Negotiating Payment Plans: Successful Strategies for Call Centers

Negotiating Payment Plans: Successful Strategies for Call Centers
Payment negotiations are the most important part of accounts receivable. If agents don’t know the best tactics for setting up payment plans or collecting higher dollar amounts, you will routinely leave money on the table. Every accounts receivable call center should train staff in basic methods for collecting the highest amount in the shortest time frame possible.

Top Down Negotiation

Top down negotiation is a simple strategy that can help any agent increase their numbers if they learn to use it properly. Top down means starting every conversation asking for payment in full. This expectation leaves plenty of room to work down to a mutually agreeable payment amount

In negotiation, it’s easier to work your way down to a lower number than to ask a consumer to pay a higher amount later in the call. This technique sounds simple, but can be difficult in practice if your customer already has an amount in mind. Training should include tactics to redirect conversations to maintain control of the call.

Better Recurring Payment Plans

Agents often fall into the trap of agreeing to unfavorable recurring payment plans. Don’t let consumers set long-term, low dollar schedules that don’t bring you any money. There are a few basic strategies that can improve recovery rates when you are discussing payment plan options

  • Higher monthly payments - When offering recurring billing schedules to consumers, some of the guesswork comes in finding out how much they can afford per payment. Once you understand where their threshold is, consider suggesting $10 or $15 more per payment. Oftentimes, consumers are willing to pay a few more dollars, knowing this will shorten the payment length.
  • Shorter schedules - Another useful tactic is to suggest higher dollar, short-term payment schedules. Offering a three to six month plan can help consumers buy in and become motivated to pay off their overdue bill.
  • Down payments - Those who have already made a substantial payment on their account are more likely to be invested in making monthly payments. Suggest to consumers they pay a larger one-time payment today, securing some revenue and keeping them interested in completing their recurring schedule.
  • Don’t acknowledge the minimum acceptable payment - Customers asking about the minimum payment they can make can disrupt the flow of the call. Teach agents not to discuss the lowest acceptable payment. If they do so, it will be much harder to rise above that number throughout the call.

To offer consumers the best experience possible setting up payment plans, ensure you’re using a payment software like PDCflow that provides the payment security and compliance features you need.

Payment Negotiation Tips for Accounts Receivable Teams

Teach Agents to Have a Better Call

Another vital part of negotiation is knowing how to guide consumers gently through a conversation. Those owing money (especially once a bill is overdue) may find it difficult to focus on resolution. Teach agents how to show empathy, refocus conversations and have a better call.

  • Positive language - Positive language is a vital part of any accounts receivable call. Cutting negative language from conversations will automatically make consumers more receptive to a better payment arrangement.
  • Conversational intelligence - Another vital part of negotiation is understanding privacy and compliance issues that come along with collecting bills (especially in healthcare collections). Train agents how to understand what is – and is not– appropriate to ask. Respectful, knowledgeable agents will put consumers at ease to be more honest about their financial situations.
  • Overcoming stalls and objections - Payment stalls and objections can derail negotiations fast. Preparing agents with tactics for overcoming stalls and objections will keep them in control of calls.
  • Empathy - Financial stress or other life changing circumstances can arise after goods and services were delivered, before a bill is due. Emphasize the importance of being empathetic with consumers. Teach front line staff to identify those who are able to pay bills right away and those who may need to hear other options.
Negotiating Payment Plans: Successful Strategies for Call Centers

Set Agents Up For Success

If you want agents to become better negotiators while keeping all other best practices in mind, you need to help them succeed. Build trust in your company by maintaining an up-to-date digital strategy that shows consumers you are a legitimate, trustworthy business.

Especially in times of flux such as the current pandemic, collection policies and procedures can change rapidly. Regularly update your internal training materials and other reference books to reflect these changes. Staff needs to be trained on and have access to the latest information and industry strategies to do their best work.

Tools to Help You Follow Through

Accounts receivable calls can be difficult. The simple tips above can help agents increase receivables but to see a boost across your organization, you need to be committed. Investing in tools and materials is a long-term strategy that will standardize agent practices and benefit your business for years to come. 

Call Scripts
Many AR professionals already rely on call scripts to keep agents consistent and compliant, and improves consumer experience. With a proven script, you also develop a better workforce across the board by building good negotiation habits in new agents and breaking bad ones in established employees
Negotiating Payment Plans: Successful Strategies for Call Centers

Training Techniques
Understanding the psychology of how people learn can make your training more effective. People don’t do well with long, drawn out lessons. Focus on training techniques that break down material into simple, short bursts of knowledge. For help creating a better training program, look into one of the many programs offered by industry professionals or trade associations.

Software

A big part of securing a payment agreement is staying in control of calls. PDCflow payment software offers a variety of tools that make bill negotiations easier.

  • FLOW Technology for payment collection - a continual struggle in AR is turning the promise of a payment into a guaranteed payment. FLOW Technology allows agents to send a payment request directly to a consumer’s mobile phone or email address. This way, agents can stay on the phone while a payment is completed to ensure it goes through.
  • FLOW for compliance - It’s important to ensure that along with collecting payments, your staff are following payment security and compliance guidelines. FLOW Technology reduces PCI compliance requirements for agencies by  allowing consumers to key in payment information, taking this sensitive data out of the hands of collectors.
  • PDCflow recurring payments - PDCflow’s recurring payment module allows for flexibility in plan frequency and administrators can control minimum payment amounts and maximum payment terms. This way, agents can offer the best payment plans possible to consumers while avoiding the low dollar, long term trap that reduces revenue.

Keeping control of calls and maintaining compliance once payment is agreed upon are essential to negotiation. To learn more about how FLOW Technology makes collection calls easier while keeping your call center compliant, download our solution brief.

Download FLOW Technology for Call Centers Solution Brief
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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.

LinkedIn - Hannah Huerta

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