Too many professionals consider communication a “soft” skill—that is, a non-technical skill that doesn’t require formal training. Unfortunately, that viewpoint leads to significant problems. It devalues communication to a “free time” skill. You know, a skill you’ll get around to developing when you have some free time.
That free time never comes. As a result, millions of professionals don’t communicate as well as they could. In fact, only 21% of organizations say they communicate simply and clearly. This statistic doesn’t just encompass confusing emails from coworkers or unclear instructions from your boss. It includes communications with customers, decision-makers and the market as a whole.
If four-fifths of companies communicate poorly, your debt collection operations are no exception. Debt collection departments must communicate clearly to achieve results. Talking with customers to reach a settlement is a key function of the job. So, the question is: how many settlements are you leaving on the table thanks to poor communication?
Communication as a Competitive Advantage
Effective communication gives you an edge over the competition. But, we’re not just talking about phone communication. Customers do business over multiple online channels now, including social media, web and mobile.
In the past, a business controlled the narrative: consumers knew only what they saw advertised and what company representatives told them. Occasionally, savvy consumers sought out a couple of people they knew who had done business with the company. But now, a consumer in his pajamas can thoroughly vet a company. He can even converse with anyone in the world about the company’s merits, via online communications like social media.
The result? Consumers prefer to self-serve longer throughout the purchasing cycle. In fact, on average, they get 65% of the way through the cycle before they want to speak to a company rep. This behavior isn’t limited to shopping binges or buying luxuries online. It’s how people increasingly prefer to do business, pay bills, manage accounts and, yes, communicate about and pay their debts.
So, you’ll need to master each communication channel to capture the competitive advantage offered by effective communication.
The Importance of Centralized Scripts
To start mastering various communication channels, it’s critical to centralize the various communication scripts your organization uses.
Why? Because standardizing what collectors say is the best way to ensure quality and consistency across channels, debt scenarios and debt collections software. You’re going to face different communication situations across each of the four debt collection phases (soft, pre-litigation, litigation and recovery).
For each phase, you’ll want at least one script that gives collectors a template for each of these parts of the conversation:
- Discovery Phase
- Resolution Phase
- Addressing Concerns and Arguments
Centralized communication scripts must be tailored to your organization’s specific business goals. But, there are common tips to remember during any communication scenario that, if used, will improve communication. We’ve collected these tips into a single, actionable checklist you can use to crush communication during each collections phase.
The Customer Communication Checklist
Checklists aren’t just simple tools to get things done. They’re highly important assets that could dramatically improve performance if used correctly. That’s showcased in Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto, a review of how the use of checklists in business and medicine boost results and save lives.
It’s no different in the unpredictable world of debt collection. No matter what business case you encounter, channel you use or debt scenario you tackle, a standardized communication checklist can help.
With one, you’ll be able to better address customer questions and concerns to speed up the settlement process, no matter who in your organization is handling the communication. Find below a checklist your collectors can print out and start using today.
- Identify yourself in full compliance with debt collection regulations in your country.
- Establish rapport with the customer. Examples include talking about:
- How is their day?
- How are they doing?
- How pleased you are to reach them.
- Raise the topic of a debt obligation courteously, professionally and mildly. Emphasize mutual resolution, not retribution from the creditor.
- Communicate the benefits of resolution for the customer. It’s about them, not your firm.
- Confirm that customers have fully understood this introduction. Ask if there are any follow-up questions or clarifications. Doing so means you start the conversation from a solid communication base.
- Ask the customer for an update on their relationship with your organization. Frame this communication in terms of getting all the details possible about their case, so you help as best you can.
- Confirm the reasons for late or no payment in a professional manner. This may be a sensitive subject for the customer, so raise it tactfully.
- Express again your desire to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.
- Offer a resolution to the customer based on your company’s centralized and agreed-upon approach.
- Emphasize that resolution is mutually advantageous.
- Highlight the ease and speed with which the obligation can be resolved now, rather than at a later date.
- Reiterate how reaching an agreement will address key customer pain points like:
- Future worry about the debt.
- Inability to resolve other obligations.
- Communications with creditors.
- Material impact on credit score, ability to borrow, etc.
- Thank the customer for their cooperation and commitment to resolution.
Addressing Concerns or Arguments
- Remain calm, collected and polite at all times. No exceptions.
- Avoid making promises or threats.
- Always emphasize the desire for mutually beneficial cooperation and resolution.
Image Credit: kkirugi via Flickr