3 Core Ways To Cure The Fear Of Consumer Freak-Outs

| Mary Shores

If you’re a collections team lead, supervisor, manager, or trainer, let me ask you a question:

Have you ever hired a new collector who seems like a fantastic fit with the company culture, only for them to feel completely overwhelmed and anxious as soon as they have to get on the phone to talk to consumers?

I’ve seen this time and time again, and I’ve realized what causes this issue. The truth is that new collectors have amazing potential; many of them are simply terrified of asking consumers for money since there’s a chance they’ll react negatively.

I call this fear of the freak-out, and chances are, you’ve likely seen this fear in yourself or others during your time in the ARM industry.

I understand why this fear exists. After all, if a consumer shares something particularly troubling with a collector who isn’t trained on empathetic communication, the collector may not know what to say.

The result? The collector may react one of two ways:

  1. Aggressively
  2. Passively

If a collector responds to a consumer’s negative reaction aggressively, this will land them in the conflict zone, which will raise the tension of the call and will likely result in a complaint or a hang-up.

Collectors who speak aggressively typically quote laws or company policies, which can make the consumer feel defensive and frustrated. By the end of the call, the chances of actually collecting payment are slim.

On the other hand, if the collector responds to a consumer’s negative reaction passively, this will land them in the friend zone, which means the call will go nowhere, and just like the aggressive collector, the passive collector likely won’t collect payment.

Let me show you what the friend zone typically looks like:

Collector: “Is there any way you can make a payment on your account today?”

Consumer: “No, I don’t have the money.”

At this point, the collector can’t move the call toward a solution because they’ve backed themselves into a corner.

With all of that being said, you’re probably wondering if there’s a cure to this freak-out—maybe an easy approach to put your team members (and you!) at ease while on the phone with consumers.

I definitely think so. In fact, it all starts with the professional development you provide for your team.

The way I see it, investing in 3 core areas can cure that fear of the freak-out. Let’s dive into those 3 areas now so you can reduce the freak-out at your agency right away.


1. Demonstrating Empathy And Emotional Intelligence

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in a consumer’s shoes to truly make the consumer feel heard and understood.

There is no doubt that talking about debt is uncomfortable and makes many people feel cornered, angry, defensive, and afraid.

To be successful, collectors need to be able to disarm those negative emotions, establish trust, and motivate consumers to pay.

Despite popular belief, you can create a culture of empathy at your agency and still collect payment.

For instance, having your collectors use validating language like “That sounds really challenging” and “I appreciate you sharing that with me” helps create an instant level of trust with consumers and makes them more likely to engage with your collectors further.

People want to feel heard and understood. If they don’t, they’re going to have a hard time moving on in the conversation or being receptive to a solution from your collectors.

Additionally, using positive language like “The great news is” or “I am happy to…” allows the consumer to relax and builds their confidence in your collector.

Another way your collectors can demonstrate empathy and move calls forward toward payment is by always talking in terms of solutions.

Have your collectors state what they can do and stop focusing on what they can’t do.

By talking in terms of solutions, we make people feel important and valued.

One of the important things for your collectors to be aware of is the feelings their words evoke. That’s because people make decisions based on how they feel.

When we can lift consumers up and motivate them to pay off their debts, we are going to be more successful.


2. Replace Passive Phrasing With Active Phrasing

Unlike passive phrasing which makes it sound like you’re asking someone for a favor, active phrasing is direct and to the point.

What that means is, instead of asking consumers “Will you be paying your $500 payment today?” I encourage my collectors to say, “Your payment of $500 is due in full. How would you like to take care of that? Cash, check, or credit card?”

Can you feel the difference between the two statements? Active phrasing is more persuasive and confident without being overly forceful.

Passive phrasing weakens your message. It minimizes the importance of your request.

Ultimately, collectors who use active phrasing are going to collect more.


3. Strengthen Your Payment Negotiations

I’ve noticed that many collectors will negotiate from the bottom-up, meaning they’ll immediately offer a low payment arrangement to a consumer (like $50 per month).

On the other hand, well-trained negotiators start from the top-down, which means they start out asking consumers to pay higher amounts each month so the debt is paid off quicker.

Collectors who negotiate from the bottom-up instead of the top-down are leaving a lot of money on the table.


Reduce Freak-Outs With The Collection Advantage

The Collection Advantage online training program is your ticket to reduced aggressive and passive language and increased active language. It’s your team’s guidebook for speaking to consumers with empathy while still collecting payment.

Book a call with me today so we can bring The Collection Advantage to your agency in 2022! I’d love to hear from you.

Also, while you’re here, you can download this FREE guide to learn more about avoiding the conflict zone and friend zone on collection calls. Get yours here!

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