Follow Us on FacebookFollow Us on TwitterFollow Us on Linkedin
 

Blog & News

The Checklist: Best Practices for Calling about an Unpaid Bill

Calling about unpaid bills isn’t easy. But by following this simple checklist, you can manage each call with a positive attitude, and a positive outcome.

Prepare

  • Check the consumer’s payment history
  • Review their previous responses
  • Plan your strategy: what approach will work the best based on the previous notes or your personal experience with this person? Remember, every consumer, every call, every day, is different.
  • What is the minimum you will accept?
  • When must the payment be in your office?
  • Are you willing to offer any discounts or incentives to the consumer?
  • Prepare probing questions
  • Ask yourself the Ws: “Who? What? When? Why? and How?” Just about every call can be summed up simply by asking the 5 Ws.

The Call
1. Identify the consumer. Make sure you are talking to the right person. Don’t assume you are, because you may be speaking to someone unrelated to the debt who simply answered the phone. Get positive ID.

2. Identify yourself. This is just common courtesy, but helps to set a conversational tone and put the consumer at ease.

3. Request payment in full. Ask:

How would you like to take care of this today, with a check by phone or a credit card?
What credit card would you like to use today?
What day this week can you put that in the mail?

4. Zip your lip. The importance of pausing after asking for money cannot be over-stressed. It puts the burden of answering squarely on the consumer’s shoulders. If the consumer doesn’t answer in 15 seconds, simply repeat the question.

5. If you get payment or a commitment of payment, you’ve succeeded!

However, there are times when the consumer will not give you the quick commitment. Remember, there is usually some hidden issue that may have nothing to do with you or the company. Try:

“Tell me your story.”
“What is your situation?”
“What caused you to get in this situation?”

Determine the solution. Here are three approaches.

1. “Let’s go over your expenses and see if we can get something figured out together.”
2. How are you paying your other bills?”
3. “There is no reason we can’t put our heads together and find a solution that will make both of us happy.”

Close the Deal
Or, you can try one of these powerful questions/comments:

A. “Are you still working at ____________?” (If you don’t have a place of employment, make one up for this. Usually they will say something such as, “Where did you get that? I work at _____________.”)

B. “How much is your take home pay each week? How much is your:
Rent/mortgage
Car payment
Groceries
Utilities

C. “Did you know you can use your 401(k) for a loan? Have you looked into refinancing your mortgage or consolidating your bills?”

D. “I think you’ll be glad to have this off your mind too. We just need to get your credit card info now.”

Always Remember
There is a time to be positive, and a time to be negative. Negative should only happen after positive has failed. Negative appeals should be based on:

  • Self interest
  • Fear of losing something valuable

Negative appeals should NEVER, EVER be insulting or vulgar.

Calls that start negatively will put the consumer on the defensive. When on the defensive, the consumer is NOT listening, just avoiding. This means the collector has failed. Remember, the job is to recover the lost money.