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What Do I Say When...

writing notes after complicated collections phone call

Be honest. The last time a consumer claimed he never got your agency’s collection notice or gave you some other sort of objection response or stall, how did you feel?

Did you know what to say to move the call forward and get him to make payment?

Or, did you wish you had a little birdie on your shoulder telling you everything to say and do?

It’s a terrible feeling being on the phone with a consumer and not knowing what to say or when or how to say it, and your voice cracks, or you talk too fast, or you just don’t ask for payment in full at all.

It’s also a lot of pressure knowing that the call can quickly escalate if the consumer does not like how you responded to his objection. If you’ve ever unintentionally created conflict or stress with your words or inadvertently moved a collection call backward instead of forward, you aren't alone.

Now, think about how frequently consumers object or get angry over the same thing.

As a long-time agency owner I’ve found that there are certain situations that come up every day – like when a consumer claims he never got your agency’s collection notice – and because they happen all the time, we can plan ahead for how we are going to respond to them. Collection managers: you’ll know if your collectors are struggling over certain conversations because they’ll start their questions to you with, What do I say when… .

Pre-scripting your responses to your most common consumer conflicts, stalls, or objections – I call them “pain points” – gives you the time to brainstorm a convincing and powerful response. When you’re in the heat of the moment with a consumer, you don’t have that time.

Also, when you’re in a tense exchange, it’s easy to become emotional and defensive and only focus on the problem rather than on any solution. When you’re scripting your response, you’re removed from the situation, and it’s easier to push past those emotions and focus on a solution.

Let’s talk about some of the other benefits of pre-scripting:

  • You’ll collect more with less stress – Well thought-out, convincing, pre-written responses can prevent calls from escalating. That means fewer stressful phone calls and angry consumers, more calls resulting in payment, and your agency saves valuable time and energy. When it comes down to it, everything you say to a consumer, every word you speak, is either going to create connection with the consumer and move the call forward toward payment or create conflict and move the call backward. It’s like a GPS. One wrong turn can set you off course. A few wrong turns can keep you from ever reaching your destination. Pre-scripting your responses to your most common consumer objections ahead of time will help you find the simplest path to payment.

  • You’ll get a serious confidence boost – Knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it lifts your confidence and helps you stay in control of calls. There is a lot of pressure as a collector to establish trust and get off on the right foot with consumers very quickly. When consumers hear confidence in your voice, it increases your credibility. If a consumer hears uncertainty or doesn’t see you as reliable, they’re not going to want to engage with you any further.

  • You’ll create consistency on the collection floor – Scripts ensure all consumers are getting a similar experience – they’re not going to talk to a different collector at your agency and get a different response. This is important because mismatched communication erodes trust and credibility. Pre-scripting also helps make sure every consumer is being treated in with your agency’s values every time. For instance, at my agency, responding to consumers’ objections without negativity and always saying what we can do is very important to us and our agency’s mission, and our scripts reflect that.

  • You’ll reduce risk Process and procedure is your best friend when it comes to compliance. Pre-scripting helps ensure all consumers are being provided with the same accurate information that complies with your agency's polices and the industry’s laws and regulations.

The power is in the action statement

Think about all the times a consumer has asked you for something that was outside of what your agency could do for him. How did you respond? Did you cite your company’s policy? Did you simply tell him “No, I can’t do that”?

Now, think about how you felt the last time you went to someone with a problem or a question and all the person did was point out why he couldn’t help you. It feels like a punch-in-the-gut, right? Like it’s an uphill battle to get what you need and that person is wasting your time. Your consumer feels the same way.

We never want to tell a consumer “no” without providing them with an alternative solution or something to put them on a path to a positive outcome. This is another big reason why pre-scripting is helpful. It gives you time to think about the alternative solution you can provide, and you can refer to that solution when you’re on the phone with the consumer.

Even if your solution – I call it your “action statement” – is not the exact one the person is looking for, there’s always something you CAN do, and demonstrating your willingness to find an alternative solution can help you create a positive connection with that person and make them feel valued. It also builds a ton of respect and helps consumers perceive you as an ally who has their best interests in mind. This is important because when a consumer sees a collector as an ally he will be more receptive to what the collector is saying and will be more likely to take positive action like setting up a payment arrangement or paying the debt in full.

Coming up with your action statement often requires “out-of-the-box” thinking, which is why it’s helpful to make a list of your most common challenging situations and prepare your action statements ahead of time.

Here’s an example from my agency:

One of the biggest pain points in our office used to be that consumers would call us and say they’d like to pay a debt, but only if it we took it off their credit reports. Instead of telling them “that’s not possible” or explaining that our policy is we don’t do credit bartering and what they're requesting is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, we introduce them to a new solution, like telling them we’re happy to process their payment today and our office will update the credit bureau within 30 days that the account has been paid in full.

Pro Tip:

How you deliver your alternative solutions is incredibly important – more important than you might realize. If you’re an agency that already has your responses – your "action statements" – to your most frequent consumer objections planned out, consider how you are introducing those statements to consumers.

For example, in my office, one of our favorite phrases we use to introduce our action statements is “The great news is…” This primes the consumer to hear our solution and plants the seed for a positive outcome. It’s like hearing those words give consumers a sigh of relief and help them feel unburdened.

The better prepared you are, the better your outcome will be

When a collection call becomes heated it can be hard to think of what to say to turn the conversation around and get the consumer to make payment.

That’s why taking the time to review your most common consumer objections and prepare your action statements ahead of time is valuable. The better prepared you are as a collector, the better your outcome will be.

To learn more about pre-scripting and how the Collection Advantage program can help you troubleshoot your most challenging scenarios with consumers so you collect more with less stress, book a call with me here.

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