Collector - April 2018 - 14

COLLECTIONTIPS

A Piece Apart
How to negotiate payment arrangements that satisfy both parties.
By Anne Rosso May

P

ayment in full: It's the ultimate
goal of any debt collection
conversation. While most debt
collection agencies-and their clients-
expect collectors to request the balance in
full at least one time in each conversation
with a consumer, securing that amount is
not always a realistic option. You'll need to
develop a strategy to successfully negotiate
payment plans.
For instance, if the consumer tells you she
is a single parent, one of her children is in
the hospital and she's out of work, you most
likely would not expect to receive payment
in full on a large balance-but you do want
to set up the best payment arrangement
possible under the circumstances.
Before you propose a payment
arrangement, you need to understand
the consumer's current financial situation
and why they can't pay. Ask open-ended
questions to find out as much as you can
about the consumer's financial options, and
review the account information to glean
other relevant details.
It's important that you accurately
understand what's going on so you don't
set the consumer up with an unrealistic
payment arrangement-leaving all parties
disappointed and frustrated. You want
something that works with the consumer's
budget as well as your agency's payment
arrangement parameters.
Consumers may be embarrassed by their
financial struggle and hesitant to admit to
you that they can't afford the option you
are proposing. Use power words to build
trust with the consumer, such as, "help,"
"solution," "my pleasure" and "I agree." Make
this conversation a team effort. Try saying,
"Let's work together and get something
figured out. What's the most you can pay
right now?"

14

If the consumer has a $500 account
but tells you he can only afford to pay
$1 a month, first ask: "Why?" Maybe the
consumer will say, "I already paid some of
this bill." If that's the case, you'll probably
want to check with the client-maybe the
consumer did submit payment and the client
hasn't yet reported it to your agency. Or
maybe the consumer doesn't understand the
bill he has received and you need to walk
him through it line by line. Whatever the
reason, it's essential to truly listen to what
the consumer tells you.
If the consumer offers to pay $50 a month,
you might say, "OK, I'll set you up to pay $50
a month, and then I'll get back in touch with
you in 90 days to see if your circumstances
have changed."

The key is to not let a payment
arrangement go without checking back with
the consumer on a schedule that you've both
agreed to at the outset. You can always work
with consumers to adjust the terms of the
arrangement if their financial circumstances
improve at a later date.
Follow your agency's guidelines on
the number of payments and amountsĀ it
will accept, as well as at what point in the
collection conversation you can propose a
payment schedule.
Anne Rosso May is editor of Collector
magazine. Special thanks to Ron Brown,
IFCCE, MCE, president and CEO of
Collection Services International, for
contributing to this article.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG



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