Companies like United Airlines, Pepsi, and PricewaterhouseCoopers spend millions of dollars every year on marketing and advertising. As we’ve seen recently though, all it takes is one mistake or one ill-advised interaction and all that money is wasted. When less high-profile companies suffer from poor PR they may not have the same public nature as Pepsi, but the ill effects can still be long reaching and devastating.
One of the most frustrating elements of a PR crisis is that often the company suffering the backlash hasn’t done anything wrong. Sometimes when a company and a customer, or two companies, have a disagreement the entity that suffers in public opinion isn’t necessarily the one who is in the wrong. Instead, it is often the one with the less agile PR company, or the one with the more complicated side of the story. Collections disputes are an excellent opportunity for the company in the right to find itself cast in public opinion as a mean and unreasonable aggressor.
You would think that if a company owes you hundreds of thousands of dollars, it would be difficult for that company to come to be seen as a victim. However, if you’re using overly aggressive, or poorly considered debt collections tactics, that is exactly what can happen. Some recent high profile PR problems can help shed light on the way debt collection disputes can turn into PR nightmares.
Make it easy for people. Many PR problems are caused by unnecessarily complicated procedures. After the recent Oscars SNAFU, many people pointed to the difficult-to-read font on the “Best Picture” envelope as one reason no one realized Warren Beatty had the wrong envelope. The same is true when it comes to payment. As frustrated as you may be about not being paid money that you’re owed, imagine how frustrating it must be for a company trying to pay a bill in a timely fashion and not being able to reach anyone in Accounts Receivable or being told that they can only pay by cash or check? Services like PayPal, direct payment from banks, and Square should make it easy for you to accept payment in whatever format your clients wish to pay you. Easing clients’ frustrations will make it more likely that you’ll be paid on time, and also help establish you as reasonable should a dispute arise.
Be clear and consistent. At the root of many PR crises is bad communication. Think about the recent United Airlines dust-up. Most people understand that you may occasionally get bumped from a flight. But, no one expects to be bumped from a flight once they are already seated. If the airline had simply followed the protocol that they’ve helped to establish, and not allowed boarding until the issue had been resolved, the disaster would not have happened. If you are sending mixed messages by not sending invoices in a timely manner, or not following up on past-due invoices and then demanding payment without notice, you may be causing unnecessary confusion and contributing to a future problem.
Don’t get too aggressive. I don’t think I need to spell out the recent analogy for you here. Although corporate collections are not subject to the FDCPA, there are still reasons you don’t want to become to aggressive when collecting from other companies. Knowing where to draw the line when it comes to trying to collect is one reason we recommend you consider hiring a professional collections agency. Professional collections agencies are often able to collect without becoming aggressive. When some level of aggression is necessary, the professional knows where to draw the line both legally and in terms of your reputation.
At The Kaplan Group we take our responsibility to protect the reputation of our clients seriously and always hold ourselves to high ethical standards and practices. We don’t want you to spend money creating your brand and image only to have sloppy or aggressive collection practices ruin the work. We look forward to helping you with your debt collection needs.