When you jump on a collection call, you will be met with two types of people:
1. Those who intend to pay and return the communication to you, and,
2. those who don't intend to pay and will ghost you after the first call.
How can you tell right away which one you're talking to?
One of our Credit Advisors says:
"I can gauge if I will be ghosted or if they intend to pay by asking one question when I get them on the phone":
Have you talked to my client?
He says their response will usually be either:
1. A long-winded answer and explanation, or
2. a short "no" and dead silence.
If I get the short answer, I know they probably aren't eager to pay. And most of the time, this type of person will meet your follow-up requests with radio silence (AKA ghost you).
This "dead air" can be telling you several things:
Perhaps your customer didn't get your message. Maybe they don't have anything new to say to you, and they're embarrassed or scared to talk. When you get this lack of communication, it could also mean your customer is on the verge of giving up, and they are close to the tipping point of no return. Much of the time, it means they don't want to pay or talk to you.
A couple of ways to avoid this:
First thing's first: tone and approach is everything. Never come off as combative. Keep an even and friendly voice.
One of our Credit Advisors calls this his DJ Voice.
Be factual, honest and respectful - you are not actually communicating if both sides don't feel heard. The fact is that most people CAN handle the truth - it depends on how you say it.
Secondly: There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.
Different situations, demographics and attitudes call for different approaches.
The overall goal? To get your customer talking. Once people are talking, solutions can be found to recover their past due accounts.
Below are some sample email subject lines and messages you can try that we've tested.
Try these out:
1. Subject line: Are you dead?
(and nothing else - No signature line. No email body. Just your name)
2. Email body:
Dear John, when you originally applied for credit. Was it your intention to pay it back?
3. Email body:
Dear Lucy. We have left a few messages for you recently, and it's not like you to not reply. Here's my cell number, XXX-XXX-XXXX. Please send me a text and let me know how you're doing.
4. Subject line: Calling Your Customers and Suppliers
Email Body: Hi Jack. We've been trying to reach you recently but haven't heard from you. So I've asked my credit team to reach out to your key suppliers and customers to see if they know if you are okay.
5. *Bonus questions our Production Manager loves to use:
Do you honestly believe you should not have to pay for this? Didn't you plan on paying it when you bought it? What changed?
The essence of these communications is to push on a couple of "pain" buttons. It is a basic human survival instinct. Humans will do more to avoid pain than they ever will to gain pleasure. Perhaps the pain is someone gently questioning their integrity? Will your customer be afraid if you were talking to his customers or critical suppliers? And, increasingly, if we make communication non-threatening and straightforward via text, your customers are much more willing to open up.
Try these methods to re-establish contact with your customer before engaging your collection service provider and share your stories with us.
What has worked for you? What are some methods you use to keep the conversation moving and avoid getting permanently ghosted?