Calling all collection professionals:
I train debt collection agencies on empathetic and strategic communication, which means I have a stash of frequently asked questions just waiting to be answered. That’s why I’ve dedicated this post to answering 5 FAQs all about scripting, critical thinking, empathy and other hot topics in the industry.
I’m so excited to outline these answers for you. If you’re an agency owner or collection manager, make sure to pass this blog on to your team to give them a boost of motivation and inspiration to tackle challenging collection calls. Personally, I love to have resources to jumpstart my collectors’ weeks, and I wholeheartedly believe this could be a great tool to start your team's week on a high note.
So, let’s get started with the first question!
Question #1: What do I say when the consumer starts off the call upset?
To answer this question, let’s talk briefly about the consumer experience to understand why a consumer may react negatively during a collection call.
The Conflict Pyramid
All people have a set of universal emotional needs, and those needs are to feel heard and understood. People can’t move forward in a conversation until they check the box in their mind that those needs have been met.
The truth is, debt is a psychological burden, so consumers are typically entering collection calls already feeling frustrated, scared, angry, or hesitant. So, when they don’t feel heard or understood, those negative feelings increase, which launches us into the conflict zone with consumers.
Keep in mind that this can happen even if you’re following company policy and scripting precisely. Because of how the human brain works, the conflict zone is still a real possibility.
The solution is actually pretty simple when you break it down.
The Connection Pyramid
Let’s say you’re talking to a consumer, and right after you finish your Mini-Miranda, the consumer launches into defense mode and tells you they don’t want to pay because they just lost their job or they think their insurance should have paid the full balance.
Our first instinct might be to match the consumer’s tone. After all, we feel attacked, and as humans, our first instinct is either fight or flight.
We also may instinctually recite policy or get into a philosophical debate with the consumer, which will only further trigger them.
To avoid all of these potential pitfalls, we can help the consumer feel heard and understood from the beginning by showing empathy and by not matching the consumer’s emotions and tone.
By verbally letting the consumer know they’re heard and understood over and over throughout the call, you’re offering some peace of mind that will eventually build trust with the consumer. All of this primes the consumer for a solution.
Question #2: What do I say when I don't have a good solution to offer the consumer?
This is one of my favorite questions because oftentimes, we do have potential solutions to offer. We sometimes forget to use critical thinking skills to determine what those solutions are.
The good news is, many fantastic critical thinking tools exist that can up-level your decision-making as a collector. My personal favorite is the fighter pilot John Boyd’s OODA Loop.
O — Observe
O — Orient
D — Decide
A — Act
I train collectors on the OODA Loop all the time, and let me tell you something: It works so well on collection calls.
Think about it: Every day, we’re trying to figure out how we can help consumers pay off their debt while handling the stress that comes with discussing the debt in the first place. That’s why critical thinking—specifically the OODA Loop—is so effective. It allows us to focus on the outcome of the call and work backward to determine how to communicate toward the solution.
Let’s break down the OODA Loop for a collection call. For each step of the OODA Loop, ask yourself the corresponding question:
Observe — What is the problem?
Orient — What does the consumer want? What are your company’s policies?
Decide — What CAN you do?
Act — Guide the consumer toward your solution while gaining the consumer’s trust through empathetic communication.
Something I train collectors to do is pre-script top pain points using the OODA Loop instead of trying to problem-solve in real-time during a collection call. If you solve problems before they happen, you’ll be more likely to reach a solution with the consumer.
Question #3: What is the best way to show empathy while still staying in control of the call?
This is a common question when I train on empathetic communication, and the reason is that many collectors confuse empathy with sympathy.
To unpack this more, let’s look at the definition of each word:
Sympathy is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.
On the other hand...
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Do you see how different the two words are? When we use sympathy instead of empathy on a collection call, the result can be detrimental. Let me explain what I mean.
When you are sympathetic toward a consumer, you run the risk of feeling guilty asking for money, which can make your collection practices too passive. When we’re too passive with consumers, we land in the friend zone.
The friend zone is the last place you want to be because we can't reach a solution when we aren't in control of the call. Usually, when you’re in the friend zone, the call will end before you can ask for payment. This is the opposite of what we want.
The good news is, when you show empathy instead of sympathy, it’s much easier to stay in control of the call and navigate toward a solution. That’s because empathy allows you to hear and understand the consumer and take appropriate steps to find a solution that works for both you and the consumer.
In other words, empathetic communication is one of the best ways to stay in control of the collection call because it builds the consumer’s trust and primes them for a solution.
Note: There’s a time and a place for sympathy on collection calls. For example, if the consumer shares some devasting news with you, such as a terminal diagnosis or a death in the family, it’s ok to show them sympathy by telling them you’re sorry about what they’re going through.
Question #4: How can I use scripting without sounding robotic?
This is another great question, and it’s so relevant to my training because I rely on scripting for almost everything.
If you’re worried about scripting making you more robotic, I completely understand. Scripting can have that effect on people.
That’s why a healthy combination of scripting and authenticity is necessary to navigate collection calls successfully.
For example, you can have the solution to a common pain point scripted to help you problem-solve quickly and efficiently while still adding your own flair to the scripting. The best way to do this is by choosing phrases that you’re comfortable using and writing your own scripts that showcase those phrases.
When collectors write their own scripts, they feel comfortable with what they’re saying, which makes them way less robotic. It’s a win-win because pre-scripting can build confidence and critical thinking.
Pro-Tip: When you write your own scripts, make sure you’re following your company’s policies!
Question #5: What should you do if it feels like you are taking forever to find the solution or get results?
If you ever feel this way, you’re not alone. There’s a reason why this is a frequently asked question.
If you are on a collection call, and you’re struggling to find a solution, it may be a good idea to end the call to do some research. Maybe you need some distance from the situation to think. Maybe you need to speak with a supervisor. Whatever the case may be, if your company allows you to call a consumer back after doing some research, make sure to take this route to come up with the best possible solution for the consumer.
Pro-Tip: The more your agency pre-scripts common pain points, the less often these situations will come up. Sometimes they still will, and that's ok! The secret is to remain calm and in control to increase your chances of getting payment.
Your Resource for Collector Development
Collector development is extremely important to me. I help collectors at other agencies and my own learn tools that can help them problem-solve on their own, which cuts down on everyday issues and challenges on collection calls. That’s why I created this FAQ blog post as well; I want to provide resources to agencies across the country to make debt collection an easier process for everyone involved.
I wholeheartedly believe that one of the best ways to address collector challenges is to start by addressing onboarding. That’s why I created a FREE guide all about how to utilize onboarding to its fullest potential.
This guide has a $500 value, and it’s yours FOR FREE. Download it today below or by following this link.
Find Your Guide Here!
To see this post as it was originally written, visit maryshores.com.