Agent Word Choices in Debt Collection
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Debt collection may sound simple; a consumer owes outstanding monies, so you reach out to collect on the past due balances. However, it’s not that easy, especially for third party collectors. Every word matters in debt collection phone calls. The right words can get an individual to pay their debts. In the same vein, the wrong word choice could open your agency to liability. Remember that there are specific laws regulating communications between a collector and a debtor. For example, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices during debt collection. As such, you want agents to be well-trained before ever speaking a word to a debtor.
Educate Yourself on the Account
Be prepared before ever reaching out to a consumer. Remember, once an agent picks up the phone, the sole goal is to set up a successful payment arrangement or receive a payment in full. Before even selecting word choices, make sure that your agents have supporting account information readily available. You don’t want to be clueless on what to say next should a debtor challenge the agents’ claims. Ensure supporting documents, customer’s account status, and notes from prior contacts are easily and readily available. Don’t forget to start the call with a smile – sounding cheerful relaxes the person on the other end of the line.
Make the Call
Armed with the account details, your agent is now ready to make the collection call. Remember, the goal is to remind them of their delinquent payment status and determine the reasons for the payment delay. Begin by first introducing yourself and why you’re calling. Ensure your name, where you are calling from, and why you are calling is crystal clear.
Now is where agent word choice comes into play. You need to help individuals while keeping them accountable. People will always have an excuse as to why they haven’t paid debts. One influencing factor an agent can use is the power of reciprocity. We all have a desire to reciprocate. For instance, we say “good morning” after someone wishes us the same, or “thank you” when someone opens the door. Now, these words are not asking for payment of a debt, but they contribute towards setting a positive environment and influencing customers to pay.
When we say “sorry,” we’re empathetic. Most human beings will feel obligated to this kindness. And when we say “help,” we offer some assistance. This way, debtors will see you as a partner and not an enemy. If a debtor tells you that they can’t pay their debts because they are having issues, you could say, “I’m sorry” and quickly follow with something else like “however I’m trying to help you avoid…” You can say legal action, bad credit score, etc. “and I’d like us to work together to avoid this issue.”
Now, you also want to sound professional but not threatening to your clients. Be careful to avoid confrontation or manipulation of any sort. Be calm and listen to a debtor’s story. It’s essential the consumer feels they are in control, while many try to accomplish this in a harassing and angry manner – never respond in a similar tone. Be neutral, be emphatic, and be pleasant. Following this advice will hopefully result in successful repayment terms on an account.
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