Have you ever had an issue with long call times at your agency? Maybe one or two collectors habitually have 20-minute calls, and even if they’re collecting payments on those calls, you still want to see some changes.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love collector development, and as I’ve trained various collection agencies, I’ve heard from collection managers across the U.S. that call times can be a major issue.
Let’s explore what causes increased call times in the first place.
Many aspects can lead to increased call times—some of which can be out of the collector’s control. That said, the following list may be the leading causes of increased call times at your agency:
The collector is stumped and isn’t sure what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.
The collector isn’t equipped with the tools to gather information from the consumer.
The collector is anxious to ask for payment, and that avoidance keeps the call going in circles.
We all want our collectors to have reduced call times so they can help more consumers each day. The question is, what type of training and development is necessary for decreasing call times?
The way I see it, reduced call times require 3 simple ingredients: a clear communication strategy, consistency in all communications across the board, and negotiation standards that every team member is familiar with and can easily follow.
Let’s start the process with my personal favorite and the first ingredient: strategizing communication.
Ingredient #1: Strategize Communication
According to a blog post on the popular job board Indeed, communication is extremely important in professional settings because it can actually increase productivity. The reason is that when team members, managers, and executives all have a clear communication strategy that everyone uses all the time, team members feel comfortable asking questions, supervisors are empowered to set clear expectations, and a flow of information is readily available and encouraged.
In other words, when your collection floor has communication down to a science, they’ll automatically spend less time on each call because they’ll be equipped to ask the right questions, and they’ll know exactly what to say to move the call forward.
When people hear the word "strategy," they may visual something complex, like a business or marketing plan. The good news is, communication is a lot simpler than that, and having a clear communication strategy is straightforward. For example, at my agency Midstate Collection Solutions, we communicate with a quick and easy 3-step strategy. If you’re interested in bringing that strategy to your agency, you can get more details here.
Ingredient #2: Stay Consistent
Consistency can make or break your team’s calls with consumers. Read that again.
When your collectors aren’t consistent, consumers will hear different answers every time they speak with your office, which can create confusion, hostility, frustration and complaints. I mean, have you ever called a customer service line with what you thought was a simple question, and no one you're transferred to seems to answer it the same way? We don't want to put our consumers in the same boat, and consistency is our ticket to answer consumer questions and concerns the same way every single time.
Beyond consumer frustration, inconsistency can lead to escalated calls, which means supervisors will spend even more time on the phone. There has to be a better way, right?
Like I said before, consistency can make or break your agency's collections, and that’s because consistency across the board at your agency will foster a culture of trust with consumers. When consumers feel that sense of trust with your team, they’ll be more likely to go through the call with fewer stalls and objections, and they’ll be more likely to make a payment.
If you’re really digging the consistency piece, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve written about the 3 C’s of Collector Consistency before, which you can read about here.
Ingredient #3: Set Negotiation Standards
Hostage negotiator Chris Voss says,
"People are 6 times more likely to make a deal with someone they like."
Let’s apply this logic to collections. If our consumers like us, they’ll be more likely to pay instead of the call going in circles, and we can achieve this by training our teams on negotiation strategies that work.
The key here is to choose negotiation standards that are unique to your agency. The way I do this with my team at MCS is to require that collectors follow a set of payment arrangement guidelines. I also ask that my collectors get at least 3 no’s on every call. That means that if they’re asking for payment in full, they need to ask 3 times in 3 different ways, and if they’re negotiating a payment arrangement, they need to offer 3 different payment arrangement terms.
The truth is, without a negotiation strategy, collectors can feel stuck. They know the end goal is to collect payment, but they don’t know how to get there. By providing a negotiation strategy they can follow on every call, you’re giving them a roadmap to get from point A—the beginning of the call—to point B—the solution.
Watch Those Call Times Drop
Each of these ingredients is important to see the drops in call times that you want to see. Just like when you’re baking a cake, you need to make sure you use all of the ingredients to get the results you want. After all, you would never want to eat a cake that’s missing a key ingredient like sugar or flour, so in the same way, if you really want to see your call times decrease, you need to mix together all of the ingredients in a way that works for your agency.
Want to expedite this process? I have some effective resources for you! Let's chat and strategize to drop your agency's call times in 9 weeks or fewer.