Phone Collections Pt 1- The Pre-Call

When it comes to collecting delinquent accounts for BHPH/LHPH, the telephone is still the usual point of first (direct) contact you have when a customer misses a payment. How to prepare for phone collections is just as important as what to say when they answer. This is part 1 of 2 for Telephone Collection Techniques. Part 2 will be the actual phone call with scripts and real-life examples.  

  1.  Be Friendly- The most basic of techniques is the best place to start. Whether a customer is 1 day past due or 101 days past due, the tone of your voice and the respect given is the exact same. There should be a degree of professionalism, but not sounding like a bill collector.  “Hello, this is Roger with AFS. Is Joe available?” sets an entirely different tone than, “Hello, this is Roger with AFS. I need to talk to Joe.” Like the old saying goes, “Please and Thank You go a long way!”

  2. Be Prepared- Being prepared does not mean knowing that they are “14 days late, $300 past due, late the last 4 payments and are generally in a bad mood so be ready!” Know exactly what you are going to do regardless of your customer’s response. You most certainly need to know the things just mentioned, but they are pieces that make up a picture as to why the delinquency has occurred. They are not arrows in a quiver to strategically shoot at them and shame someone into paying. Not only is that unprofessional, it doesn’t work. 

  3. Be ready with the scope of arrangements you are allowed to make. When they want to come in later that day, know that you have the authority to make that arrangement. If they want to come in in 2 weeks, be ready with how to handle it. Chances are you are working hard to talk to everyone and reduce the amount of delinquent payments your dealership is owed. Getting a customer on the phone is an opportunity to give customer service in a potential time of need. If the call ends without a firm commitment to come in to the office and speak with you, a golden opportunity is missed. In some cases, you might not get another chance until you’ve made dozens of phone calls and logged several miles in field calls.  

  4. Know the Goal of Your Call- Your goal is not (solely) to inform the customer they are past due. It will come up and be mentioned, but you are telling them something they already know. Don’t dwell on it! The goal should be to find out what happened to cause them to miss their payment and what day and time will they be in the office? 

  5. Let the Customer Talk- I have found that one of the most powerful phrases I use in telephone collections is simply, “What’s going on?”. I have found this works for all levels of delinquency. The customer that missed their payment 4 days ago, “Joe we missed you Friday. What’s going on?” will be usually be a simple response of something like “I just got busy, I’ll be in later today.” When someone hasn’t paid in 90+ days I would say something like, “Joe, it’s good to talk to you. I’ve been trying to reach you for quite a while, what’s going on?” Let them give you an idea of what the problem is. The overwhelming majority of customers want to pay their bills. When they fall behind it is usually for a reason. Let them tell you what it is. 

 

Even with all of the new technology, the telephone is still the most effective tool, in my opinion, to make contact and initiate a game plan to resolve an issue that is affecting the customer and your business. Preparation is the key to maximizing this tool.  

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  • Respect is key when helping customer solve a delinquency issue. Thanks for the insightful article.

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    • Cassie Elizondo 

      You’re very welcome and I could not agree more!

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  • What about the customer who regularly fails to make a timely payment; the customer's attitude is one of indifference.  Can you provide advice for situations like this?

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    • Eddie Hight I think the mistake a lot of employees make is to just say, "Well, they don't care, so I don't care. Go pick it up!" I believe in the premise that most people, genuinely want to take care of their financial obligations. When a customer gets apathetic towards their car payment, the first thing I want to do is sit down with them and find out my favorite question, "What's going on?", then let them talk. Usually, there is a reason and they've asked for help at some point and were ignored. The customer reciprocates the same attitude our employee mistakenly has, "Well they don't care, so I don't care". Sometimes it's unavoidable and we are forced to terminate the contract. Repossession is an absolute last resort AFTER the Lot Manager (this requires their personal involvement) tries absolutely everything they can, and there is no improvement in the timeliness of payments. Sometimes we set the customer up for failure by even selling the car in the first place.  Having good communication and a solid relationship with the customer from day 1, won't guarantee there won't be problems, but it will absolutely reduce the chances. 

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