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At this time of economic uncertainty, good communication skills have become a popular topic for experts in the debt collection industry. The role of communication now and in the future of debt collection was discussed at length during last month’s special Home Edition of Collector.Live! Several presenters took advantage of their time during the day-long virtual presentation to talk about many of the skills debt collectors can employ to become good communicators.
Good Communication Skills
There are many skills collectors can learn to become a good communicator. The presenters at Collector.Live! Home Edition covered several of these skills industry experts should practice today to prepare them for the future of collection.
Mary Shores, Midstate Collection Solutions, was the first expert to speak during the conference. Her presentation began with Shores sharing her own journey in debt collection. She says that one day after many difficult calls, she created a goal: she wanted the next consumer to leave their call happier than when the call began.
This put her on the path to creating better ways of collecting debt by ensuring consumers feel relief when paying debts rather than the shame or guilt many feel at the beginning of a call. She believes the root of success is using communication to really connect with consumers.
Shores says the most effective collectors in an agency – those she calls Super Connectors – have three main traits you should look for.
- Building Trust - Provide empathy to the consumer and validate what they have to say. Consumers need to feel heard. Once you validate their thoughts and feelings, this builds trust and sets a good tone for the rest of a call.
- Good listening - Shores says the key to good listening is asking the right questions. She suggests asking calibrating questions to understand how consumers are feeling. Really pay attention to the consumer’s responses. This will help you direct the conversation in the next step.
- Offering Solutions - Talking in terms of solutions provides hope to consumers. This step is especially important with the current uncertainty many are facing.
Shores enjoys sharing her knowledge with others in the industry. The full Super Connectors document is available via email for anyone who reaches out to her team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Manny Newburger, Baron & Newburger, spoke in his Collector.Live! session about the importance of using empathy and compassion in your interactions with consumers. Most collectors know that you will be more successful in your goals with consumers if you work to understand their perspective. Newburger spent his time providing concrete tips on improving communication skills by being a compassionate questioner.
- Ask consumers how they are doing/feeling - Ask “How are you?” at the beginning of every call. This lets consumers know you care.
- Don’t assume you know how they feel - Instead, make them feel heard with statements like:
- “I’ve had the same worries”
- “You’re not alone”
- Ask follow-ups - If someone is telling you their situation, be sure to ask follow-up questions to fully understand the details of their financial situation.
- Don’t ask for their stimulus - Don’t ask people to use their stimulus checks to pay their bill. Many consumers need this money to cover daily expenses. You may find that some consumers wish to use this money to resolve debts. Those that want to use it for this purpose, will. Leave this choice up to the consumer.
Newburger says the best way to make someone want to pay you is to get them to trust you. Make consumers feel human, make it clear you hear them, and understand what they’re going through. He says it’s essential when using compassion and empathy in conversations that you are not simply trying to “tick off the boxes.”
Beth Conklin, State Collection Service, spent her time talking about the importance of understanding and letting consumers know you are all in this unprecedented situation together. She says simply telling consumers “I understand” is a good way to validate their situation and feelings. She also says using the word “let’s” is a good way for consumers to feel like you are both working together in this situation.
She says these words of compassion and understanding help you to build rapport. After all, just because a consumer needs to adjust a payment plan right now doesn’t mean they won’t pay in the future. Building rapport and showing understanding to consumers helps to ensure an easier collection down the road.
The Future of Collections
When used consistently, these and other good communication skills can transform the relationship you have with your consumers. This goal is what many industry experts view as the future of collections. Gordon Beck, Valor Intelligent Processing, says that this change starts with a positive mental attitude and willingness to adapt to the ever-changing coronavirus situation.
“For the first time in decades, we are now dealing with and talking to those from every walk of life,” says Beck. This gives collectors the chance to use communication skills to show the public the good they do and the empathy, connection and understanding they are capable of.
For more tips on how to practice empathy, avoid asking for too much information in calls and practicing overall conversational intelligence, download our Conversational Intelligence guide.