Emotional Tips for Making Difficult Phone Calls
Being a collection agent means making a lot of difficult calls. Anything involving money runs the chance of becoming highly emotional. When you’re talking about debt, the potential for high emotions becomes increased. At The Kaplan Group, we’re used to making these phone calls and have some tips for how you can prepare yourself to deal with a difficult call.
- Be prepared – Make sure you pull all relevant files, have reviewed notes, and if necessary, have discussed the situation with a manager before getting on that phone call. After the phone call, take good notes on what was discussed. This will help if a follow up phone call becomes necessary. One of the key times a call goes poorly is the moment when someone becomes frustrated by having to repeat his or her story.
- Stay focused – Don’t make phone calls five minutes before lunch, or when you’re still working out a difficult problem with another account. Don’t check email or Facebook while the phone is ringing. If you lose focus during the call you’re likely to make a difficult situation worse. Training yourself to stay focused and in the moment, even when your mind is tempted to wander can help you personally and professionally. Taking breaks to clear your mind, studying yoga and meditation techniques, and even just limiting distractions on your desk can all be great ways to mentally prepare for difficult calls.
- Listen carefully – It can be tempting to interrupt the person on the other end of the call, but it is never a good idea to do so. When someone is explaining a problem, or situation, don’t interrupt, even to ask for clarification on a point. Instead, as they talk, write down any details and questions you’d like to ask for clarification, and ask after the person is finished talking. Not only will listening to the whole story first give you a better idea of the issue or question involved; it will also help the person on the other end feel better. There are few things more frustrating than not feeling like you’ve been heard.
- Be polite – Make sure to take a deep breath and smile before making a phone call, just as if you were preparing to meet someone in person. You really can hear someone’s attitude, facial expression and posture over the phone. If you are calling someone about money they owe, that you believe is due to poor behavior on their part, you may not feel very respectful. However, if you can’t be respectful and listen with empathy, you should not be on the call. Reminding yourself before a call that everyone has a story, and everyone deserves empathy is an important way to help your calls go more smoothly.
- Learn to recognize the hard call – We tend to think of difficult callers as being people who yell at us, or stonewall us, but there are a lot of other ways a call can be difficult. The sooner you recognize that a call might turn difficult, the easier it will be for you to mentally prepare for it. Examples of calls that may turn difficult include people who ramble, people who are upset for reasons not related to the call, people who are distracted, as well as people with genuinely upsetting stories. Don’t be afraid to ask if this is a good time or if there’s a better time to call.
- Let it go – Believe it or not, the most difficult part of handling a call can be once the call is finished. Make your notes, and then, take a deep breath and let the call go. When you hang up the phone, make sure you hang up on the call as well. Hanging on to the stress of dealing with a difficult situation can make other calls more difficult than they have to be, and even affect your relationships in the office and outside of work. There’s simply no benefit to continuing to re-live a difficult call.
Learning how to handle debt collection calls takes practice and experience. The more experienced you become at not only the hard negotiation skills you need, but also at the empathy and active listening skills you need, the easier it will become. Of course, the easiest way to handle a difficult call is to let someone else do it for you. If you are worried about making collections calls, we, at The Kaplan Group, are happy to take care of that task for you.
About The Author:
Dean Kaplan is Principal at The Kaplan Group. Dean's expertise is widely recognized in the debt collection industry. His advice has been published in a number of industry newsletters such as Credit Today and InsideARM and he is a frequent speaker at industry events.