Empathetic Collections for Beginners: Part 2

| Mary Shores

Welcome to Part 2 of Empathetic Collections for Beginners!

In case you missed Part 1, make sure to read it first by following this link.

Now let’s dive into Part 2, which is all about increasing positivity on the collections floor.


Even when we understand the different types of empathy, it can be confusing to relay that empathy to the consumer without a strategy.

At my agency, we break everything down into step-by-step processes, which is why I broke down delivering empathy to consumers into an easy, 4-step process for this blog post! That way, you have a basic roadmap for implementing empathy on collection calls right away.

Let's dive right into the first step, listening to the consumer.

Step #1: Listen to the Consumer

Listening is empathy 101. If we don't listen, we can't show basic empathy, and we can't let the consumer know that we hear them and understand them. If you read Part 1, then you know that we need to make consumers feel heard and understood to truly move on in the conversation.

To be a better listener, you can use these 3 reminders:

  1. Listen without interruption: Let the consumer finish what they're saying before you speak. Otherwise, the consumer will start their story over with more details and more frustration than before. If you let the consumer finish, they'll be more likely to move on in the conversation.

  2. Listen to be informed: As you're listening to the consumer talk, take notes on important information that could be useful to know later on in the call. For example, if the consumer says they just lost their job, jot down a note so you remember to take that into consideration during any negotiations later on in the call.

  3. Listen without Judgment: We oftentimes have a plan in mind to present to the consumer before the call even begins, and we forget to listen to what the consumer is saying when we're married to that plan. Sometimes, listening without judgment will open your mind to alternative solutions you've never considered before, so this listening strategy can allow you to communicate better overall.

You can read more about each of these strategies in a previous blog post as well.

Now that you know a little bit more about the importance of listening, let's move onto step #2: Accurately labeling emotions.

Step #2: Accurately Label the Consumer’s Emotions

Did you know that when you label emotions, it can actually help you process them more easily?

It's true! Social scientist Matthew Lieberman conducted a study all about how effective labeling emotions can be.

The good news is, you can use this technique on collection calls simply by labeling the consumer's emotions.

Just by verbally labeling their emotions, you're helping the consumer instantly relax and move on in the conversation. If it doesn't work right away, that's ok! Keep labeling the consumer's emotions until they start to feel more at ease about the situation.

Remember: Having a debt is a trigger for many people, so many consumers are in a vulnerable state when they're speaking to you. This step is a great way to keep the conversation moving forward while remaining mindful of the consumer experience.

Once you've identified the emotion, it's time to express empathy to the consumer. Each consumer's situation is unique, so based on how they're feeling and what they've disclosed to you, you can move onto Step 3, which is all about choosing the correct type of empathy to move the call forward.

Step #3: Choose the Correct Type of Empathy

If you still haven't read Part 1 yet, now is the time to do so because Step 3 is a direct callback to the previous post.

At this point in the call, you have a decent understanding of what the consumer may need to reach a solution, and showing empathy that will resonate with them will increase your chances of getting to that solution.

As a reminder, the 3 types of empathy from Part 1 are...

  1. Basic empathy: This is empathy that includes perspective-taking and deep understanding.

  2. Sharing the Wins: This is the type of empathy you use when the consumer is sharing good news with you.

  3. Appreciating Questions: You'll use this type of empathy when the consumer has just asked a question, and you want them to know they're in great hands with your agency.

Once you've chosen the correct type of empathy, it's time to hit a home run by keeping the positivity on the call extremely high to increase the chances that you and the consumer will find a solution that works well for both your agency and the consumer.

Let's finish strong with Step 4 so I can explain what I mean...

Step #4: Use the Positivity Ratio to Move the Call Forward

What social scientists now know is that when receiving negative information, humans respond better when they receive additional positive information. In fact, they have discovered that a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of positive to negative information works the best to keep people out of the Conflict Zone.

We can use this ratio with our consumers by delivering more positive information than negative information to make calls move forward.

Using empathetic language multiple times throughout the call will keep increasing the positivity, which will help the consumer continue to relax and trust that you can help them find a great solution.

If you want to know more about the positivity ratio, I explain it in detail in The Collection Advantage online training program. Click the link to see if it would be a good fit at your agency, and if you're interested, make sure to book a call with me!

Putting It All Together

These steps can help you navigate difficult (and easy!) collection calls empathetically, which I believe will become the overwhelming expectation set by consumers in the new normal. Consumers want to feel like they're in good hands and that we hear and understand them, and showing empathy on collection calls is a great way to do this.

If you want a step-by-step communication strategy to up-level your empathy, check out my latest online training program, The Communication Code for Collectors. In less than an hour, you'll become an expert on empathetic communication with consumers.

If you're not quite ready to commit, that's ok! Make sure to connect with me on LinkedIn for more free content just like this.


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To read this post as it was originally written, visit

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