Collector - April 2017 - 14


COLLECTIONTIPS

Stay on Track
How to respond to three common collection call scenarios.
By Anne Rosso May

T

he debt collection conversations
you have every day are all
simultaneously unique and alike. Of
course, every person you talk to is special,
and their circumstances and problems
belong to them. But your conversations
with consumers may start to feel the same
because they often tread three basic issues:
I don't understand why I have to pay this

debt. I don't have the money to pay this
debt. I don't think I owe this debt.
This repetition, happening dozens of times
a day, can make your brain start to feel like
a record player with the needle stuck in a
groove. But by employing active listening
skills and paying attention to the unique
characteristics of each consumer's situation,
you will improve your interactions and
maintain control of the call. Here are some
refresher tips to better communicate with
consumers in these common collection call
scenarios.

I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY I HAVE
TO PAY THIS DEBT
First, you need to get to the root of the
consumer's confusion. For instance, if the
debt is the result of a medical service, the
consumer may believe that his insurance
carrier was going to cover the bill. In these
situations, you should have a list of questions
ready to help consumers understand what
they owe and why. What is the consumer's
deductible? Does the consumer remember
paying a copay at any point? Is there a
duplicate charge on the bill or other error
that is complicating things?
Continuously reflect what the consumer is
saying back to you to make sure you are both
on the same page.
Validate the consumer's concerns and
questions with statements like: "I've been in
a similar situation and I know how confusing
this can be. I can help you figure this out."

I DON'T HAVE THE MONEY
TO PAY THIS DEBT
For the most part, consumers with
delinquent debt genuinely want to resolve
the account but don't feel they are able to
for various reasons. When a consumer says
he doesn't have the money to pay the debt,

14

it's important to keep an open mind and
listen without judgment to the obstacles the
consumer sees. Ask open-ended questions
to dig deeper into the issue and uncover a
solution the problem.
Pay attention to not only the content of
what the consumer is saying but also his
intent.
Empathy is key, especially if the consumer
is angry or frustrated at being contacted
about the debt. Consider the hardships
consumers may be going through and don't
jump to conclusions.
Be fully present while the consumer is
talking, and ask clarifying questions to
make sure you understand the details of the
situation.

I DON'T THINK I OWE THIS DEBT
If the consumer says he does not owe all or
part of the debt, there are a few steps you
have to take, based on Fair Credit Reporting
Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
requirements.
Listen for some key words in these
situations because the consumer may not
actually say the word "dispute." Phrases like
"I never received this service" or "These
numbers just aren't right" may be signs that
the consumer disagrees with the information
in your file.
Mark the account as disputed, and include
any other relevant information from the
consumer in your notes, such as if the
consumer believes the debt is not his or if he
thinks the amount is incorrect. Then follow
your agency's stated policies and procedures
on how to handle disputes, which may
require gathering additional information
about the debt.
Anne Rosso May is editor of Collector
magazine.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

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