Updated: Apr 30
It’s 2021, and as we’re entering the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now more important than ever to transform our old collection practices and embrace a modern approach.
To succeed in the new normal, we need to rebuild our techniques brick by brick. COVID-19 has proven that the time is now. It’s a time of transition and transformation.
I wholeheartedly believe that even though transformation is rarely easy, it’s always worth it.
If you want to see this industry survive and thrive, now is the time we can make that happen because consumers are craving more human connection—and we have the tools to give them just that. The only thing you need is the power of your voice.
I want to show you how to use your voice to make a huge difference in our industry one call at a time.
Let’s talk about the first step: Truly understanding what consumers are experiencing.
Step #1: Understand the Consumer Experience
Having a debt is a psychological burden that stops people from living to their potential or living the life they dream they could have.
Over the past year, I’ve dived into the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s research on this subject, and I’ve learned so much about the consumer experience.
In particular, the report titled “Financial Well-Being in America” has several amazing insights that have broadened my perspective of the consumer experience.
Based on the research linked above, many consumers don’t have control over their day-to-day and month-to-month finances.
Can you imagine what it’s like to feel like you're constantly drowning in debt?
Consumers often feel like when they pay this debt, there will always be another one lurking ahead. The reality is, they just don’t have a plan, which means when something unexpected happens, they don’t have the capacity to absorb the financial shock.
Once we understand these factors about the consumer experience, it’s much easier to handle stressful phone calls. After all, when we understand how the consumer is probably feeling, we can better connect and build rapport with that person and find the best possible solution.
Step #2: Embrace the Power of Empathy
Empathy is doing your best to relate to the consumer experience.
So often collection calls are challenging for the consumer. Let me break down why.
If you’ve been following my blog posts for a while, you’ve probably heard me say this before, and I’m going to say it again: The number one emotional need is the need to feel heard and understood.
It’s like we have a checklist in our mind, and we can’t move on in a conversation until we check the box in our mind that we have been heard and understood.
When the need to feel heard and understood is not met, the consumer will immediately begin to have a negative experience.
In an instant, the consumer may be feeling doubt, suspicion, and even hopelessness.
These negative feelings can happen so quickly because of the nasty stress chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that flood our system the moment we become triggered.
And let’s face it, having a debt is a triggering event.
Once negativity is sparked, you’re going to find yourself in the conflict zone. The conflict zone is driven by anger and fear.
The conflict zone is when you can feel the hostility and tension between yourself and the consumer. You know you’re in the conflict zone when the call feels out of control, like no matter what you say to the consumer, he is just not hearing you.
Maybe it even feels like there are two people in a boxing ring. At this point, the call is not moving forward.
Now that you’re in the conflict zone, the consumer now sees you as an enemy, which means that his strategy is going to be to escape or attack. If he moves to escape, he's likely to hang up or cease contact.
On the other hand, if he chooses to attack, your agency may be vulnerable to a complaint or a lawsuit.
All of this leads to lost revenue. The reality is, you’re not going to collect any money on this call because you have essentially burned an opportunity with the consumer.
If you want to learn more about the conflict zone, check out my blog post that outlines the most important consumer zones. You can read it here.
When you learn to harness the power of your voice, you’re opening the portal to the new paradigm.
As we see the industry move toward a place of compassion, trust, and respect, we don’t have to make large investments to make huge change.
Little shifts in communication can revolutionize the power of human connection, especially during unprecedented times.
Now, let’s move onto the last step: Validating, activating, and integrating.
Step #3: Validate, Activate, and Integrate!
The way to rebuild the way we communicate with consumers is to validate, activate, and integrate.
Let’s start with validate.
Validating is the simple act of meeting the consumer’s need to feel heard and understood. One way you can do this is to learn to deeply listen: Listen to be informed, listen without interruption, and, most importantly, listen without the "but," "however," and "unfortunately."
I have a fantastic blog post about the art of deeply listening that will help you develop your listening skills. Check it out here.
In the last step, I reminded you that the consumer needs to feel heard and understood. When we deeply listen, we meet this need. Now the consumer can move on in the conversation.
Next, it’s time to activate positive feelings by dropping negative language and replacing it with positive language.
Negative words plant a seed of a negative outcome, and positive words plant a seed of a positive outcome. When we replace negative words with positive ones, the consumer can feel hopeful about coming to a solution.
Once you’ve activated some positive language, you and the consumer are ready to integrate solutions.
According to the hostage negotiator Chris Voss, people are six times more likely to make a deal with you if they like you.
Let that sink in: Six times more likely.
In other words, once the consumer sees you as an ally, he is in a better position to focus on a strategy to make a payment, and let’s face it, higher-converting collections are what we all want.
Because you’ve already validated and activated, the consumer does see you as an ally, so you can integrate a solution that works for you and the consumer.
Basically, it all comes together when you know the power of the collector’s voice! I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. In fact, human behavior is one of the hardest things to change. What I’m saying is that I know that you have what it takes to make a real difference in our industry.
It All Boils Down to Your Voice
What makes or breaks success for you as a collector in 2021 boils down to investing in your voice.
If you want to know how to avoid conflict and increase connection, get out your phone right now and text “COLLECT” to 66866.
Also, if you’re interested in investing in your collectors’ voices in 2021 through The Collection Advantage online training program, book a call with me today.