Collection Skills Training Magazine Section


conflict resolution dispute resolution

Resolving disputes is a necessary attribute that a debt collector must have.
The dispute at hand can range from simple to complex yet its common resultant is 'non-payment' or 'delayed-payment'. Both of these outcomes are unacceptable to accounts receivable management.

Skillful resolution of conflict means enhanced performance; productivity and an opportunity to improve customer relations. (The term dispute resolution may also be used interchangeably with conflict resolution.)

An attempt to resolve disputes /conflicts requires that an effective process be followed before a solution is handed out hastily. In essence an ineffective process could yield an ineffective result. It may also encourage the debtor to bring up disputes in future that lack in merit or are unfounded.

Here is an example to illustrate the point: A contracting firm during repairs left an ugly blotch on the broadloom in an elderly couple's living room. In order to appease the couple the firm replaced the entire broadloom of the room, later to find out that the couple would have settled just for a small rug to cover and hide the grungy patch!
The envoy of the contracting firm obviously missed the most basic steps of resolving a dispute!

If a dispute arises, try applying the following six steps to resolve it:

Sometimes conflicts occur not because of one person being right or the other being wrong; instead, it is just a matter of varied perception that creates the disagreement.
Once, I wished a tennis player ‘good luck’ before his match. Later, to my dismay, I found out that the player took my ‘good luck’ wish as a taunt! So you see how perceptions, not intent, can sometimes be the cause of disputes.
First, understand the problem and the underlying issue.
Let the other party state the problem as they perceive it.
Ask questions to extract facts.
Do not make assumptions.
You may then state the problem as you see it without making an accusation or sounding judgmental.

When you ask questions, commit to listening with the intent of finding a solution. This trait solves half the problem. We mostly like to interrupt, talk and complete other people’s sentences and are busy planning our response rather than listening to fully comprehend what the other person is trying to say.
Make notes and paraphrase (for clarity) during the process so that the other party envisions you as a person who seems to be interested and one who lends an ear to their concern.

Empathy signals that you are willing to understand the situation. Hence, if apt, show empathy. Do not prejudge or lecture. Keep the communication clear and open.

Establish and tag the exact issue that needs to be resolved and get the other party’s acknowledgement on it.
Ask the other party what their expectations are in resolving the dispute. (Simply stated: What do they want?)
State your concerns, if any. Review alternatives. Build consensus around the solution with or without concessions, seek common ground again with or without trade-offs.

Solutions that you propose may appear biased to the other party and therefore strategically appear to be on their side. Reach a solution that both parties can agree upon. Adopt a win-win strategy to gain cooperation. Any trickery or deception will trace its steps back to a greater conflict.

Follow-up and follow through. Do not promise what cannot be delivered. As the adage goes: "Under Promise and Over Deliver!"
Make the implementation of the solution time-bound and in return, get a firm-commitment of payment.

A collector is a prime point of customer- contact, which renders resolving disputes and conflicts an essential skill for collecting outstanding receivables. Get to be a skilled swimmer in the ocean of debt collection; …that way, you will not rely on lifeguards to bail you out.

The above six steps can be summed up in a simple mnemonic, PLEASE!

If the above steps do not work, you may have to resort to bringing in a third-party to break the impasse. Good Luck!!

Author: Puru Grover , M.B.A., LL.M., © Credit Guru Inc |

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