When Collecting Debts, Respect Your Customer

Posted by Ryan Howard


At BYL Collections, we've written plenty of articles about the federal and state regulations behind customer collections. We've written how to attract renters, how to stay in compliance, how to make sure your customers pay on time and the many, many wrong ways to go about debt collections. We emphasize customer service because we believe in treating people the way we'd want to be treated. The way we see it, positive interactions with customers don't have to stop after the sale is made.

One of the most powerful ways to succeed in business is to respect your customer.


Customer Appreciation

An appreciated customer is a repeat customer. Your sales team knows how to appreciate customers in order to gain their trust and earn their business. Beyond that, the customer service offered by your business will help retain the customers as well. Building a respectful relationship between your business and your customer can be as simple as a few things:

  • Get their name - When speaking to customers, the simple act of getting their name goes a long way in creating a personalized experience.
  • Use your manners - Saying "please", "thank you" and "how is your day going" aren't just niceties that your mom taught you.
  • Listen - If you're going to ask "how is your day" or "how can I help", listen intently for their answer. Simply reading a script is too cold.
  • Stay neutral - One of the toughest things to do when a customer is upset is to not react. Sometimes a good listener is all it takes to restore calm.
  • Value the relationship - Every business has their own way of showing they value their customer, from special discounts to gifts. 

When a customer feels that they are more than dollar signs to a business, when they feel truly valued and heard, they will build a long-standing trust with that business. This trust relationship affects how long they stay with your company, if they refer others to your company and if they treat your business with respect as well.


How Respect Affects Collections

In many cases, customers already feel the pressure and shame of an account in collections. The average consumer may not be aware that as many as 1 in 20 Americans have an account in collections or are past due on a bill. Because of this overall feeling, contact with a debt collector is wrought with potential for an angry, frustrated phone call. Here's what our collections experience has taught us: many of your customers actually work hard to fulfill their obligations in a timely manner. In fact, there may be extenuating circumstances that have caused a non-payment and your customer may not be aware that your business is willing to work with their situation.

When a customer feels respected and valued by your organization, yes, even on a collections call, they will react better. When fear is taken out of the equation, the situation opens up possibilities for paying your bills sooner than you might have expected. 


How to Offer Respect on a Collections Call

Your business collections or accounts receivable department can follow the same customer appreciation advice as your customer service department. Collections calls require understanding, positivity and finesse to overcome objections. Here are a few powerful ways to respect your customer on a collections call:

  • Center yourself before you get on the phone - Respect begins before the interaction. Be aware of your own mood so you won't affect the customer's mood.
  • Educate yourself - Look at the account history to get a better understanding of any other payment delays or challenges.
  • Inform without blame/shame - Nothing will cause your customer to go on the defensive faster than shaming them. Validate the debt with the customer so they are aware of the reason for the phone call. 
  • Gather information/Discover the problem - Ask questions and inquire as to the cause of the late or non-payment. 
  • Resolve/Offer logical suggestions - Start by asking for the balance in full. You can offer payment options to obtain the balance over time or other payment options available through your accounts receivable department.
  • Be professional, positive but persistent - Persistence could turn a customer defensive. A professional and courteous collections agent could still break down that wall and construct a solution that benefits both parties.

The poet Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Offering respect to your customers, showing them that they are truly valued, is something they will remember when you have to call them for an unpaid bill. Collections calls can be handled with the same care and communications skills of your sales and customer service teams. Respect your customer. They will have more respect for your business and be more open to resolve conflict in the relationship.

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Topics: Debt Collection, Customer service