When a customer hasn’t paid on time and isn’t responding to collections emails or letters, it’s time to pick up the phone. Having to make collections phone calls can be a pain, but by preparing well, you will make the whole process more successful.
List Your Conversation Goals
You don’t want to call your client and make them feel bad; the idea is to actually get the payment on its way to your door. Writing out the goals of the phone call will keep you on track and prevent distractions. A list of talking points may look something like this:
- Ask how [Client] enjoyed his Mexico vacation.
- Make sure [Client] was happy with last month’s work.
- Let [Client] know that a payment of [x] was due last week.
- Get specific promise about when we will receive payment.
The end goal of collections calls is not complicated or difficult to predict, but without these topic guidelines, the phone conversation could veer off topic at any point and become unproductive. Keep these talking points in front of you so you stay in control of the conversation.
Another important step to ensuring your collection calls are successful is anticipating problems that could arise. What are some of the excuses the client could give you for not paying? How can you mitigate potential problems to ensure that payment is on its way to you?
Some problems will be easy to solve. If the customer says she never received the invoice, make sure you have all the details on-hand so you can give them over the phone. You can also have the invoice ready to email or fax over right away.
Other potential excuses are predictable but need more planning to respond. If your client tells you he can’t pay right now, what options can you offer him? Can you put him on a payment plan to get the balance paid over the next 3-6 months? What terms are you prepared to offer?
If you can anticipate possible problems and have solutions in mind, you will be better able to gauge whether or not the client intends to pay. This will also help to get a partial payment at the very least.
Keep Best Practices In Mind
You should remain professional and friendly during your collection calls. This means no eating or chewing gum, and it also means breaking the ice by asking questions to catch up with the customer. They will be more likely to want to get payment to you if you treat them with respect. Especially for the first and second phone calls, you want to project approachability and openness.
Run through your script a few times out loud. You don’t want to sound like a robot on the phone call. Most people write differently than they speak, and “rehearsing” will help you choose words that you would actually say. Just don’t turn it into a monologue!
If you are feeling stressed or angry about the late payment, try standing up throughout the phone call with your weight evenly distributed onto both feet. This can help you remain more open than you might be if you were sitting hunched over at your desk.
As always, make sure to take notes throughout the interaction. You will want to be able to consult the notes on your phone conversation if you need to follow up with a future reminder, either in writing or on the phone.