Motivating Debtors to Pay - The Effective Collection Tools

The overall goal or game plan for all commercial institutions is maximizing revenues with the fewest telephone calls and collection letters. Developing and implementing effective collection techniques requires skillful communications skills.

Collecting delinquent accounts is an art but, in many cases, a necessary evil for achieving revenue goals. In my 35 plus years of collecting and managing large collection staffs, I have found greater successes result from techniques which emphasize positive attitudes and motivational approaches with debtors. Contact with debtors should include phrases such as, “Mr. Debtor,my name is John Doe, I ‘m with the 3rd National Bank and calling because your account is past due and the bank wants to know you are able to make it current”? Typically responses fall into one or more of the following categories: “I’m currently unemployed and looking for work”, “my hours have been reduced”, “my husband is temporarily laid off or “my wife is unable to work for the next several months”. The positive approach is showing concern for the debtor’s unfortunate circumstances and responding by saying, “Mr. Smith, you’ve had a very good record with the 3rd National Bank over the past several years and would certainly want to help you return to that status. So let’s work on a plan that is acceptable to the bank and you”.

Greater successes have resulted with this or similar approaches than with more aggressive and unsympathetic tones. Of course, there are going to be many situations under which this approach might not be feasible with the bank’s operational policies, specifically when it involves secured loans. For example, in the case of automobile loans, the bank’s policy might state that secured auto loans cannot be more than 2 contractual payments past and must be brought current within 2 weeks or repossession shall be considered. Always keep in mind communications with debtors should be positive and carry motivational tones, regardless of whether collecting secured or unsecured loans. This approach has always achieved much success for many, many years and, more importantly, banks do not want to repossess any type of vehicles or litigate for deficiency balances.

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