How to Collect a Debt Successfully
Whether you lent money to a friend or family member or you need to collect a debt from a customer, debt collection can be a difficult situation to navigate. Collecting debt is always uncomfortable, but it is necessary, so we’ve created a guide on how to collect a debt in hopes that it can ease the process. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about how to collect debts and provide you with some of our expert debt collector tips.
Debt Collection Tips and Techniques
Debt collection happens in nearly any business, no matter the size, and in the modern economy, your customers might have more difficulty paying back their debts. If your invoices aren’t being paid in a timely manner, you might be ready to hire a collection agency to help you collect your debts. However, if you’re not ready to commit to a third-party collector, here are some good debt collection techniques and tips for how to be a good debt collector:
One of the best collections techniques is simple: be well-prepared when making contact with your customer. Find out all of the information you can about the customer prior to the call and make copies of all of the customer’s contracts, invoices, and any other information that can help make the conversation easier.
When collecting debts, you should always be sure to document everything. This means taking detailed notes about anything you and the customer discussed when talking about the outstanding debt, including any comments the customer made in case a future argument or dispute arises. We recommend typing your notes into a system while the conversation is still fresh in your mind, especially if your company offers tracking software. You can then continue to update your file with additional details as they come up.
It’s crucial not to assume anything when making your initial debt collection call. First, make sure the debt hasn’t already been paid before contacting them. You want to avoid upsetting your customers at all costs, and false accusations are a quick way to do so. Also, make sure not to alienate the customer, as the debt could be a simple clerical mistake rather than a collection problem. You want to ensure that you can have a healthy business relationship with the customer in the future.
It’s extremely important to have a friendly and pleasant demeanor during the conversation. This will make it more likely that the customer will respond in a positive manner. As they say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Debt collection conversations are always hard, so don’t make it harder for yourself or your customer by being rude. We recommend asking if there’s anything you can do to help or ease their financial burden. For example, ask if they need any extra information or details on payment plans for paying back their debt in installments.
Don’t Fight Fire with Fire
Someone who owes a debt may be under incredible financial stress, which can bubble over and be taken out on debt collectors. We recommend staying as calm as possible, even if the customer or debtor in question becomes angry or abusive during the call. You can suggest calling back later to let them cool off (and maybe even take a breath yourself), but it’s important to keep the conversation constructive and listen to the customer carefully. Never respond with anger to an upset customer.
If your customer is having trouble paying off their debt, suggest a payment plan where they can make payments steadily over time. This will make things easier for both you and your customer, as you’re more likely to get paid in full than if you push them to pay now. Your goal in the conversation should still be to get the owed amount paid as fast as possible, so provide options that work for both you and the customer.
Explain the Terms
After you’ve agreed on a payment plan, take the time to summarize the details for the customer or debtor. This explanation should include any terms or conditions and any pertinent details they should know, such as what kind of payment they should use and when they should send each payment. If there’ll be interest on the payments, be sure to clearly state this — no one likes surprise fees, especially if they’re already in debt. After the call, document everything in writing via email and ask them to call or email with confirmation once they’ve sent the first payment.
It’s important that you continue to communicate with the customer or debtor, even if they’re unable to pay immediately. If you keep the line of communication open, it’s more likely that you’ll begin receiving payments sooner rather than later. The older a debt gets, the more difficult it is to collect, but communication is key when it comes to how to collect a debt.
Medical Collections vs. Commercial Collections
Medical collections function differently than commercial collections. Medical collections refer to the collection of medical debt owed by individuals. Healthcare providers can turn medical debt over to a third-party collections agency once it goes from being an unpaid medical bill to severe medical debt.
On the other hand, commercial collection refers to the collection of debts owed by one business to another business, typically for products or services rendered from a supplier that go unpaid. The business seeking the debt collection can go through a third-party collections agency to collect from both small and large businesses for a diverse range of different industries.
If you want to learn more about how to be a successful debt collector, contact the Collections Bureau of America to learn more about our services and tips for debt collection.