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Jul 01 2011
Collection Telephonophobia
Georgette Bevan, CCE, NACM BCS

What happens when you take an average person, stick 'em in collections, hand them a phone and tell them to call perfect strangers and ask for money! Hello anxiety! If you're somewhat normal, this probably creates an uncomfortable situation. Telephonophobia is a real fear. You have to start somewhere, this is where I started.

Strike one: I was told as a child that "it's not polite to ask people about money."

Strike two: I was raised to be a peace maker, I (used to) avoid conflict like the plague.

Strike three: I was new to credit & A/R and had no background (clueless).

Your story may or may not be similar, but in the end, the result is the same. Calling strangers and asking for money can be a difficult and uncomfortable task.

Let's examine some truths about collection calls.

1) You represent one business calling another business, it's not personal.

2) The customer purchased and received goods or services from your company and they promised to pay.

3) The person you are talking to is most likely an employee and they don't take it personally.

How do we conquer Telephonophobia?

1) Let's re-evaluate our belief system. Reread the truths about collection calls directly above. Print and post them by your phone, review them often.

2) Write a script using language with which you are comfortable. Call your own voice mail and practice the script or find a trusted friend or coworker for role playing.

3) Prepare, prepare, prepare. Learn all you can about your company and what they do. Follow a sales transaction from order to invoice (and beyond). Be prepared to answer any questions your customer may have. If you don't know the answer, tell them the truth and offer to research it and call them back. Knowledge is a key asset. Non-payment of invoices is frequently something small that can easily be resolved.

4) Before you pick up the phone, smile and visualize yourself in a positive conversation helping your customer resolve a problem - their outstanding payable. What do you do when the call goes poorly? Review what went wrong and determine if you allowed your emotions to enter into the picture. There is no room for emotions in a collection call and remember, it's not personal. Develop alternative ways you could have handled the call. Talk to a trusted friend or coworker about the situation and role play the call ending up in a more positive direction. You will be better prepared next time around.

Keep "Dialing for Dollars." Our companies are counting on us!

Want more Effective Collection Call Techniques ... mention you saw this article in the Credit Line and receive FREE admission to Credit Boot Camp on Sept 7th.