One simple rule will make your collection calls infinitely more effectual: follow up every single time.
The great thing about phone calls is the immediacy of the conversation. You can come to an agreement much faster with a back-and-forth that happens on the phone rather than via email. The downside, of course, is that then none of that agreement is accessible in writing. Following up eliminates this problem.
Prepare with Notes
The conversation goals you have written out will help you frame the notes you take during the call, so that note-taking doesn’t take away from the goals you are trying to accomplish.
- Next to the note that says, “Ensure she got the invoice earlier this month,” you can simply put a checkmark when she indicates that she did.
- Next to, “Ask if she has any questions or feedback,” write simple notes to remind you of the questions she asked: “Wire transfer – who pays fees?” or “Unsatisfied w/ communication.”
By basing your notes off the goals you wrote, you can spend less time worrying about writing everything down and more time focusing on steering the conversation to success.
Recording the Call
Some people like to record their collection phone calls to eliminate any he-said/she-said problems after the fact. This can be helpful, especially if you suspect that might become a problem with this particular client.
Please be aware, though, that different states have wiretapping laws about recording phone conversations. Most of these apply only to phone calls where one party doesn’t know the call is being recorded, which can always be remedied by stating, “I am going to record this call, if that’s alright with you.” Either way, please familiarize yourself with the laws in your state and the state your client is in to avoid any potential legal problems.
Write it Out
After the call is over, but while it is still fresh in your mind, it’s essential to write out your notes in a more concrete way. The best way to do this is to actually send a concise email recapping the conversation to your client.
I’m so glad we were able to connect on the phone today. Thank you for letting me know that you received my invoice earlier this month. As I mentioned, we require that the client pay all fees when paying by wire transfer. Since we agreed a check would be better for both of us, I will expect a check in the mail from you by next week. I will email you to let you know as soon as I receive it. Thanks for your immediate attention to this matter.
I also want to thank you for the feedback about my communication during the project. Based on our conversation today, I will be sure to send you a weekly email letting you know the progress of any future projects we work on together.
Have a great weekend.
It may seem silly, since she was just on the phone with you and knows what was said, but this is the most concrete and best way to avoid confusion and stave off possible excuses in the future.
Following up with concrete details gives your client the opportunity to say, for example, “I thought we agreed I would send the check by the end of the month?” Otherwise, you can take a non-response as further tacit agreement to the plan.
Sending this short but powerful follow-up email after every collections call will make the time you spend on calls even more impactful – and hopefully will mean that you have to make fewer of them!