Are good collectors born or made? This question seems to be constantly debated in our great industry and to it I say – who cares? The facts are that we all have different talents we are born with, and if we put time into something, we are going to get better at it. Of course, collectors can be born with natural talent, but they can get better. Likewise, remedial performers can improve what they do and become good.
The goal in nearly every business is to make money. Every organization in collections wants both more and higher payments, yet effort to accomplish this feat is often placed in the wrong areas.
While the number of payments and total collections are obviously important, the numbers won’t change in these categories unless focus changes periodically to the skills that bring improved results to the metric analyzed. Successful companies do things the majority of businesses don’t want to do. This includes focusing on specific areas in an associate’s day-to-day routines or collection calls that impact an employee’s value to the organization.
A collector can do several things throughout the day to improve their opportunity and chances at being successful. Reducing call handling time, for example, allows for more calls which lead to more opportunities, which leads to more payments and success. However, telling a collector to be on the phone for less time is like telling a three year old to quietly sit still for five minutes. Merely being aware of the issue and just telling someone to get better doesn’t suffice in improving the behavior. You also don’t want a collector jumping off a call early when it could have closed successfully. Although there are a myriad of things a collector could work on to improve their call handling time, for today’s purposes, let’s focus on three that can have big impact but often aren’t taught.
The first is preparation. This begins when someone is hired and first brought on board to collect for you. Among other things, they need to understand the technology they are using, the clients and markets they are serving, what, if anything, is negotiable on the call, how to read the consumer, and lastly – a skill that is highly underrated – how to read and understand an account as fast as possible. Time is among an agency’s most valuable resources. There are finite periods every day where your chances of success are typically higher. You can’t have collectors wasting time during these valuable periods because they are approaching collections and each individual call unprepared. Knowledge can go a long way in speeding up the call, not to mention, increase the likelihood of a payment being reached.
Wait a minute. How could listening and allowing the consumer air time on the call actually decrease the amount of time spent on the call? By effectively listening, a collector can key in on specific insights to better understand where the consumer is coming from. With these insights, a collector is in a much better position to negotiate and ensure that the conversation is constructive. By not listening at all, the only thing a collector ensures is a frustrated consumer and typically a lower than average collection rate. Listening is much more than utilizing the two ears attached to your head to make sense of the noise coming in. Listening requires the desire to understand what is being communicated, and taking advantage of what is learned, in the negotiation. A good listener knows what is important to the consumer and it may not have much to do with the actual obligation. It could be the ability to refinance, credit score, or the desire to visit the doctor they owe. The best listeners make for the most efficient collectors, keep your clients happy, and close calls quicker because they understand and focus on the real issues.
The best close is simple and to the point. Intelitech teaches the R.E.S.T. method.
- Restate and Record the Agreement – This allows for less miscommunication by all involved and uncovers real objections if necessary.
- Establish the Particulars – Clearly communicate the next steps so both parties on the line know what they need to do next.
- Setup Automatic Consequences – Reiterate the positive and negative consequences of following the atgreement with a focus on what is known to be important to the consumer.
- Thank the Consumer – The last impression often determines if the call was good or bad for a consumer.
Once you’ve done what you say you were going to do, you can then R.E.S.T. easy. Also, by having a distinct pattern, calls are more likely to stay on point and move forward in a more finite period of time.
Preparing, listening, and the closing can all go a long way in bringing the call handling time of your collectors down. By monitoring these three areas, a manager will then witness improved results in the organizations call handling time which, in the end, leads to more and larger payments.
What a manager focuses on or monitors foreshadows what a team will produce. We have all heard the adage that you reap what you sow. It is important to take a look at what you are monitoring and see if the information acquired helps to build your team’s overall collection success. There is much more involved, however, in performance improvement then just witnessing a mistake and telling a collector not to do it anymore. You need to know the numbers of what your team is producing, but it is just as important to know how to improve those numbers.