How to Handle Payment Stalls and Objections in Accounts Receivable

How to Handle Payment Stalls and Objections in Accounts Receivable

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Stalls and objections to payment in debt collection is a hurdle every agent will encounter. Greg Ruffino, Director of Training at Williams and Fudge, Inc., is well-versed in the difficulties a consumer’s payment stalls and objections can cause. Ruffino shared his knowledge on the subject, including common statements consumers give and effective debt collection techniques to overcome them.

Payment Stalls and Objections

The rise of call blocking has made right party contact more difficult in recent years. Once you’ve made this first consumer contact, it’s vital to have the highest quality conversation possible. Unfortunately, it’s commonplace for consumers to use payment stalls or objections that make these conversations, and a debt collector’s overall objective, more difficult.  

Many of the stalling comments consumers make relate to having no time or money to deal with a collection call. Accepting these payment objections at face value can be a disservice to both you and your consumer. High-quality conversations benefit you and your agency by leading to more information and a higher likelihood of payment. These calls also serve consumers by helping them resolve debts they may be dreading and places them on the path to a better financial situation.

Ruffino says the most common stalls and objections he has encountered are:       

  • I cannot talk right now / can you call me back later.
  • I am unemployed.
  • I am driving.
  • I am at work.
  • I can pay you next month.  
How To Handle Payment Stalls and Objections in Accounts Receivable

Tips for Overcoming Payment Stalls and Objections

The best way to set collectors up for success is to prepare them for stalls and objections before calls begin. Create materials for agents to use and allow them time to practice their scripted responses. 

“It is good to first have a list of your agency’s common stalls and objections with a correlating response that the collector can quickly go to,” says Ruffino. “This can be done through scripting, through training and also having reference documents readily available for the collector to see at their desks.”

Thoroughly training your front-line collectors to expect and prepare for this situation is the key to success. There are more tactics you can use to ready collectors for payment objections.

  • Role-playing - Give collectors the chance to verbally practice the responses in the script. Getting comfortable having these conversations out loud can make them go much more smoothly on a live call.
  • Play Recordings of Successful Calls - Another helpful training tool is listening to the past successes of other collectors. Identify a call where an agent smoothly addressed a consumer’s concerns. Replaying that for other collectors is another tool to prepare them.  
  • Training on Conversation Skills - Some collectors may benefit from more general information and practice on how to converse with consumers. Focusing on conversational intelligence equips employees to comfortably address difficult topics like financial struggles.
  • Voice and Intonation Practice - The tone of your voice is just as important as the words you use in consumer communications. Collectors should practice voice intonation and how to sound pleasant and persuasive with consumers. 
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Addressing Time or Availability Payment Stalls

If a consumer claims they can not speak at the moment you call, assure them you will keep the conversation short. Ruffino says other factors in addressing a time stall can be determined based upon the account's age and whether the consumer has spoken to your agency in the past. "If we have never spoken to them, now may be a good time to schedule a call back," he explains.

Addressing Financial Payment Objections

"If it is a financially related stall, I will temporarily stop talking about money and attempt to update or verify location information," says Ruffino. "This is also a time to attempt to build a rapport before I go back into asking about money. I will then start to inquire on the financial situation while assuring them we are here to help resolve the matter."

Differentiating Payment Stalls From Disputes

It’s important to understand the difference between stalling tactics and disputes. While a consumer may stall on payment, or object to having money to pay, this doesn’t mean they disagree that they owe the debt. “Disputes will typically reference that the consumer does not owe, the amount is wrong, or it is the wrong person,” says Ruffino.

How to Handle Payment Stalls and Objections in Accounts Receivable

Although legally it is acceptable to only honor written disputes, it’s considered best practice to accept verbal disputes as well. Doing so can help you avoid possible litigation. Agents should be trained to easily spot the difference between payment objections and debt disputes so they are ready for anything on a call – no matter what course the conversation takes.

The PAID Model: Where Do Stalls Fit In The Process?

Ruffino was recently a presenter at the Collector Live 2020, where he spoke of his simple conversation guide for front-line collectors to increase receivables. By following the acronym P.A.I.D., collectors will see more success during consumer interactions.

P = Paid in Full

A = Acquire Information

I = Interact With Consumers

D = Deliver Payment Options

He says that even when consumers offer payment stalls or objections during a call, it’s still possible to follow the PAID system. Agents can address payment stalls and objections while both A, acquiring information and I, interacting with the consumer.

Following these steps offers a clear blueprint for keeping calls consistent and getting the most out of each interaction. What’s more, this system reminds agents to work to respectfully get the highest quality information, which will improve communications with consumers.

Addressing Especially Difficult Calls

Every collector will encounter some collection calls that are exceptionally difficult to navigate. “Let them vent, listen more than you speak,” says Ruffino. “Often, letting someone get their thoughts or frustrations off their chest goes a long way in turning the corner. I will continually let them know that we are here to help.”

Knowing When To Move On

It’s also important to acknowledge that sometimes, a call just won’t end successfully. Be sure to teach agents to pay attention to failed calls as well as successes. What could have been done differently that they can try in the future? Emphasize staying positive, learning from past experiences and knowing when to move on. 

“If I let myself get upset or become difficult along with the consumer, I should assume they will never speak to us again and therefore we will never get paid on that account. The door always stays open, no matter what. Thank them for their time, make great notes on the account file to help you or others prepare for the next effort with them and simply move on.”

For more information on dealing with objections, including how to handle conversations with different generations of consumers, download the Overcoming Objections in Debt Collection Guide.

Download the Overcoming Objections in Debt Collection Guide:
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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