In debt collection, mere focus on improving recovery rate can lead to unfair and inconsistent treatment of customers. A collector is front-line staff who speaks directly with customers and hence can directly impact customer experience negatively or positively. Being customer-centric is important as it also calibrates with government regulatory demands as regulators continue to be eager watchdogs of collection practices especially as it relates to consumer debt collection.
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One of the key job functions of a debt collector is overcoming customer objections while maintaining good customer service skills. A rather tough order-of-operations challenge!
What are Objections?
Are they 'opposition' or 'resistance to payment requests' or are they 'opportunities' that steer to getting paid?
Real objections if resolved, should result in payment.
As a collector, get a firm hand on the 'objection tiller' and then don't just 'Overcome' but also 'Steer'. Steer the conversation towards your destination of getting-paid ...and don't be late, arrive there on time!
Own the process and keep control.
You are an ace objection handler if you can make customer answer their own objections and at the same time are able to infuse urgency to pay now and on-time in future.
The following are some Dos and Don’ts:
- At the outset, be 'prepared' for objections as they can come anytime during the collection call.
Make your list of top 10 common objections that you face on a regular basis.
Consult with colleagues and seniors to build your firewall response to these common objections. This will give you conviction and you will have an advance game-plan of managing objections nimbly.
- On a collection call don't appear to be nervous or apologetic about asking for what is owed to you.
- Make no assumptions or guess the intention of the customer. Validate by asking questions. Clarify if need be. Rephrase an objection as a Question. To probe, don't be afraid to ask tough questions about the customer and their business. Questions demonstrate that you are interested in their problem; are making an attempt to understand; they help in pinpointing the issue and then help resolve.
Anticipate questions and be ready with pre worked-out answers.
- When you ask a question, be willing to listen. It is important that you listen with intent without interrupting. Make notes while listening. This will become your arsenal for any rebuttals.
- Deny any baseless assumptions that your customer makes. Give them proof of why you disagree or deny.
- Do not get defensive. Instead showing empathy demonstrates confidence and professionalism. Appear to be on the side of your customer without losing sight of the best interest of your employer.
- On the flip side, don't get aggressive and hostile. Don't sound condescending, lose your cool or take things personally. Try to maintain a positive attitude.
- Be patient. The process may require calling the customer routinely. Don’t give up easily. At times you may need to 'pull-back' if necessary...but don't 'give-in' (avoid infertile arguments) or 'give-up'!
- Be frugal with concessions. Don't give anything till you get something in return. Concessions lower the perceived value of your product/service and your organization.
- Is the customer "Requesting More Info" or help in "Resolving a Dispute"? You should be a catalyst in speedy reconciling of customer disputes as they pertain to payment of outstanding balances that are overdue. But before setting out to do so, set a condition with your customer "If I do this for you what is in it for me? i.e. Will I get PAID?!
- Appear knowledgeable. Know your product or service and the sales process involved. Know the "unique selling proposition" (USP) of your product or service. This is to resell the product/service when soliciting prompt payment and to remind the customer what they bought into in the first place. Show the customer how you have already delivered "return on investment" (ROI) and are now deservedly seeking prompt payment in return. If the customer is prioritizing payments to vendors then help them in prioritizing their payment in your favour.
- If things are not aligning in your favour, then let them know the consequences of non-payment. At no point threaten or use a threatening tone.
- Communicate what will be in the best interest of the customer. Motivate them to pay by making the customer realize the benefits of paying on time. For example: "Keeping the account in good credit standing with no service interruptions" (value proposition).
Once the objection is resolved make sure you concurrently take corrective action to curb future occurrences of the same!