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Collectors: How to Resolve the Most Difficult Calls

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

conflict resolution in debt collection, tough phone call, man looks stressed looking at computer

One question I hear collectors ask all the time is...

“What do I say when…?”

I love this question because my online training focuses on helping collectors follow step-by-step processes to navigate difficult collection calls.

So, what happens when you don’t have an answer? Where should you turn when the typical processes just aren’t working?

Let’s say you’ve already tried everything you can think of, and the consumer is still frustrated, hostile, and triggered. They may even be threatening to file a complaint or lawsuit. How you respond will be critical because it will determine the consumer’s next move. If you want to avoid that lawsuit, you can turn the situation around. The question is, how do you respond in a way that will de-escalate such a difficult call?

I wholeheartedly believe that when a call is so difficult that none of the typical techniques are working, you need to do some work off the call. I recommend you politely end the conversation so you can recollect and gather the necessary information you need to turn the situation around.

If you want to go from angry and overwhelmed consumers to receptive and calm consumers, all you need is a system. When you’re off the call, you can follow the steps outlined below to make a huge difference on the next call with that consumer. Let’s get started!

map a path to a solution in debt collection, list of tips for communication and debt collection

Step One — Uncover Essential Information

You’re off the phone now, and you have some much-needed breathing room to think. Take a second to record all of the facts about the situation.

Remember: You aren’t recording emotions you or the consumer have. This information will be strictly fact-based. You need the straightforward facts to help resolve the situation, and emotions can cloud any judgments you have about these facts.

A few facts you can include are:

  • The problem the consumer is having

  • Any information the consumer shared about his current financial situation

  • What the consumer is specifically asking for

  • Any complaints the consumer has

  • Whether or not the consumer is threatening a lawsuit

Once you have these facts, you can move on to discovering the best possible solution—a solution that will be beneficial for your agency and the consumer.

Step Two — Find the Mutually Beneficial Solution

This step can get pretty tricky because it's going to require some deep critical thinking. Sometimes, it will help to sit down with your supervisor to assess the situation so you can hear another person’s perspective. Ultimately, you want to find a solution that will please the consumer and will follow your agency’s policies and procedures. Use the facts you gathered to guide your decision and toss around a few different ideas until you land on the best one.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say the consumer is frustrated because he doesn’t owe the balance, but it’s on his credit report. He’s threatening a lawsuit because of it. The best possible solution would be to rectify the issue and make sure the consumer doesn’t sue. So, how do we get to that solution?

Step Three — Map the Path to the Solution

By this point, you have the facts, and you have the solution. Now, you need to figure out how to get from point A (the problem) to point B (solution).

It’s time to create a roadmap to get you to the desired solution. You might come up with several possible paths to the solution, and that’s OK. The key is finding the best path.

To get started, ask yourself the following question:

“What needs to happen to fix the problem?”

In other words, what are the steps you need to take to reach the solution you developed?

As you think about what needs to happen to get to the solution, jot down your ideas. You will want to ask yourself what tools you have at your disposal as well. For instance, there may be a form you can fill out. Sometimes, you may need to contact the client. Each problem will have its own unique set of steps to solve.

Let’s revisit the previous example to put this into perspective. Remember this consumer is threatening a lawsuit because a mistake was made, and he doesn’t owe the balance that’s on his credit report. In this situation, you could fill out a universal data form (UDF) to speed up removing the balance from the consumer’s credit report. So, we would make that one of our steps to the solution.

Pro Tip: Don’t use this step to defend your agency. Sometimes, we get defensive when we’re faced with consumer pain points. Instead, we need to focus on getting to that solution and mending the issue. We don’t want to minimize the consumer experience.

Once you have your steps, you’re ready to write them out.

Step Four — Script! Script! Script!

Scripting your map to the solution is essential. It gives you the chance to think about what you need to say in advance instead of scrambling to put your thoughts together on the call.

The Collection Advantage online training program dives deeper into how to script. For now, I want to remind you to make sure the script you create is empathetic so the consumer feels heard and understood during the follow-up call you make. This is especially important due to the challenging nature of the situation.

The script should also include the roadmap you created to the solution. You want to outline exactly what you can do for the consumer. I want to make a bold statement: When you talk to the consumer in terms of solutions, he’ll likely feel supported and relieved, which will help resolve these difficult situations.

You’re Ready to Go!

In my years as an agency owner, I have developed this process, and I’ve seen it work time and time again. Consumers in difficult situations are triggered and desperate for solutions, and it’s up to us as collectors to find them.

If you’re interested in learning more about my communications training so your agency can begin the journey of developing high-converting scripting and implementing empathetic approaches, book a call with me today.

To help you develop responses to other challenging consumer objections, stalls and questions, I also encourage you to check out this recent Training Bytes episode I filmed with

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