing the customer, building a relationship, making payment arrangements and setting the groundwork for future payments, is this 6 minute time-frame truly effective? Is the appropriate amount of time being allotted to listen to the customers needs and help them resolve their long-term issues? The answer in most cases is… No.
The fact is, every customer is different and every customer has distinct circumstances that caused them to fall past due on their bills. Taking the time to understand these unique conditions can’t be crunched into a small window of talk time without compromising the integrity of the customer-collector relationship.
So what’s the most effective way to obtain consistent payment arrangements while building a relationship with the customer that helps them resolve their long-term delinquency? After working and listening to thousands of collection calls over the past 10+ years, I’ve found and noted that top-performing collectors in the industry implement the following techniques:
Tone - Utilize a positive voice inflection to set a positive tone for the potentially challenging conversation to come.
Inquire - Ask what happened? When did it happen? How did it happen? These open-ended questions help fill in the blanks and establish a personal connection between the customer and the collector.
Listen - Allot the customer enough time to explain their situation. Once the problem is identified, both parties can focus on targeting a mutually beneficial solution. Remember, the more information the customer provides, the better the arrangement that can be reached.
These three critical tactics have proven to bare many fruits for top-performing collectors throughout the industry. As this method is exercised more and more, the collection questions become more direct and overall decision-making becomes much easier, which will culminate in the achievement of high collection rates and long-term resolutions.
The Dalai Lama said it best:
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But If you listen, you may learn something new.”
And in collections, this “something new” is what leads to solid payment arrangements.