Create Connection, Not Conflict

| Mary Shores

In a previous blog post, I introduced you to the Conflict Pyramid, which illustrates what happens when things go wrong between a company and its customers -- or in my industry, between collectors and consumers.

But what happens when things go right?

Enter the Connection Pyramid.

Creating connection is a lot easier said than done – especially with social distancing policies in effect – but when you break it down into its smallest parts, connection comes down to the words you use.

The best way I know to create massive success in the collections industry (or any industry really) is to help consumers (customers) see collectors (companies) as allies – one word at a time.

In talk offs, collectors' goals should be to move consumers up the connection pyramid and get them to take positive action in the form of paying off their debts in full or setting up payment arrangements.

In customer service, positive action could take the form of purchasing a company's product or service, writing a positive review, or referring a family member or friend.

Let’s start at the base of the connection pyramid with met needs.

One of the biggest human needs is to feel heard and understood.

Think about it. When we find someone who connects with our struggles (or triumphs), we feel cared for and supported. A level of trust begins to form. On the other hand, when we don’t feel heard, we have a hard time moving on in a conversation or being emotionally receptive to a solution from that person.

As consumers voice their fears and concerns during this time of crisis, it’s important to assure them they have been heard. Validating consumers' experiences with phrases like “I can understand the uncertainly you feel” or “I know this is a challenging time” helps achieve that.

Hearing these phrases slows consumers down and can put the brakes on a fight-or-flight response. It also helps builds rapport and can lead consumers to experience positive feelings like trust, hopefulness, and even motivation, because when someone feels good about an interaction, he or she is more likely to engage with the other person further.

Feelings are fundamental and universal to all of us, and they are the driver behind every decision we make. Positive feelings are the second rung of the connection pyramid.

Next, these positive feelings and met needs will move the conversation into the connection zone, which is the third rung of the pyramid.

The way I see it, connection is a mixture of feeling trust, rapport, and confidence.

One big thing that will build consumers' confidence is for collectors to always say what they can do rather than what they can’t do and to introduce their solutions using phrases like, “What I’d really like you to know is…” or “The great news is… .”

Even if the solution is not the exact one the consumer is looking for, there is always something we can do, and by providing an alternative solution, collectors can still create a positive connection with the consumer.

Talking in terms of solutions is one of the most important things collectors can do to show consumers they have their interests in mind; it builds respect and helps people feel important and valued.

Saying what can be done as opposed to what can’t be done also helps move the call forward.

Ultimately, you know you’re in the connection zone when the consumer is engaged and allowing you to get through your information in a calm way.

Once a conversation has reached the connection zone, consumers can begin to see the collector as an ally or someone who has their interests in mind. Ally is the fourth rung of the pyramid.

This is important because once the consumer sees the collector as an ally, he or she is more receptive to what the collector is saying and is more likely to take positive action like setting up a payment arrangement or paying the debt in full. This is the fifth rung of the pyramid.

(In customer service situations, positive action could include purchasing your company's product or service, writing a positive review, or referring a family member or friend.)

At this point, it’s important for collectors to keep the momentum going by using an action statement to discuss the next steps.

Examples of how collectors can use action statements are:

“What I can do for you is…”

“Let’s go ahead and…”

“What I can do for your convenience is…”

All of this ultimately leads to higher overall revenue, which is the top rung of the pyramid.

Maya Angelou famously said that people remember the way you make them feel. This is especially true in times of crisis.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

I truly believe that as an industry, how we show up and respond in the next 90 days is going to determine our reputation for the next 10 years or more.

Let’s start building our connection pyramids – one word at a time.

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