Dean Kaplan

We’ve heard for years how elite athletes mentally visualize technique and success to improve actual performance.   Studies have shown that visualization improves awareness, mood, confidence, and outcome.  These same techniques can be used to improve success for collectors, whether they are part of the internal staff or at collection agencies.  We’ve been using these techniques with dramatic success at The Kaplan Group for years.

In-house collectors typically have two objectives, and they are not always completely compatible:

  • Maintain a positive relationship with customer leading to future profitable sales;
  • Get the money that is already owed and past due.

Early in the collection process, in-house collectors clearly do not want to jeopardize the long-term relationship with a customer.   Customers (at least paying ones) are the lifeblood of the business.

In the training programs we have done for clients’ in-house collectors, and with our own collectors, we focus on several mental factors:

  • Be in an Upbeat Mood
  • Have a Positive Attitude
  • Use a Calm Demeanor
  • Have a Good Tone to Your Voice
  • Be Professional
  • Be Courteous
  • Listen and Understand
  • Be Caring and Compassionate

It is widely recognized that having an upbeat mood typically leads to greater success in everything we do.  Individuals tend to perform better when their mood is positive.  And just as important, this seems to influence other people as well.  So, if the collector’s upbeat mood rubs off on the delinquent customer that can have a positive impact on the collection process.

With respect to positive attitude, we are referring to having the belief that the collection call will be successful.  Success can be collecting money, getting helpful information, or building the relationship as a step in the process of eventually collecting.  This positive attitude is similar to the visualization technique for sports: the more you believe, the more likely you will make it happen.

Clearly, when dealing with customers, being professional and courteous is very important for maintaining a relationship.  A calm demeanor and a good tone are equally as important.  A tone with an edge, or outright nastiness, can draw attention away from the main issue: resolving the past due balance.  It can also cause the customer to become defensive or angry, neither of which helps the collector achieve the goals of collecting or maintaining a long-term relationship.

The last couple of items are a bit trickier.  For decades, collectors have been instructed to maintain control of the conversation and not allow it to get off the topic of simply getting the invoice paid.  Many collectors work for companies or collection agencies that expect a very large volume of calls to be completed on a daily basis.  So, there is a real balancing act between these criteria and taking the time to listen, understand, and express a level of empathy if that seems appropriate to achieve your goals.

For in-house collectors, developing some level of a personal relationship with the customer is an excellent way to establish and foster a long-term relationship between the companies.  This relationship can be used in a positive way to help collect when the customer runs into cash-flow issues.  At our commercial collection agency, we know a key factor in our success is often related to taking whatever time is required to listen to debtors, understand their situation, and express some empathy if that is appropriate.  We’ll explore this topic and how to balance it with time restraints and maintaining control in greater detail in a future article.

Clearly, the collector’s approach and tactics, whether they work in house or at an agency, need to change over time if progress is not being made using the attitude described above.   Last week we talked about whether a good collector is “born with it or taught.”  Either way, our clients and our collectors have found that doing the right mental preparation and using the approach described above leads to greater success.

But being in an upbeat mood, maintaining a positive attitude, and talking with a good tone is not always easy, especially as the day wears on or after a particularly difficult call.  Our collectors use one simple trick before each call to help them stay on track:  SMILE!  You will be amazed at how smiling helps you feel better and gives you a better attitude for the next call. If you have other thoughts or tips for mental preparation, please share them in the comment section below.

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