2020 was a challenging year for the debt collection industry.
One major reason was the significant increase in the debt collection complaint volume. While companies were responding to an average of 3,700 complaints per month in 2019, the average was 4,300 in the year 2020.
This increase in complaints is concerning because it takes away valuable time and resources you could have otherwise dedicated to improving your collection efforts.
But, the good news is that you can eliminate this concern. And it can start with small and easy changes.
Of the total complaints filed against debt collections, 8% were for poor communication tactics. Since communication is entirely in your control, this is the lowest hanging fruit you can target. And this post will help you with that.
We’ll go over debt collection tips to improve your collection calling efforts, ultimately resulting in more collections and fewer complaints.
Why do you need debt collection tips?
When looking for debt collection tips to improve your calling, there are two aspects of communications that you need to focus on:
- Soft skills
- Technical features
Both these aspects collectively work towards improving the impact of your collection calls. This, in turn, helps you:
- Avoid complaints and legal actions from debtors.
- Improve your chances of recovering debts.
- Build a good reputation in the industry.
Given that all of this is important to help you meet your business goals faster and more efficiently, these debt collection tips are not something you can ignore. So let’s dive in and see what you need to keep in mind while making collection calls.
Soft skill debt collection tips
Soft skills will help people making the calls drive conversations with debtors smoothly and make each interaction more productive. Here are a few crucial soft skill tips that callers must implement.
1. Implement active listening.
The first thing all debt collectors need to implement is active listening.
Every call with a debtor is, essentially, a negotiation. There’s always a story behind the debtor skipping their payment, and it’s vital for you to know that story.
When you have these facts, you can negotiate an agreement that doesn’t overwhelm the debtor, and gets your money back.
Plus, active listening also helps you build a rapport with the debtor. This makes them more open to discussing their issues with you rather than trying to avoid you.
Implementing this debt collection tip is not really hard. Here’s how you can do it:
- Train your callers by role-playing calls to emphasize the good practices and work upon bad practices.
- Craft your debt collection calling scripts with relevant indicators like [Pause and listen] or [Take notes] after questions, so the caller has a clear idea of what to do.
For more details on implementing this tip in your collection calls, check out our guide on active listening in calls here.
2. Always do your research before the call.
The one outcome of every call that you need to steer clear of is “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” This delays the process and gives debtors an extension without a commitment to pay.
So before you place the call, make sure that you’re armed with all the relevant facts to stay in control. At the very least, you should be aware of:
- The exact amount owed.
- Terms of the credit/loan.
- Payment due date.
- Account and contact details of the debtor.
- Payment/interaction history.
- Payment method options.
Ideally, you should have all the information stored in your CRM or an excel sheet which makes implementing this debt collection tip a breeze.
3. Let debtors know about the flexibility in payment options.
This may not be as much a skill but more like a negotiation tactic that you bring out later in the call.
Often debtors may not be in a position to pay their debt in full. In that case, make sure to let them know that they have some flexibility in paying you back.
Active listening also comes into play here. Listen to what the debtor has to say and help them create a plan based on their current situation. This will make things easier for the debtor while ensuring that you recover the entire debt.
When putting this debt collection tip into action, just make sure you:
- Listen to the debtor first and give them this option only if they genuinely need it.
- Document the customized plan that you’re creating for the debtor.
- Schedule payment reminders and follow-ups based on the new plan.
4. Document everything
When making debt collection calls, documentation is your friend.
Make sure that you’re taking detailed notes of every interaction and discussion with the debtor. This data informs future interactions with the debtor, including future disputes that may arise.
Add these notes against the debtor’s profile in your CRM or excel sheet and if someone else interacts with the debtor, ensure that they also update the profile accordingly.
Putting this tip for debt collection to work is not as complicated as it may seem. Here are a few ways you can go about it:
- Keep a notepad (physical or on your computer) handy and write down all comments during or after the interaction.
- Record all calls so you can go over them at the end of the day to note down these comments. Make sure you let the debtor know that the call is being recorded.
5. Be friendly but authoritative.
The tone you speak with has a significant impact on the listener, which is why you have to be mindful of it.
When making debt collection calls, your tone has to be friendly but authoritative. You have to be friendly to build a rapport with the debtor, so they feel comfortable telling you anything. This paves the way for more open discussions and hence higher chances of recovery.
But, you also have to be a little authoritative, so the debtor doesn’t take you for granted. Just make sure that you or your messaging don’t sound threatening. It makes interactions more stressful for the debtor and increases their likelihood of skipping.
Here are a few things you can do to implement this debt collection tip:
- Record a call and listen to it to know how you sound. You can make adjustments in the subsequent calls accordingly.
- Try to speak at a lower pitch.
- Always smile when talking. Even though the receiver doesn’t see it, they’ll be able to feel it in your voice.
- Pause often and try to avoid interjections as much as possible.
Technical feature tips
Another aspect of your interactions that you need to focus on is efficiency.
While the tips we mentioned above make your conversations more seamless, the technical features below ensure that you get the most out of each of these calls.
Here are some debt collection tips and the features that your calling tool must have to execute them.
1. Send a text message summarizing the call.
Each collection call you make has to result in a commitment. Whether that’s collecting payment or scheduling a call back to discuss a new plan, it has to be nailed down.
To ensure this, callers often end the call by summarizing the debtor’s next steps, commitments, and the debt collector’s expectations. While that’s an excellent way to end a call, a better way would be to also send them this summary in writing so it stays on top of their minds and in their records.
Text messages are perfect for communicating these. They have a high open-rate (98%) and are a personal and quick form of communication.
Most calling tools may not have the option to send an SMS follow-up too. In that case, you will have to use a separate SMS marketing tool to send these summaries after a call.
In CallHub, however, you can send these summary texts right from the calling dashboard using the text-from-call-center feature. You can customize each text based on the call’s outcome and either enter a number to send it to (if you called a landline) or simply send it to the number you called.
You can learn more about our texting-from-call-center feature here.
2. Mark the outcome of each call
The possible outcomes of your collection calls are plenty. Did the debtor commit to making the payment, did they ask for a call back later, did they ask to opt-out of communications?
The outcome of each call informs further action. Marking the result of each call helps you with list segmentation and taking these actions in bulk. Remember that these call outcomes are only meant for you to tag debtor profiles in your CRM. They are different from call summaries that you also send out to the debtor.
Say you made 100 calls in a day. 60 of those asked for a payment reminder, 20 requested to opt-out of calls, and the remaining didn’t answer.
Manually going through each number the next day and moving forward based on the interaction would be a nightmare. But if you had the outcomes marked, you could just filter out the contacts marked with “SMS follow-up,” add them to your texting tool and schedule text reminders. Similarly, you could filter out the “no answers” and start calling them again.
In CallHub, call dispositions help you with this debt collection tip. Call dispositions are tags that indicate each call’s outcome. You have a set of default dispositions that you can use (like no answer, call back, etc.). But, you can also make custom dispositions of your own.
These tags appear against the debtor’s profile (as shown below) in your CRM, allowing you to filter them out quickly.
3. Send payment reminders before calling.
More than often, people may just forget to pay their debt or might need a push. In these cases, it’s unnecessary to use your time and resources to get in touch with them over a call. A friendly automated email or text reminder would work well.
However, to ensure that it delivers the desired result, you have to communicate this reminder through the debtor’s preferred communication channel.
A McKinsey report showed that debtors are 12 percent more likely to make a payment when contacted through their preferred mode of communication.
The report also showed that the preferred (and most effective) channels were text messages and emails. With emails, however, the low open rate may not ensure that the message is read. On the other hand, texts don’t pose this problem (with a 98% open rate), making them the perfect channel to send reminders.
You’ll need a mass texting software, like CallHub, to send these reminders. With the tool at hand, all you need to do is upload your contact details of the debtors, craft your reminder message, and schedule when the text is to be sent. Our post on debt collection text message samples can help you with drafting the perfect text reminders.
4. Use personalized calling scripts.
One of the debt collection tips we spoke about was doing your research before the call. While it’s good practice, how much information do you think you can memorize and use during the call?
This can be challenging, especially when there are several other tips that you also need to keep in mind.
This is where personalized debt collection calling scripts help you.
So instead of memorizing data, you can craft scripts with placeholders for various details like first name, debt amount, etc. Your calling tool then picks up this information from debtor profiles in your CRM and fills these placeholders during each call.
In CallHub, this is achieved through merge tags. When creating your calling campaign, you can add these merge tags, as shown below, to your script to personalize it.
While there are several default merge tags in the tool, you can also create custom tags based on your needs.
Making debt collection calls can be stressful for both the debtor and the recovery agent. But these above debt collection tips will surely make the process more seamless for both parties.
All you need to do is follow the best practices above and make sure you have the right tool to help you implement them. CallHub has you covered there.
Our comprehensive communication platform takes care of both your calling and texting needs, all from one platform. Just sign-up for a free trial and try it out for yourself.
Featured image source: Photo by Charanjeet Dhiman on Unsplash