Hi, my name is Adam Stewart, Debt Collection Expert and owner of Debt Recoveries Australia and ADC Legal.
I started in debt collection in the insurance business. I hated it; I did not want to do it and would have given anything I have someone else do it. I do not like confrontation and am not, by nature, an outgoing person.
So how was I ever going to do the debt collection side of my job?
Once I started, I realised, you do not need to be outgoing, or even confronting. Debt collection is all about listening and empathising. It is about negotiation and working together with the debtor. This was a revelation for me and I found I was good at it.
Since then, I have set up and run my own debt collection agency and I have trained many people over the years in the fine art of debt collection. I have had the pleasure of working with people who started out with no experience, but learned on the job and also people with many years of skills.
Here are the top 10 tips I have learnt over the years to become an awesome debt collection agent:
You guessed it; No. 1 on the list is listen. That’s it. You may be the world’s best investigator, skip-tracer and location agent, able to find that missing person that owes money, but what do you do when you finally get them on the phone? You shut up and listen. They always have a story to tell and they need to tell it, so listen to them.
2. Be Sensitive.
Confidence is great, but a big ego will get you nowhere. The debtor is already embarrassed enough about the situation so try to be a little sensitive to their feelings. Do not yell at them, talk over them or belittle them. Show some compassion and empathy; it goes a long way.
3. Keep Your Cool.
No matter what, no call and no person is worth ruining your day and your mental well-being. If a debtor starts yelling at you, frustrating you with broken promises, or with bounced payments, take a deep breath and relax. This is just one case out of a hundred that you will work today. Do not sweat the small stuff. Let them have their rant; they will run out of steam eventually.
4. Take Your Time.
Collectors make this mistake all the time, especially those who have been doing the job for a long time. Slow down. Speak in a calm, even, well-paced voice. You will carry more of a sense of gravitas and authority, your phone messages will be clear and well understood, and you will perform more effectively.
5. Be Clear and Concise.
Speak with feeling and confidence. Yes, this is the fiftieth call you have made today, but, again, show some compassion and sensitivity. Be transparent. Once you have identified you have the correct person, advise them your name, the name of your company and why you are calling. Do not try to deceive them, as they will smell something is not quite right. Be up front and honest.
6. Understand Your Job.
The role of a collection agent is working file after file, but understand the big picture. What are the bankruptcy procedures? How will this affect the debtor’s credit rating? What are the legal procedures, if this were the case? If you are not one of the best collectors in the office, watch and listen to what they do. Often key phrases that motivate debtors, a specific tone or approach may be necessary to succeed. Also, understand what your client wants. Do they want payment in full or would they be happy with reduced lump sums? Do they want to accept instalments? Make sure you know what the client wants out of this deal.
7. Help Your Co-Workers.
If you can, offer advice and experience to other less-skilled agents in your office. Your agency will only succeed through teamwork, and it is not “every man for himself”.
8. Be Compliant.
Make sure you stay within the bounds of collection laws, make sure you do not act outside of your agency’s rules, or the guidelines set down by the client. Do not make inaccurate or false notes on a debtor file, do not try to cherry pick the best cases or ditch cases without an honest attempt to collect them. Integrity goes a long way and your reputation is on the line, so behave accordingly. Do not kid yourself – you will be caught, and cost yourself and your agency in the end. Be honest.
9. Do Not Waste Your Time.
If you have spent 30 minutes on the phone with a debtor over a $100 payment, you may be wasting your day. The best use of your time is arranging payments. Again, take a deep breath and decide – is this debtor going to pay? Make a dispassionate decision, end the call with consequences if you can, and process the file.
10. Have Fun.
This is obviously a tough time for the debtors or can be embarrassing for the person you are dealing with on the other end of the phone, so try to have a laugh at it all. No harm in having a bit of fun while you do your work. This will put the debtor at ease and your day will go quicker if you are having fun and enjoying yourself. Debt collection can be a fun job – like any other. It all depends on your attitude. So try and keep positive and show your funny side with the debtors.
The best collectors have a range of skills that make them successful – intelligence, intuition, the ability to be objective, quick thinking to adapt to new situations, good diction and communication skills, the ability to problem-solve, and some charisma. However, collectors with these skills will not succeed unless they simply listen and learn. Anyone can be an excellent collector, as long as they have the ability to listen, learn and take direction. Have fun out there!