It is an ongoing challenge for most collection agencies to balance achieving a client’s recovery goals and preserving the customer-creditor relationship. An angry customer isn’t just a headache for your collection teams; in this age of social media, they can be an outright threat to your client’s reputation. But by creating a customer-centered collections process, your teams can meet both their performance targets and safeguard your client’s name.
Put your best face forward
Your frontline collectors are the ones interacting with customers, so begin by ensuring that a positive customer interaction flows from there. It’s vital that your representatives understand the principles of customer service. Hiring someone who has a background in collections work is good, but hiring someone who has that background, as well as solid customer service experience, is even better. It’s much easier to teach someone the basics of collecting debt, but much harder to teach someone to be nice.
To that end, it’s important to develop a training program that is customer-focused. Your collection representatives must understand how to quickly foster a positive connection with the customers they contact. You can reinforce the strategies they’ve learned by conducting regular evaluations to ensure that they’re employing the customer service you expect and treating every customer with respect and professionalism.
View the relationship as a partnership
A customer-centered collections process means shifting your collections strategy away from collecting as much money as possible and towards treating every customer interaction as a partnership. This approach changes the entire nature of the conversation for the better. Your collection representatives should regard the debt to be collected as a problem they can help the consumer solve. A customer who feels like the representative they’re talking to is on their side will be more willing to work with your rep to figure out an answer. Moreover, representatives who embrace their role as problem-solvers instead of debt collectors will be happier with their jobs overall.
This is why training your collection representatives to be both creative and nimble when talking to customers should be another factor in your collections process. Often, customers are so focused on their current bank account balance, they fail to consider other potential sources of income they can tap to pay their debt. A good collector will ask about potential resources the customer can use to pay the debt, but a nimble collector will have listened for clues the customer may have revealed throughout the entire conversation and tailor their communication approach to the person they’re talking to.
Listen, listen, listen
Above all, your training program should emphasize the importance of listening skills. We all want to feel like the person we’re talking to hears us and understands us. Customers are no different. One of the most fundamental philosophies of good customer service is called mirroring: the practice of reflecting a customer’s language and tone to foster a connection. This customer service approach not only puts the customer at ease, but it also helps the customer to develop a sense of trust, which is incredibly important when your representative is talking to someone who is facing a challenging situation.
Invest in your team, create partnerships, and listening: these are all key elements to shifting the paradigm of collections to a more positive outcome for everyone involved. With the right employees following a thoughtful, customer-centered collections process, your collections efforts can be successful for your clients and rewarding for your team.