Collector - March 2020 - 16

COLLECTIONTIPS

De-Escalating Tough Calls
How to respond to fight-or-flight behavior.
By Angela Czerlanis

A

call escalates when strong emotions
like frustration, anger or fear
control the people speaking. This
can happen to both the consumer and
collector. If both parties let their emotions
go wild, the work won't get done.
As part of ACA International's new
online Hot Topic webinar series, Irene
Hoheusle, vice president of collections and
education at Account Recovery Specialists
Inc. in Wichita, Kansas, shared some tips for
dealing with escalated calls.
Collectors should have the training and
skills to calm the situation-otherwise
known as de-escalation-by recognizing
the signs and responding with care. The
most important strategy to learn is that the
brain takes over when presented with strong
emotions. To protect the body, the brain
signals three reactions: fight, flee
or freeze.
Fighters will charge head-on into battle
with a raised voice and defensive words:
"Stop right there! I wasn't told that!" or
"You don't know what you're talking about!"
Yelling, interrupting and cursing are classic
signs of a fight.
Someone who wants to flee just wants to
get out of there. The most obvious reaction
here is to escape the call by hanging up.
People who freeze during stressful situations
just shut down. They may sound confused
or indicate that they can't process the
information in the conversation.
When the brain signals any of these
defenses, it's impossible to use logic
or reason to explain the facts. Sensible
negotiations about payment amounts and
solutions won't go anywhere because the
brain isn't listening. Hoheusle recommends
collectors STIRR the conversation to settle
it down: Stop, Think, Incentive, Recognize
and React.

16

STOP

RECOGNIZE

Control your own emotions first. This is like
the preflight instructions you hear on any
airline: "Put on your own oxygen mask first
before helping others." Take a deep breath
to tone down any aggression and lower the
volume of your voice.

If you and the consumer are repeating
things and going in circles, no one is
listening. Recognize when you need help.
Talk with a supervisor or mentor about a
second-voice backup plan. Find out who
your point person is for transferring or
terminating escalated calls.

THINK
Ask yourself, "If I respond with anger or
fear, what will happen?" Chances are that the
call will continue to escalate and you may
say something inappropriate. A well-placed
pause will buy a few seconds for you to calm
your emotions. When consumers notice the
silence, they may also catch the signal that it's
time to regroup.

INCENTIVE
Your incentive to stay calm is clear-to
remain professional and maintain rapport
with the consumer. What is the consumer's
incentive to regain control? Did you listen to
the meaning behind the consumer's emotions
and hear the real problem? Respond with a
genuine, "I understand! I can help with that."

REACT
Take action. You could say: "I see I'm not
explaining this clearly. I'm going to get
Mary on the line, who is excellent with
solving this kind of problem." Maintain a
confident voice. Respectfully close the call
with a transfer or by ending it. Then, shake
it off and move on.
Check out ACA's Event Calendar at www.
acainternational.org/events for future Hot
Topic webinars focused especially on frontline telephone techniques to keep your
skills sharp throughout the year.
Angela Czerlanis is ACA International's
compliance education specialist.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.acainternational.org/events http://www.acainternational.org/events http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

Collector - March 2020

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