5 Collection Call Script Questions Answered by Industry Leaders

5 Collection Call Script Questions Answered by Industry Leaders
Most agencies use collection call scripts but how do you know you’re getting all you can out of yours? Recently, we reached out to several experts in the industry for their thoughts on call scripting. They discussed the pros and cons of using scripts, elements they should contain and the important link between scripts and better trained agents.
“A script streamlines the process for new hires, but it is good for everyone. Having a script allows you to focus training time on what the collectors have control over.”Kelli Krueger

Call Scripting Benefits

Call scripts provide many benefits for debt collection. For instance, scripts create consistency and positive habits with agents and can be used as a training tool for new hires. Industry experts Kelly Parsons-O’Brien, Pacific Credit Services, Mary Shores, creator of the Collection Advantage program, Kelli Krueger, ACA International, and Beth Conklin, State Collection Service all agree that some type of script can help your agency.
Kelly Parsons-O'Brien
Kelly Parsons-O'Brien

President, Pacific Credit Services

Mary Shores
Mary Shores

Creator of the Collection Advantage Program

Kelli Krueger
Kelli Krueger

Director of Education at ACA International

Beth Conklin
Beth Conklin

Director, Organizational Training and Development at State Collection Service, Inc.

Q: What are the Benefits of call scripts you've seen in personal experience?

Kelly Parsons-O’Brien

"We really focus on training the collectors how to talk to consumers, and so all we really need is some general guidance to get the new hire going. We are very excited that we are about ready to go live with Balto and although it is not the traditional scripting that many agencies use, we believe it will remind our collectors all those things they forget after they learn it."

Mary Shores

"Consistency is a major benefit of scripting. One of the most prominent issues in the collections industry is inconsistencies on phone calls. Sometimes, a consumer may get an answer from one representative and a totally different answer from another, which can cause conflict. Ultimately, scripting increases much-needed consistency, and consistency increases trust."

Kelli Krueger

"This is a big question, and I am answering it with the assumption that the script is proven to be successful and results in more resolutions than that of the unscripted collectors. A script must be tested against your best collectors before rolling it to the masses.

Scripts build good habits 

  • Scripts set the example and create consistent habits, especially with new hires with no experience. And as a bonus it sets the expectations for seasoned new hires.

Scripts force the breaking of bad habits in experienced collectors 

  • If you monitor a script, it allows you to course correct the bad habits of seasoned collectors.

Scripts drive policy and create the perfect development plan

  • Scripts keep collectors on the compliant road and stop (most) from going rogue.
  • A script makes expectations clear and gives a specific direction for collector development and accountability.
  • If they follow the script and are not successful, you know to focus on the other levers of success – productivity for example.
  • If there is consistent follow-through and accountability to sticking to the script, it will naturally result in fewer surprise lawsuits, complaints, and compliance violations.

Improves client relationship and trust

  • Helps with client audits through call consistency.
  • Allows you to say in proposals “this is how we do things” (script adherence) and explain how scripts protect their brand.
  • When the client listens to calls, they know what to expect, which creates an environment of trust and greatly reduces subjective feedback. When the client gets a complaint directly from a consumer, they know it is either ‘awfulized’ by the consumer or a one-off by your agency."

Beth Conklin

"In my experience one of the biggest benefits of call scripting is providing a baseline and consistent call flow companywide, which helps reduce the risk of poor call handling as well as complaints. This is most important during the call opener to ensure collectors are compliant when they are authenticating the consumer and providing the required disclosures before making that request for payment."

5 Collection Call Script Questions Answered by Industry Leaders

Scripting Limitations

For collection call scripts to succeed, you must also be aware of their limitations. Parsons-O’Brien, Shores and Krueger all agree it’s important to recognize the shortcomings scripts may have. For instance, it’s difficult to tailor call scripting so well that it addresses the variety of situations an agent may encounter. 

Accounts receivable agents also may find themselves sounding rehearsed if they rely too heavily on a script during calls. Balance the positives of a script with the understanding that it isn’t a complete solution.

Q: What are some call script limitations collectors should be aware of?

Kelly Parsons-O'Brien

"There is SOO much information that needs to be put in a script that the collectors are often lost. I mean, the “Hello this is Kelly at PCS on a recorded line…” is an easy script. 

The limitations are, what does a collector say when a consumer: 

  • Is out of work 
  • lost their husband
  • doesn’t agree with a portion of the bill
  • is mad at the client
  • didn’t get an invoice from the client

Or, any of the 100 other reasons a consumer isn’t ready to pay their bill. This is why we are excited to use Balto, I think it will help agents remember the BEST responses, instead of using the same response all the time."

Mary Shores

"It’s always best to have a blueprint of a script. That doesn’t mean agencies need a word-for-word script for every unique situation; rather, it means collectors need at least a general outline of what to say to stay on track. 

That said, one limitation that scripting presents is when a consumer requests something that does not have a dedicated script. Usually, seasoned collectors will still know how to handle these calls; new collectors will likely struggle though. Also, a perceived limitation can manifest when a collector is struggling to make the scripting sound natural rather than robotic on a call."

Kelli Krueger

“Scripts limit a collector’s ability to be creative on their talk offs. But, let us face it, creativity gets us sued. You know the adage “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This applies to scripts as well. If you sound scripted, it is defeating its purpose. Collectors who embrace the script and put their voice and personality behind it will find great success. 

On the flip side of this debate, it was the ability to learn through failure that made great collectors great and the script takes that opportunity away. With a script, collectors tend to put failure accountability on the script vs. owning it. Although one could argue that this is a management issue more than a script issue.”

Beth Conklin

"Collectors need to be reminded it is just that, a “script.” Talk-off scripts are meant to be a guide – a stepping stone to help collectors as they move through the call. Scripting is a great baseline tool, however each call will be unique. Collectors need to understand they will be deterring off the script based on that unique situation, so role playing different scenarios that go off script is crucial."

5 Collection Call Script Questions Answered by Industry Leaders

Scripting: Keeping Agents in Control

The words used in scripts can help to maintain control during calls. Scripts help build agent confidence and give them a roadmap for what to do. While they may not address every situation, you can include scripting that teaches call agents to ask open ended or probing questions that yield more information from consumers and keep the conversation moving forward.

Q: How can call scripts help agents stay in control of a call?

Kelly Parsons-O’Brien

“As many know, I am a huge fan of Mary Shores, and her words program. This is a great version of a script, because really all of those words that work can fit in to so many circumstances. I also think that giving collectors three to four call control statements is a great way to help them with their call control. 

One that I like is ‘Let me ask you this..’ then you would ask a clarifying question, or maybe something like ‘Would it be reasonable to resolve the amount you agree with, and then send the balance to our dispute department.’ Or ‘What I hear you saying is… and I want to help you. What I am going to do.’”

Mary Shores

“Call scripts are amazing when it comes to helping collectors stay in control of the call. When they know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, they are going to yield a better outcome than if they’re speaking from the top of their heads. 

In turn, scripting also increases confidence because collectors don’t feel pressured to say the right thing naturally. After all, when collectors are unsure about what to say, they may stall, use filler words, or tell the consumer they don’t know what to do. These uncertain responses can cause conflict with consumers that agencies want to avoid.”

Kelli Krueger

“It is easy for a consumer to take a collector down a “Billy trail” (I use the scenario of the cartoon “Family Circus”). The goal is to get resolution. A script streamlines that process. In one example of the cartoon, the goal is for Billy to get firewood, which he achieves only after getting distracted along the way. If he had stayed focused, he would have gathered a lot more firewood but he was distracted and got just a little.”

Beth Conklin

"Each call is unique and each personality is also just as unique. Not every call is going to go according to plan, nor will every consumer we talk to be easy to deal with.

Call scripting helps the collector to remain in control during those times when the call is starting to take the wrong turn: the consumer is frustrated or upset, the call escalates or there are stalls or objections as to why the account is delinquent.

These scenarios can take the collector off-guard and start to lose control of the call. With baseline call scripting, it can help the collector remain on track as well as boost their confidence level as they learn how to talk through these challenging calls."

Collection Call Script Elements

For your collection call scripts to be effective, they should contain a few key elements. First, include the flexibility needed so agents can adapt to unique situations without sounding stiff. They must also contain the basic elements of an impactful collection conversation to guide both your agent and consumer successfully through the process.

Q: What are the main elements a script should contain?

Kelly Parsons-O’Brien

“You need to give the collector flexibility to be themselves. I find that if you are requiring your agents to read scripts verbatim, they will sound like robots. Sure we need some things to be verbatim like the mini Miranda, but something like asking for employment, does it always have to sound the same way? I find that there are definitely better ways to ask things, and they need to be sure they know and use those. 

For example, we don’t ask “do you work?” we ask “where do you work?” Sometimes, though, it is more organic for a collector to say something like, “sounds like you are busy at work, what do you do?” They may answer construction, and the collector might say “oh my boyfriend does too, where do you work?” or “That sounds like fun, what company do you work for?”

I also think the other main element is to allow the collector to help you write their scripts, let the collectors review and give feedback regularly on the scripts. For example you don’t want to be training a new hire on a script that the senior staff never uses because it doesn’t work well. Be open to feedback from your team and work together to make the scripts work well for all your team members.”

5 Collection Call Script Questions Answered by Industry Leaders

Mary Shores

“Scripting should contain 4 main elements: 

  • The script should relate to the consumer’s current situation. 
  • It should consider what outcome the consumer is looking for. 
  • It should consider the company and client’s policies. 
  • It should frame the solution with positive language and empathy.”

Kelli Krueger

  • Intro
  • Payment Flow
  • Closing a yes
  • Closing a NO

Beth Conklin

"The main elements of a call script should contain the authentication process, required disclosures, the call opener which should contain the request for payment and, my favorite, F&C (full and complete information).

In addition, the call script should contain how to close the call – not only if the call ends without resolution, but also how to handle the call when a payment or promise to pay is made."

The Importance of Training

Employee training is often the missing piece of the puzzle when recovery rates are low. Call scripts are the best way to give new agents the tools and confidence they need to perform. They’re also valuable for keeping new agents from violating compliance rules or learning other bad habits.

Q: Can you speak to the importance of training when using scripts?

Kelly Parsons-O’Brien

“Training is so important, regardless of scripts. The agents need to learn their scripts so they come naturally. The worst thing I hear when calling some large banks and credit cards is hearing someone reading their script. 

I don’t want to know what management wants them to say, I want to know the agent is LISTENING to me and here to help. That cannot be conveyed when reading a script. The agent needs to know the scripts and just reference them for reminders.”

“You need to give the collector flexibility to be themselves. I find that if you are requiring your agents to read scripts verbatim, they will sound like robots.”Kelly Parsons-O'Brien

Mary Shores

“Scripting is vitally important during training because collectors are still becoming proficient at their job. The more they recite scripts, the more they can actually memorize them, which will make it easier to use the scripts later on. Additionally, scripting provides new collectors with a formula for success. 

Without a script, new collectors often end calls without even asking for payment, or they may let their personal feelings about debt affect the outcome of the call. Both scenarios can lead to excessive passivity or aggression. Thus, using scripts during training will yield more proficient collectors.”

Kelli Krueger

“I covered this above in questions but here is a final thought: 

Being in collections is freaking hard enough! There are more things you cannot do and say than what you can do and say. It is overwhelming and frankly for some (like me) too much to keep it all together. A script streamlines the process for new hires, but it is good for everyone. Having a script allows you to focus training time on what the collectors have control over.”

Beth Conklin

"Training call scripting is extremely important (most importantly for new hire training, of course). Whether you are training new hires with little to no experience, or new hires with collection experience, scripting will help enforce the call handling that works in your office. Role playing and call calibrations are great tools to use when training call scripting and opening up the dialogue when training the scripts and call flow."

Do you want to create new scripting or improve the scripts your agency is using? We've created a downloadable guide based on the advice these experts have discussed in this comprehensive article. Learn about the importance of scripting, elements your scripts should contain and more.

Download Call Scripting for Debt Collection Guide:
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– ABOUT THE AUTHOR –
Hannah Huerta - PDCflow Marketing Specialist
Hannah Huerta, Marketing Specialist

Hannah Huerta is a Marketing Specialist at PDCflow. She creates content for the accounts receivable and payment industry.

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