Ten tips for successful debt collection
PREPARE: Review the paperwork on the debtor before making the call. Know the history of the account, credit record, the promises kept/broken. Have all records in front of you, ready for reference.
ATTITUDE: Adopt a straight, professional business-like attitude. You have a contract, you delivered the goods, money is owed, and you have a right to expect payment. Never let it become personal. Don´t yell or raise your voice; and NEVER swear. Don´t threaten; legal action is your recourse.
CONTACT: Make sure you´re talking to the right person. Don´t let the individual brush you off with "You´ll have to talk to the bookkeeper." Identify the person who will pay the bill. If you can´t get through after several calls, tell the secretary that you know your calls are being screened. Indicate the purpose of your call and if necessary give deadlines.
CONTROL: Control the conversation. Keep it focused on the debt and on the repayment schedule. Don´t let the customer sidetrack you with personal history, excuses, etc. Remember, the object of your call is to collect money, or get a commitment, not to become buddies with the customer or win arguments.
FLEXIBLE: Be ready to adjust to the situation. Think about the kind of customer you´re dealing with and adapt to meet the circumstances. Be prepared to accept a reasonable payment schedule, and a willingness to deal with a customer´s circumstances.
NOTES: Keep detailed, accurate notes of every contact with the customer. Probe for further information on the customer. Notes of these contacts will help you in subsequent phone calls, and may be invaluable in litigation. Good notes will also help in further credit decisions, or in cases where skip tracing may be needed.
PRODUCTIVE: Keep contact brief and to the point. This is a business call, not a social one. View your efforts on a ratio of time expended to results achieved. Long conversations probably mean the customer is stalling you, or trapping you in the buddy syndrome.
PRECISE: Never leave a contact open ended, such as "We´ll talk next week," or "I´ll send what I can." Every contact should result in a commitment to payment, of a specific amount, by a specific date, even the check number the customer is using to pay the pledge.
TIME: The longer an account is held, the less likely it is that it will be recovered. If payment or a payout is not arranged within 90 days, place the claim with a collection agency or start legal proceedings.