Are You Cleansing or Clogging Your Collections?

| Mary Shores

I’ve seen several collectors make a specific mistake that many don’t realize they’re making in my years of training.

This is a pretty huge mistake. In fact, I’ve seen this mistake lose revenue, escalate calls, and sometimes result in complaints.

This mistake has nothing to do with compliance. It has nothing to do with credit reporting. It has nothing to do with new legislation.

And guess what? I’ve made this mistake too…many times.

You’re probably scratching your head, wondering what this mistake could possibly be and if you’ve made it before.

You’ll be interested to know that if you’ve ever tried to follow a collections strategy or script 100% of the time, you’ve made this mistake.

Believe it or not, perfectionism can cause so many issues in debt collection. Flexibility and critical thinking in the moment are essential when it comes to problem-solving effectively.

Sure, we have little room for error when it comes to compliance. When it comes to scripting and communication, on the other hand, flexibility is necessary.

The Surefire Way to Halt Professional Development...

According to Inc., professionals with perfectionist tendencies are afraid of messing up, so they play it safe by never veering from specific instructions or rules they've set for themselves. In debt collection, you may notice this if you're hesitant to veer from a pre-written script, even if it's not working for a particular consumer.

In such a regulated industry, it’s easy to fall into that trap. After all, we often fear that if we mess up, it could lead to a lawsuit or complaint.

What I want you to understand is that many seasoned collectors have a certain instinct for collections. And they most likely got that instinct by trying new techniques.

The thing is, if all collectors tried to do everything the same way or follow the same scripting on every single call, there would be no room for professional development.

Think about it like this: there will always be exceptions to the rule, and if a collector sticks to one strategy all the time, that actually could lead to a lawsuit or a complaint if the particular consumer they’re speaking to has different needs or expectations than the majority of other consumers.

This is where flexibility comes into play. Even if your team has a great strategy to communicate with consumers (which I personally think is a must), your team still needs to have an understanding of when it’s ok to pivot.

The great news is, I’ve been teaching an effective and easy technique that can help professionals discern when to make those pivots and feel comfortable straying away from perfectionist habits.

80/20 Rule

To battle my own perfectionist tendencies, I live by a concept I’ve coined “cleanse or clog.”

Every decision I make is either a “cleansing” decision or a “clogging” decision.

When I make a small decision—such as what I’ll have for dinner—I’ll ask myself, “Will this meal cleanse or clog me?” If the answer is “clog,” I have to make a decision about whether or not I want to indulge at that moment or not.

And the way I navigate this technique is by using the 80/20 rule—80% of my decisions are “cleansing,” and 20% are “clogging.”

The 80/20 rule goes beyond food. We can use it in our everyday consumer conversations as well. Let me explain what I mean.

I teach collectors a 3-step Communication Code, and I tell them to use the 3 steps on every call with every consumer. This is essential to promote consistency. We run into trouble when we keep using our strategy (even if it usually works) when the consumer isn’t responding well, and we need to pivot.

When this happens, your team can remember the 80/20 rule.

In other words, when the consumer isn’t responding well to your collector’s strategy, and they’ve run out of options, they can pivot and try something new. They have room for exceptions to their usual strategies 20% of the time.

Typically, a good pivot is to ask a question, such as:

“Are you intending to take care of this today?”

This question is effective because it allows a collector to determine what a consumer’s intentions are so they can either end the call or reverse engineer toward a solution.

When your team makes these pivots without worrying about sticking to their strategy 100% of the time, they’ll feel more equipped to handle challenges as they come up. Having a strategy is great because it can help you tackle most challenges; that said, having room for pivots is a necessary backup plan.

Pro Tip: Following company policy is a must. Make sure that when your team pivots, they still follow company policy and compliance rules.

Remember: If collectors fail to pivot when it’s necessary to move the conversation forward, the consumer could feel unheard, which could lead to the collector and the consumer entering the Conflict Zone. Once the call is in the Conflict Zone, it’s extremely difficult to move toward a solution. So, try to focus on prevention by using critical thinking rather than focusing on de-escalation.

Imagine a Strategy that Teaches Collectors How to Make Pivots…

Well, this strategy already exists.

In The Collection Advantage, I teach collectors a 3-step communication strategy. I also teach other skill sets, including the critical thinking skills needed to turn around conversations as challenges come up.

I even have a lesson all about the steps to creating a roadmap during a collection call so collectors know what tools to use to think on their feet and address pain points in real-time to make sure consumers feel listened to and supported.

Does this sound like something you’d love to implement at your agency? We can make that happen. Book a free strategic planning session with me today, and we can brainstor the best way to support your team through The Collection Advantage.

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