Common Mistakes Collectors Make (And How to Fix Them!)

| Mary Shores

Recently, I was featured on a webinar hosted by Mike Gibb of about common mistakes collectors make on the phone.

My fellow panelists, LaDonna Bohling, Jeff Endebak, and Kelly Feoli, all shared fantastic insights about the mistakes they’ve seen on the collection floor, and today, I want to share some of those mistakes with you.

So, as you read through this list, ask yourself:

“Are my collectors making these mistakes?” or “Am I making these mistakes?”

If you see these mistakes at your agency, that’s ok! There are many ways to fix them and keep moving forward, and as you read this post, you’ll become more and more equipped to face any collector mistakes head-on.

Let’s dive right into the 3 most common mistakes that came up on the webinar.

focusing on compliance in debt collection

Mistake #1: The collector can get so focused on compliance that they forget to relax and have a natural conversation with the consumer.

Without a doubt, compliance is important. We’re in one of the most regulated industries in the country, so we have to go be careful when it comes to how we speak to consumers.

With that being said, sometimes when collectors have so much anxiety that they’re going to say the wrong thing, they can sound robotic on the phone. Or, the consumer will be able to sense their hesitation, which could put a roadblock in the path to payment.

I wholeheartedly believe that this is going to make collecting money harder than it has to be. After all, the consumer has to feel a sense of trust with your agency before they’ll be willing to pay, so it’s important to keep a conversational tone to build connection with the consumer. (More on that later.)

We can train collectors to speak in a conversational tone while still following compliance guidelines through debt collection online training. Let me explain how I train collectors to do just that.

The answer lies in pre-scripting for top pain points.

Now, you may be thinking, “Mary, how will using a script make a collector less robotic?”

The truth is, scripts can make collectors more robotic if collectors are encouraged to follow the scripts perfectly. If you give scripts as general guidelines to navigate the call and roleplay with your agents instead, they’ll be more likely to put their own personality into the scripting and maintain a conversational tone.

My challenge to you is to think of 10 common pain points at your agency. Write scripts for each of these pain points, and roleplay a few of the scripts with your collection floor. Encourage your team to put their own personality into the scripts you create as well.

If you want more information about pre-scripting top pain points, book a call with me today to learn more about my Collection Advantage online training program, which is a debt collection online training course and teaches collectors how to create empathetic, high-converting scripting.

Now let’s move onto the next mistake.

conflict with a consumer in debt collection

Mistake #2: The collector gets into conflict with the consumer.

Have you ever been on a collection call, and the tension between you and the consumer was high—maybe the consumer raised their voice, or maybe they even hung up? If so, then you were in the conflict zone with the consumer.

When a collector is in the conflict zone with the consumer, the call can’t move forward. The consumer doesn’t feel heard or understood, and they feel like the agency isn’t willing to help them (even if the agency is willing to help). Ultimately, the communication up until this point has caused the call to go in a direction that isn’t in the best interest of the consumer or the agency.

Luckily, collectors can get out of the conflict zone or avoid it altogether. All they need is connection.

Collectors can create connection with consumers by making sure to meet their emotional needs to feel heard and understood.

To do this, collectors can make sure to listen to the consumer when they’re talking—even if what they’re saying seems to be a complaint or a vent. After listening, collectors can let the consumer know that they've heard their concerns, and they're willing to find a resolution.

When you make sure the consumer feels heard and understood, you’ll build the trust the consumer needs to make the call move forward toward a solution.

Just like making sure calls are more conversational, pre-scripting can ensure that the collector will stay out of the conflict zone because it will give the collector the tools to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.

With that being said, let’s move onto the last mistake.

how to negotiate in collections

Mistake #3: The collector doesn’t negotiate effectively.

I wholeheartedly believe that negotiation is a critical skill set that all collectors need, and at the same time, it’s a skill set that so many collectors aren’t trained on.

As a result, collectors are accepting extremely low payment arrangements that could have been avoided altogether if the collector knew how to negotiate effectively.

I talk a lot about debt collection negotiation training in a webinar with PDCflow if you want a step-by-step breakdown.

When collectors have formal negotiation training—even if it’s just an online course or part of your onboarding process—they’ll be ready to handle challenging calls that require establishing a payment arrangement that works for the consumer and your agency.

The best part is that when collectors undergo debt collection training and can negotiate very well, you’ll have fewer escalated supervisor calls because collectors will be more confident in handling difficult calls with consumers who are willing to pay.

Negotiation is just one skill set I believe collectors should be trained on. If you want to know a few more, check out my go-to destination for the compassionate collections framework, which outlines several areas that will maximize your collections through investing in your collections staff training.

start training in collections

Let the Training Begin!

If you’ve made it this far, it’s pretty obvious that I believe the common mistakes collectors make on the phone can be corrected (or prevented) by training.

Think about it: Most collectors only know what they’ve been taught or what they’ve picked up on from other collectors. When we make sure our consumer debt collection training covers all of the skill sets collectors need to have, we can cut back on mistakes significantly, which will increase revenue and decrease complaints.

I share collector training tips every week on my LinkedIn, so connect with me today to stay up-to-date with my content.

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