The telephone is your most powerful tool when chasing debtors for payment but it’s not an easy or pleasant task. It’s human nature to feel uncomfortable about asking for money even if it is rightly owed to you.

This advice from professional nationwide debt collection agency P&J Debt Services will help you conduct a credit control call with confidence and without breaking relationships in the process.

Most importantly, be prepared before you dial.

Don’t make your phone call until you have all the details in front of you. Make sure you know the amount owed and the products or services sold; the date of the sale; details of any query resolution; your payment terms with that customer, their payment history, purchase order numbers and contact names. If you can’t answer these simple questions you will lose the upper hand in the call.

Know the standard debtor excuses

Expect some story telling, emotional responses, excuses and even lies. There are many stalling tactics routinely used by businesses and individuals so have a standardised response to those beforehand. You can read more about the most commonly used debtor excuses here.

You have one aim: Get a commitment

Head into your phone call with a single aim – to get your contact to confirm and agree a specific date by which they will pay you. The more focused you are on achieving that goal, the easier the call.

Maintain the right tone of voice

Adopt the right tone. It’s no good starting the phone call aggressively as this will only make the conversation difficult – and may even result in the caller not taking the call or hanging up. Be assertive, confident, friendly and professional. It’s good to remember that the ideal outcome from the call is to get a promise of payment without destroying your relationship with what could be a profitable customer. They may have a genuine reason for late payment so be positive when you make the call.

Listen and take notes

You need to gain as much information from your debtor as possible. Most will try to get you off the phone as soon as possible so try to gather the detail you need early on. Ask open questions and don’t underestimate the power of silence if your contact becomes emotional. Keep focused on your goal of the call and keep reiterating your questions, followed by silence, to encourage your debtor to speak.

Empathise but keep your goal in mind

Empathise but keep focused on your aim: to get a specific payment date. For genuine hardship cases you can ask debtors to complete a financial statement and work out a mutually acceptable arrangement to repay by instalments. If you have a savvy debtor, getting this payment date commitment may prove difficult. If that’s the case, make sure you get the customer to commit to something else such as a specific call back date. This is particularly helpful if the debtor stalls by claiming they need a copy of the invoice first.

Get names and dates

In the case of commercial debt, make sure you get names! If you can’t speak to the person responsible for making payments, make sure you get names of the people responsible for different stages of the payment process right up to the Financial Director. Find out when those people will be available and ask for direct phone numbers and emails.

Summarise and agree the details

At the end of your call, summarise the actions that have been mutually agreed and reiterate your payment terms and the action that will be taken should those commitments not be met.

To find out more, please visit www.pjcds.co.uk