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Tips For Debt Collection Telephone Calls

Debt collection calls, whether you're making them or receiving them, are loathed by many but are vital for any business wanting to keep their cash flow healthy. Calling for unpaid debts needn't make you the bad cop and if you're ever at a loss for words mid-call we've got a few phrases and tips to help you.

The Introduction

If you were calling for any other reason, introducing wouldn't pose such a problem; however when it comes to a debt collection call this simple 'hello' may feel a little awkward. You may also be worried that your calls will be blocked left, right and centre.

Here's what we would say if talking to the person responsible for issuing the payment:

"Hi it's John Smith from , I hope you're well. I noticed you're behind with your payment. Was there an issue with the invoice that I might be able to help you with?"

Remain polite and positive when talking to your debtors and do not make any assumptions before finding out why the payment is late. It may turn out that some miscommunication has occurred and your debtor is in a position to issue the late payment immediately.

Here's what we would say if talking to a secretary:

"Hi it's John Smith from Lovetts. Is it possible to speak to Paul Jones regarding an invoice please?"

If your call is picked up by reception and you're asked what the call is regarding, say it's in reference to an invoice. If you use words like ‘unpaid debt' or ‘late payment' the person on the other end of the line may not respond to you as well and feel on the defensive from the start of your call.  

Let Them Talk

Your first call with a debtor is your opportunity to remind them of an outstanding invoice and to find out why that is. During this call you should encourage your debtor to do the talking while you listen and take notes for your records. There's no harm in showing your more caring side by listening to the details of why the payment is late, and ensure the person you are speaking too doesn't feel pressured as a result of the unpaid debt.

Here's an example of what we would say:

"Sorry to hear that, can I provide you with further information to help make the payment?"

Don't Hang Up Without Summarising Next Steps

Before the call ends; be sure to verbally sum up what you have both discussed. These should include confirmation that the payment is late and why, when the payment will be received and by what means.

Here's an example of what we would say:

"Thank you so much talking with me today. For my notes it would be great if I could recap what we've discussed. So, unfortunately the payment is late because the cheque was lost in the post and you will have payment to us by Wednesday 11th May via a new cheque. Have I missed anything?"

Get It In Writing

If the debtor does not dispute the invoice and has provided you with an excuse for paying late, ask if they can confirm their reasons and a date for when payment will be made. Anything you receive in writing will be extremely helpful as evidence should you have to go to Court at a later date. If the debtor does not put it in writing to you, you can put what you discussed during the telephone conversation in an email to them. If the debtor does, not respond contradicting your telephone note, this will be very valuable evidence at a later date.

Calling Twice

The ideal scenario when making a debt collection call, would be to only call the debtor in question once. Unfortunately it may take a few calls to ensure payment is made. Before making your second call ensure you have your notes to hand from the first call, so that you can follow up on the actions discussed. If possible, and if the debtor has good credit, you could use this call to discuss other options to help speed payment along.  

Here's an example of what we would say:

"What if we come up with a payment plan, would that help?"

Final Tips

•  Keep communication open with your debtor.
•  Follow up on the actions agreed with subsequent debt collection calls if needed.
•  Don't get sidetracked – stay focussed on collecting your unpaid debts and not blurred by multiple reasons behind a late payment or let your emotions (if feeling frustrated by the situation) get the better of you.
•  Keep your records up to date and take notes from each call with your debtor.

How can I claim late payment interest, compensation and costs?


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