- Create a call script and include a list of excuses you get regularly with effective replies. Brainstorm with team members and/or staff. Log the excuses with their responses in a spreadsheet or binder and/or include them in your computer scripting. Make sure to group and index them for easy access. Next time you receive an excuse from a customer/patient you will have a ready response letting you control the call.
- Use validation to control the situation. After an objection or excuse, say, “I can understand why you feel that way” or “I can certainly see how something like that might happen.” Validating what the customer/patient has to say maintains open lines of communication. Understanding their point of view, even as you share yours, will disarm the customer/patient’s defensiveness.
- Make sure to have the account information available and know the situation before you call. If you have access to invoices or itemized statements make sure to have that information available. The last thing you want to do is let the customer/patient take control of the call.
- Focus on the conversation and control the call. Keep the end goal in mind and bring them right back to the point of your call – getting the payment.
- Keep detailed notes of each call. Ask open-ended questions. If they give you information, ask for more details.
If they say, “I can’t talk; I’m running late for work,” ask where they work or if they still work at ABC Company.
Banking information is critical, yet many customer/patients may not want to share it. Instead of coming straight out and asking, “Where is your account?”, try “Will you be sending a check or a money order?” The consumer will usually say “a check.” You can then respond, “Okay, to make sure we apply it correctly, what is the bank name?”
- Don’t forget the effectiveness of silence. Count slowly to five before responding to a customer/patient’s statement or comment. Also, wait several seconds after asking a question. Leaving blank spaces in the conversation compels the customer/patient to fill them in. This will help you get information. Remember, when it comes to collecting accounts, you are an information-based company. The more information you can obtain, the more successful you will be in collecting your accounts!
- Make sure to smile during your conversation. Sound strange? Actually, you can hear a smile through the phone. Let go of negative thoughts and moods before you make calls since it can come across in the conversation as negative. Remember to speak calmly with confidence. Do not rush the conversation or hesitate when speaking. Speak clearly and control your tone and pitch. Make sure to listen as well.
- Use the customer/patient’s name throughout the conversation. This shows respect on your part and commands their attention. Be careful not to overdo it though, or it will start to sound phony and annoying.
- Don’t let the customer/patient manipulate you. A screaming customer/patient could be using anger as a ploy to get you upset in an attempt to end the conversation. At the very least, you’re not going to get anywhere with someone that’s angry. If a customer/patient starts yelling or using abusive language, stay calm. Try reminding them that you cannot help resolve the situation if they are yelling. One tip that sometimes works is to begin whispering. If your customer/patient has any desire whatsoever to deal with the issue at hand, they too will have to lower their voice so the conversation can continue. If that doesn’t work, say something like, “This obviously isn’t a good time for you to talk. When can I call you back?”
- A call that doesn’t result in a commitment from the customer/patient is a wasted call. If you can’t get them to commit to payment-in-full, get a promise for them to agree to pay you something, even a partial payment. In the worst case, get them to agree at the minimum to at least a call back with a payment date. Make sure you control the timing. Don’t ask, “When can you get back to me on this?” Rather, ask “Will you be calling me by Wednesday?” “What time?” Always be specific.
- Don’t hang up the phone without summarizing the results of the call:
The consequences if your expectations are not met
- Emphasize the urgency of the matter. It’s easy for the customer/patient to forget your call as soon as they put down the receiver, especially if they don’t think you were really concerned about the outcome.
- It also gives you an excuse to call them to check on payment immediately: “I know we talked on ______ about you calling to confirm that you mailed the payment. Since you did not call me, I thought I would call you.”
- And finally, if the customer/patient doesn’t follow through on their commitment, make sure you follow through on the consequences. If you don’t, they will never take you seriously.