Updated: Aug 30
Think of your favorite food from Thanksgiving dinners when you were a child.
Maybe it’s mashed potatoes or homemade noodles.
I asked my editor this question when I was working on my book Conscious Communications, and she said it was her grandmother’s creamed corn because it was so buttery and warm and velvety. For years, she tried to replicate the creamed corn. No matter what she tried, she just couldn’t get it right. Finally, she begged her grandma for the recipe, and her grandma’s response was, “It’s out of a can, honey.”
The point I’m trying to make is the memory isn’t about how tasty your grandma’s food is. You remember it being so tasty because of all the nostalgia—the cousins, the playing outside, the games, the laughing.
It’s all the love you shared in those special moments, and you’ve connected that feeling with the meals that were provided.
The reason you have such nostalgic feelings is that your body remembers the feelings you had during those family gatherings and associates those memories with the food your grandmother made.
Just like nostalgia affects your memories of certain foods, feelings also affect a consumer’s experience with your agency.
When a person has had a pleasant experience in the past with your agency, they’ll be less aggressive in future contact. They’ll trust you more, so they’ll be more cooperative as they’re working with your collections agents.
An example of this is when the consumer takes the time to thank you, or sometimes, consumers have been known to call back and ask for the manager to give you a compliment. This consumer experience pays dividends in the future.
Our bodies are like libraries, storing everything that has ever happened to us!
With that in mind, imagine how consumers feel when they have a negative interaction with your collections agency. Those feelings will live with them too, which means the next time you need to make contact with them, they may be less cooperative, making it extremely difficult to reach a solution.
I'm a believer in consumer experience training to teach preventative communication rather than de-escalation techniques. The good news is, my collections communication strategy can do both, which is necessary to move a conversation with a consumer forward.
So, let’s dive into the benefits of my signature, 3-step communication strategy to show you how important effective communication and connection-building truly is in debt collection.
If you’re new to my content, my 3 steps are validate, activate, and integrate. Let’s start with the benefits of validating.
Validation Is Powerful
The section title truly says it all: validating consumers is extremely powerful. And there's actually science to back this up.
In an article on Psychology Today, psychologist Leon F. Seltzer explains that people have an inherent need for others to pinpoint their thoughts and emotions because all humans want to feel understood.
That’s where validating comes into play. We validate consumers to show empathy, and in turn, the consumer feels heard and understood. The result? They’re able to move on in the conversation because you’ve checked the box in their mind that their emotional need is met, which also builds trust and a connected consumer experience.
This trust and connection will follow them any time they need to interact with your collections agency in the future.
Validating consumers does more than making the consumer feel at ease. It actually helps the collector understand the situation better.
Think about it: if a collector spends even a few seconds trying to relate to the consumer, they’ll have a deeper understanding of what the consumer needs to move forward.
One way I train collectors to be more empathetic in real-time is to label the consumer’s emotions. Matthew Liberman’s research shows that when humans label emotions, they’re able to process them faster. So, when a collector is trained and able to label a consumer’s emotions based on how they’re reacting from the beginning of the call, they’ll be able to reroute the conversation and determine the best possible solutions for a particular consumer based on what they’ve learned just by enhancing the customer experience and being empathetic.
Validating is simply verbalizing this empathy to the consumer so you’re both on the same page and ready to reach that solution together.
Activating Positivity Is Non-Negotiable
Picture this: a collector has finished validating a consumer to let them know they’re understood, and now that the collector has a deeper understanding of the consumer’s pain points, they have some fantastic ideas for a solution.
Let’s put the brakes on diving right into the solution.
I know, I know. If we’re connected with the consumer, why wait to actually collect the money?
Before we can actually reach a solution, we need the consumer to feel hopeful that the solution will actually help them.
And great news: this only takes a few seconds. All the collector has to do is use their training to activate positivity by planting a seed of a positive outcome during the collections call.
Activating positivity is an effective communication tip because it keeps the call upbeat and moving forward. It also keeps the collector and the consumer feeling connected.
If the collector validated and skipped right to the solution, their validation may not come across as genuine.
For example, if the consumer has just stated that they’ve lost their job, and the collector says, “I completely understand how difficult your situation is,” and then they jump right into a solution. Even if the solution is in the consumer’s favor, they may feel like their emotions are being brushed off.
And that’s why activating positivity is the perfect middle step. It gives the consumer time to process the validation (and time to process the emotion the collector has labeled), and it gives the consumer a sense of hope that the solution the collector is about to provide is truly in their best interest.
Once this positivity is activated, it’s time to outline the action plan to the consumer, which is a fantastic final step because it helps the consumer feel supported. Let’s talk about why this is important.
Integrating an Action Plan Is the Icing on the Cake
If there’s one key takeaway I want you to get from this post, it’s that having an action plan is crucial. If the collector validates and activates positivity without a clear vision of what to do next, the call won’t go anywhere, and they won’t collect any money.
The action plan for collectors should encompass everything the collector learned from listening to the consumer throughout the call and putting themselves in the consumer’s shoes. Sometimes, this information will make it easy to find a clear solution. Other times, the collector will need to dig a little deeper. These are all skills one can learn with team customer experience training.
I wholeheartedly believe a call can have multiple action plans that evolve as the call moves forward. So, if the collector is not sure what solutions to offer the consumer, they can easily ask a question to gather more information.
I actually have an entire blog post about asking questions, which you can find here.
Once the collector has enough details to offer a solution, they can present the action plan to the consumer. If the consumer says no, they can offer new plans until they get a yes.
This is why pre-scripting is so important. It can be challenging to think of multiple solutions to give the consumer while on the call, so if your team pre-scripts action plans for certain scenarios ahead of time, the collector can present the solutions one by one to the consumer (while still validating and activating positivity) without missing a beat.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?
The benefit of having an action plan is simple: it empowers the collector to actually collect on the balance. Everything a collector does from the beginning of the call boils down to having effective action plans. That’s why integrating the action plan truly is the icing on the cake.
Plus, when the consumer sees how prepared your agency is to help them, the connection-building is even stronger. They’ll truly feel like they’re in good hands and that your agency is an ally, and they’ll be more willing to take one of the solutions the collector offers.
Dive Even Deeper into This Strategy
If you’ve read this far, you now know the basic benefits of my Communication Code. It’s a simple and replicable process that has up-leveled collections in my agency and in other companies that have purchased The Collection Advantage online training program.
What I want you to know is the program goes way deeper into the Communication Code…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This 9-week course has over 19 videos, 5 weekly roleplaying challenges, invaluable trainer resources, and much more. The best part is, for 9 weeks, I become your company’s head trainer, and I take your team into a deep dive into all things emotional intelligence, communication, critical thinking, and negotiation.
If you think you and your team are ready to take the leap (or at least ready to start thinking about it), let’s chat. Book a FREE meeting with me today. I’d love to hear from you.
If you're a collector looking for individual training, I have you covered! The Communication Code for Collectors is the course for you! Dive into each step of the Communication Code, and up-level your conversations with consumers in a little over an hour. Start your transformation by following this link.