Collectors Hand Book
Here as follows will be a simple guide for all collectors to follow while attempting to obtain a collection/payment from our customers as well as standard policies and procedures to follow for cancellations, Refunds, and other miscellaneous items.
Here to Assist
We want to assure that we are here to assist with the situation and help in any capacity. One Technique that works well is the “Helpful Assistant” approach. Try not to take a hard line with customers. If you approach it with the attitude of helping the customer, you seem to get a lot further with them. If a situation gets tough explain to the customer that they purchased the service at a fair price and this is helping the veterans in their community and we need to take care of the invoice in order to keep the service available to the veterans. Build the value with how we are helping veterans and the customer’s confidence by telling them that none of this would be possible without their support. Let them know how much you respect their business experience and knowledge and then ask how they would deal with the situation at hand. Try to get some insight from them on how to resolve the situation and if possible meet them half way. Try to have them help you come up with a plan that is real and workable for everyone. Mainly continue to think about some kind of solution, unless the customer is taking advantage of you on purpose (which should be rare) try to create that win-win situation.
I’m a “made-up” name. I do not exist. We do this because it makes collecting any unpaid accounts much less confrontational, allows the debtor to “save face”, and leaves the creditor as someone who’s trying to help, not hassle. I am not a real person! But, clients who haven’t paid our accounts don’t know this! Sounds ridiculous, but it works extremely well!
How does it work?
- Any “please-pay” emails or letters are sent out under my (special) name as soon as an account is overdue.
- All that a ‘real’ person then has to say when making a “collection” phone call is “Hi John, my accounts payable department are chasing me around about one of your invoices. Can you help?”
- And then just listen; after blaming ME for having to make the call it is less confrontational and can open them up to what the real issue is for not paying their invoice.
Policy on offering discounts after the sale from the CSR’s. They must wait until they get the sale review sheet. This will show what the sales agent offered. The CSR’s will base the welcome letter based on the sales review sheet. They will also mention the sales agent name and how they discussed it with them. There will also be a work around with the Art Department regarding what they may have offered to the customer to collect a payment. Make sure you are NOT offering what has already been offered. This makes us look bad and not very creditable. Take the extra time to verify all information and note anything different from what is shown on contract, Vanilla Soft, and/or Access. Keeping good records and notes will save everyone time in the end!
Procedures to follow for all requested & potential cancels:
- A request for cancellation will be submitted accordingly to Accounting.
- Accounting will review account fully and determine at that point what direction the cancellation will proceed to.
- If, accounting finds that work on said account has not been adequate in the handling of a collection or problems with service, CSR will be notified and a call-back will be set by accounting for CSR for further follow up with client.
- If, accounting finds that all efforts have been made in reaching a resolved state, whether being for a collection or providing services for client, and there has been no progress, assigned CSR and Sales Rep will be notified of upcoming cancellation.
- Once a cancellation has been determined to be accurate, QB’s will be notified with each account and will therefore reach out to Sales Rep to allow original sale to be saved and moved forward with a potential positive outcome.
- Sales Rep will be assigned account in Vanilla Soft and given seven days to reach out to client and MUST notify CSR and/or Accounting of any progress.
- If, no resolve has been made by the end of 5th day, account will be Voided and no further action will be needed.
- If, Sales Rep has established communication with client and progress is being made, account will stay open long as Sales Rep is updating account accordingly.
- CSR will be removed from account and set to Scott or Mike while Rep obtains collections until balance is satisfied fully.
- All potential cancel accounts may be given to QB’s at their call centers for further efforts if Rep chooses to put forth zero effort. Notations must be made and communicated via Vanilla Soft and Access. Failure to do so, even if progress is being made, may result and a voided order and/or turned into a house account.
Steps and potential reasons for a refund to take place.
- No refund unless wrong Credit Card#/Account# is used and Customer request to use different payment type.
- No refund unless customer has been over charged or charged to the wrong account.
- No refund unless Scott, Dense, & Mike review account and deem it valid for a refund if none of the above reasons applied.
Sales Rep must be notified and made aware of all potential negative effects from a refund being issued, regardless of the reasoning for the refund itself.
Set the Foundation
It is important to set the foundation for payment expectations from the beginning. You should not assume there is a mutual understanding of expectations. Every customer is handled differently and the sooner an understanding of what is expected is established the better. The first step to keeping your collections in line is to identify the customer that need special attention, second is to have a plan and at least two options for payments planned in ahead of time. Be sure to develop or re-develop good customer relationships. Make sure you have a plan and documentation before going into the account. Eliminate your fears of approaching the overdue invoice issues be using terms like “I need your help Mr. Doe” and “How can I help?”. Always ask for money its simple, you want to be the squeaky wheel. Tag each call so the customer knows you are thorough. Most importantly, remember to always communicate-communicate-communicate.
Things to remember before calling a customer.
- Managing the emotional side – Customers will get upset that you are calling them. They have bigger and better things to think about other than your bill, they will cry, yell at you, hang up on you and swear at you. When a customer starts to tell you their life history and how this affects how they pay you, you need to be able to have some compassion but offer a solution to get the bill paid. This is when you could offer a payment plan or different payment options.
- Prepare a pre-call plan: before you ever call a customer about their balance, you need to research their account. Before you dial, make sure you know the invoice number, date, amount that is last due, how past due it is, the payment history, details of the order and if there were any disputed items. When the customer asks you any question, you need to answer immediately whenever possible, otherwise you lose time and TIME IS MONEY!
- Having an opening statement ready – your opening statement should be very brief and to the point. You need to identify yourself and your company, state why you are calling and what you want.
Steps for successful payment arrangements
- Ask for payment in full.
- If the customer cannot pay in full, offer to split the balance due into two payments.
- If that is not possible, it is time to negotiate by gathering more information on the customers’ financial status.
- Ask open ended questions so you can evaluate the situation.
- Suggest weekly or bi-monthly payments, as opposed to the common monthly payments.
- Come to an agreement that is beneficial to you and the customer.
- Get a commitment and document it.
- Send the customer a letter reiteration your understanding of the agreement.
- Ask for a signature on the agreement.
Always start off asking for the payment in full, then go down from there. Always aim high, such as first asking for 100% then 80% then 75% etc. If you leave it up to the customer they will offer the lowest possible amount and that may not help you in your situation at all and certainly won’t help them. Based on the economy and how it stands now, you may have to get some small payments but try to get as much as you can as frequently as you can.
- Send a confirmation letter the day you make the payment arrangement with the customer.
- Send a payment reminder 10 days before the payment is due.
- On the due date if you do not have payment, send a letter giving them 5 days to pay before the arrangement is revoked and they go back to full collections on the full amount.
Skills & resources needed for setting up payment plans
- Understanding the negotiation process – Highly effective collectors recognize that negotiations are a process. It requires an understanding of the billing and payment process.
- Focusing on a Win-Win situation – Win-win means that both parties feel like they have “won” during the collection process. Great bill collectors’ help their customers try to solve problems and look for opportunities to make that possible. They also know when to be firm and limit what they do in order to reach an agreement that is acceptable for both parties.
- Patience – Too many collectors try to go for the “quick fix” so they can get paid and move on to the next account. Good bill collectors know that patience is a virtue and that rushing the collection process only leads to not getting paid. Gather information BEFORE contacting your customer, then think carefully about possible solutions and this is really critical because major mistakes can be made when you rush.
- Confidence – Good collectors are confident when making a call or writing a letter. They aren’t arrogant, rude or cocky, they are confident and helpful. You must believe in your ability to each a win-win agreement with the customer, this is obtained through experience.
- Listening skills – People will tell you just about everything you need to know if you ask the right questions or keep quiet long enough for them to continue speaking. The biggest mistake a bill collector can make is not listening or bigger yet, interrupting a customer when that might mean if they had just listened longer, they may have received key information that would assist them in their collection effort. When you call a customer and you state the reason for your call or ask a question, wait for the answer. No matter how long the pause may be, get the customer to break that silence with an answer.
You need to keep your call backs up to date, that includes you’re missed and today call log. You’ll want them current at the end of each day.
You’re call volume per day is very important and should be a minimum of 60 plus calls each day, but never below 50 calls.
We ask you to maintain a positive attitude and outlook on dealing with customer service and handling of accounts. Collections can be extremely challenging at times so be aware of the importance of a positive attitude.
Communications with the debtor
A collector may communicate with the consumer or debtor between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time of the debtor.
The collector may communicate with debtor at work, except when the employer prohibits such communication.
If the debtor notifies the collector in writing that the debtor refuses to pay and wants communication to stop, the collector MUST stop communicating with the debtor except to advise the debtor of possible actions:
- That you are closing the account and won’t continue to try and collect
- That you may take legal/collection action
- That this may be reported to a credit bureau
The collector may not:
Harass, oppress or abuse the debtor in any way. These words are not defined by the courts when cases arise under the law but this practice is not practiced or condoned by ethical businesses or collection services.
False or misleading representations
Collectors cannot use any false or deceptive representation when trying to collect debts. Collectors are forbidden to represent that they are affiliated with the United States or any state or that the collector is an attorney or works for a credit reporting agency. False representation of the amount owed or legal status of any debt. You cannot make threats to any action that is illegal or that you do not intend to take. When you send a letter saying you will place an account for collection in 15 days, for example, you must follow through. The collector can also not make a claim that the debtor committed a crime by not paying their debt. You cannot tell the debtor that you have started a legal process unless you have. You cannot tell a debtor that consumers or debtors that do not pay will be arrested or imprisoned or that their property will be seized unless such action is legal and you intend to take it.
Collection Calls Procedure
Before you ever make a collection call, you need to look in the comments to see what has been done. Any time you speak to a customer, you need to make a note in the comment screen. You should always put the date first and then what was said. Then if you call a customer or they call you, you have the information instantly.
Once you place the call, you must speak to the owner or authorized person. Never discuss past due accounts with an unauthorized person, such as a receptionist, neighbor, friend, or relative, other than a spouse.
Once you have the owner or debtor on the phone, identify yourself and your company, and state the purpose of your call. If the customer tells you they cannot pay anything, listen to their story and then explain that you understand that they cannot pay the whole balance at this time, but that you do need payment. (Start at 80% and go down from there).
At the end of the call, repeat the payment schedule to the debtor and make a note in the comments. Whenever you make a payment arrangement like this, you need to send a follow up email the same day with the same information in the email.
These emails you can use on the follow up call in a week. In a week pull up account and see if they have paid and if they have not you need to call them again. If they have made a partial payment, you should send them a thank you email and tell them when you expect the next payment. Set next call back and follow up then.
If need be email invoice immediately then call right back and verify they received it and get a date the check will be sent. Always try to get a check number. Call back the day that they are going to mail the check and verify it was mailed that day.
When to make a collection call
The first call should be made within 24-72 hours of ad approval. This should be a friendly call to remind them about the bill and make sure they have a copy of the invoice. You will also ask them to take care of the invoice if a check is being sent then ask when the check will be mailed or if it has already been mail. If so get the check number, amount and date.
The second call would be made if payment is not received within a week or two. This call would refer to the first call, where there wasn’t a problem and they were going to send out the payment.
The third and following calls will be made if payment is not received within a week of the second call. These calls would be made weekly until there is a satisfactory payment schedule.
How to make a collection call
Before making any collection calls, check the comments screen to see if there are any comments that could be helpful with the call.
Any time there is any interaction with a customer, a notation must be put in the comments. Always put the date first and you initial then what was said. This way, if a customer calls you back, you have the information instantly, and it is available to anyone else who may get the call.
Once the call is placed to the business, only speak to the owner or an authorized person NEVER discuss past due accounts with unauthorized personnel, such as a receptionist.
Once the owner or authorized person is on the phone, identify yourself and your company, then state the purpose of your call. If the customer tells you that they cannot pay anything, listen to their story and explain that you understand that they cannot pay the whole balance at this time, but that you do need a payment. Give them options, such as, paying by credit card. When trying to get them to make a payment, start at 80% of the balance and go down from there. Having payment options is very helpful, such as check by phone, by credit card, or a place they can pay online.
At the end of the call, repeat the payment schedule to the customer and make a note in the comments. Whenever a payment arrangement is made, follow up email should be sent confirming the payment schedule. The easier you make it for the customer the better your chances of being paid.
Collection Calls Tips and Examples
Making collection calls is somewhat of an art. Once you do it long enough you can almost anticipate what the debtor is about to say. You need to be on top of things and know what to say to every response while maintaining professionalism and staying within the law.
Collection Call tips
- Inexpensive – Compared to a lot of advertising this is a, cost effective way, to advertise and help the veteran community.
- Flexible– We will do revisions to ad every quarter.
- The call should result in an agreement as to what is to be done.
- Use voice mail or answering machines if available. Leave detailed complete messages and speak slowly.
- Always be professional and courteous.
- When asked why you are calling, never say it is in regard to a debt, regarding an invoice is better.
- Create a sense of urgency by leaving a deadline time to hear from them.
- Get the name of a person in charge of issuing checks or paying bills.
- Ask for the best time to call them in the future.
- Leave complete messages, your name, company name, phone number, and request for a return call.
- Get the name of person taking the message.
Ask when the person you need to speak with will be back, and call at that time.