Updated: Jul 20
Old school collector mentality is costing you revenue.
It’s not always obvious where things go wrong or begin to get tense in a call. Part of that is because the way we have been taught to communicate is the opposite of what will work to create connection and make money.
In today’s environment, many of the old school tips will only create undue anxiety and put your collectors and consumers quickly in the conflict zone, which means you won’t collect a dime!
One huge problem I set out to solve in the Collection Advantage course was that pressure cooker environment where it felt like at any moment someone could just explode. I thought to myself, “I just want the next person who calls to be happier at the end of the call.”
Where does it go wrong?
Have you ever been on a call when the consumer has a long story? All too often it’s a sob story. When a consumer is stuck in the story or they are priming the collector to not expect much from them, a golden opportunity exists to create connection.
Real talk. Your collector tries to jump in there as soon as the consumer takes a breath or worse the collector abruptly interrupts the story and guess what… . The next thing you know the consumer has started the story over from the beginning, except now he is going to add even more juicy details.
Why? The answer is so simple…
It’s because the consumer did not feel heard and understood.
Why does this happen?
We all have a checklist in our mind and we seriously can’t move on in a conversation until we have checked that little box that we have been heard and understood.
Getting a call from a debt collector is uncomfortable for anyone.
That’s because debt is more than just a financial burden. It’s an emotional burden fueled with fears and frustrations.
Glossing over the consumer’s story will further aggravate his fears and frustrations which means the call will get off on the wrong foot immediately, and the next thing you know, the consumer is drowning in negative emotions.
Unmet needs=negative feelings
In a nanosecond when the consumer did not feel heard, got interrupted, and stuck in his story, negative feelings started to flood his brain and body in the form of some nasty stress chemicals and all of a sudden, he is drowning in a swamp of negativity.
Those negative feelings and unmet needs land the call right in the middle of the conflict zone, and the boxing gloves come out.
You know you're in the conflict zone with a consumer when tensions are high. Your blood pressure is rising. Your stomach is doing somersaults. The consumer is irrational and loud, the whole room is on edge, and you can feel it.
Quick tip: One big thing that will put people in the conflict zone is negative words.
Negative words shut down listening and problem solving and invite arguments.
That includes phrases like:
"No, I can't do that."
"That's against our policy."
"That's not possible."
"I don't know."
Warning: The threat is real
Once consumers are in the conflict zone, they start seeing the collector as an enemy or threat – someone who is not on their side and someone they need to protect themselves from at all costs.
At this point, the consumer will either shut down and stop listening to the collector or begin arguing with him.
The conversation is moving backwards, farther and farther away from a solution.
Note: The conflict zone is the opposite of the connection zone, which is when the consumer sees the collector as an ally who has his best interests in mind. Reaching the connection zone is incredibly important because a consumer is 6 times more likely to make a deal with someone they perceive as an ally.
Now, once the consumer perceives the collector as an enemy or threat, this can lead him to formulate an escape plan or plan of attack.
Escape plan vs. a plan of attack
An escape plan can be as simple as the consumer ending the call. Or, the consumer might become very quiet, stall, and give the collector reasons why he cannot pay.
Alternatively, some consumers might go for a plan of attack like filing a lawsuit, complaining to the collector’s manager or client, or by becoming vulgar or threatening the collector.
All of this leads to lost money, damaged relationships (sometimes with the client), and perhaps even a lawsuit, which is what you see at the top of the pyramid.
What is critical to understand about the conflict pyramid is that everything a collector says to a consumer – every word he speaks – affects the outcome of the call.
It’s like a GPS. One wrong turn can set you off course. A few wrong turns can keep you from ever reaching your destination.
The environment of a collection call is already one of mental stress and low trust. When a consumer is speaking with a collector and his fears and frustrations are agitated further and he does not feel heard, valued, or understood, it is exponentially more difficult for the collector to collect.
Conflict always moves a call backward, while connection always moves it forward.
It’s time we move away from old school collection techniques that create conflict and damage relationships and focus on strategies that create connection and motivate consumers to pay.
The best way I know to create massive success in the collections industry is to help consumers see collectors as allies they want to align with instead of enemies they want to attack or avoid.
To learn how to establish yourself as an ally and move consumers up the connection pyramid instead of the conflict pyramid, check out this blog post.
For more information on the Collection Advantage program and how to create high-converting scripting that increases your revenue and lifts consumers up instead of tearing them down, book a call with me here.