When you have invested time and money in sales and marketing and when you’ve worked hard to provide excellent service to your customer to a tight deadline, it is very frustrating if the invoices remain unpaid, yet many businesses avoid making those very important calls to recover payments they deserve and need.
Resorting to threats will not achieve results but instead could destroy customer relationships. Careful planning, being professional and polite when asking for a payment and showing persistence will most likely lead to the desired outcome.
Whilst words are important when on the phone, tone of voice is paramount.
Red Rags – Words and phrases which may trigger negative responses
“You should have let us know earlier…”
Better: “It’s a shame we didn’t know earlier…”
“At the end of the day that isn’t our problem…”
Better: “Unfortunately, the contract / agreement states… unfortunately we cannot accept… It would be in your best interest…”
“As I’ve already said…”
Better: “Just to clarify… Just to re-cap…”
“You’ll have to phone someone else about that”
Better: “I’ll find out who deals with this and get back to you”
A specialist chemical cleaning company selling to SMEs needed to get payments in to pay overdue bills.
The owner asked staff to spend 1.5 hours at the end of each day to make phone calls requesting payment. After a week of calls, very little had been achieved.
Further analysis showed that the calls were made at the end of each day when many of the accounts contacts had already left. Not reaching anyone and not achieving results resulted in stress and a negative attitude which showed in the tone of the calls. The few customers that were available got annoyed with the caller’s brusque tone rather than confirming payment.
When the owner outsourced credit collection to us, he immediately noticed a ten-fold increase in paid invoices. When he added up the hours that his staff had spent on fruitless calls, he also found that outsourcing the work was much more cost-effective.
Effective telephone call at a glance
Preparation and a positive attitude is key for successful collection calls and can make all the difference. The check list below should help:
Before the call:
- Know who to call and have their contact details ready.
- Know when to call.
- Know the account history & status.
- Have a clear objective.
- Be aware of the next stage.
- Get your opening phrase right and practise it.
- Start low-key to leave room for manoeuvre
Controlling the call:
- Closed questions establish the facts but can easily be answered yes or no
- Open questions help probe and gain information. Open questions begin with or contain the words: WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, WHICH
- NEVER argue or interrupt
- NEVER laugh it off
- NEVER lose your temper
- ALWAYS thank the caller for the information.
Fail to plan and you plan to fail