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How to collect overdue bills and retain your customers- 11 tips

Businesses sell goods and services to customers everyday and in many cases expect payment at a later time. In order to remain in business, it is important that you get payment on time based on your contracts with customers. Failure to get payment and on time can mean the difference between staying in business and getting out of business.

This is where a bill collector comes in handy. The collector’s job is to recover unpaid bills and preferably retain customers.

The best collector will always get paid before other collectors. The best collector will also often retain customers.

Here are 11 tips to to help you sharpen your collection skills, get paid and grow your business.

  1. Always smile: Many collection phone calls can be difficult. When making a collection call, smile and visualize the call conversation from start to end. This will help you assess the entire conversation and increase the likelihood of getting paid.
  2. Calling time: Are you making the call at the right time? If not, set up a good time to call back.
  3. Be courteous: Remain calm and courteous during the entire call.
  4. Ask questions: This will help you find out what might have caused non payment, so you can empathize, offer suggestions and payment options.
  5. Listen: You will find out plenty if you listen patiently, attentively and actively. If you are not a good listener, it will take a conscious effort over time, to practice and perfect this skill.
  6. Don’t interrupt: Unless you notice repetition, avoidance, rudeness, insults etc., always avoid interrupting.
  7. Stay positive: Start the call well and end on a positive note. Recap the payment arrangements you have made including dates, method of payment and amounts.
  8. Be professional: Watch what responses you provide and how you respond. Ensure that you use clear tone of voice, good speed/rate of speech, have clear pronunciation, are loud enough but don’t shout.
  9. Don’t get hooked: Stay focused on the reason for the call. Avoid getting dragged into unproductive side issues and  arguments. Sense any of this and steer yourself back to the objective at hand. Redirect the customer in cases of ranting and verbal abuse. To regain control of a conversation that is not going well, you can place the customer on hold for a minute or so. Silence will let you regain your calm and might change the customer’s attitude. In many cases customers will apologize for inappropriate attitude when the call resumes.
  10. Make notes: During the conversation, make accurate notes. This will help you paraphrase the customer’s statements during the call and also recap facts at the end of the call.
  11. Collect: Always keep in mind the purpose of your call is to collect the unpaid bill(s) and retain the customer. In the end your call is successful when the debtor pays and stays with your business. That is what you want. A win win outcome. Happy collecting!
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Collections job-Basics to know

When many people hear about collectors they immediately have a view of a person telephoning repeatedly and demanding payment in a very forceful manner. Some imagine collectors as rough with the use of language, unwilling to listen, unsympathetic, desensitized and possessing poor customer care skills among other views. Some think collectors just want payment and care less about people’s stories and feelings. Many people can never imagine taking a job as a collector let alone do it for years. Some wonder how collectors go home and sleep at night without carrying a burden of stress.

It is true that being a bill collector is not a job for everyone. Being a collector is like many other jobs out there and has plenty to offer to the open minded person. In fact here are some very useful skills that you will acquire as a collector.

  1. Communication Skills: Because most of your time is spent communicating with people over the phone, in person or in writing, you will become very skilled over time in these areas. I remember when I first got into collections, I was very unskilled on the phone. Making call after call was exhausting and yes I would go home stressed out, had some sleepless nights and always wished I could get a different job. This did not last very long. I soon excelled on the job and began to enjoy what I was doing.
  2. Negotiation skills: You will learn how to negotiate and get results every time, i.e. get people to pay up and thank you for helping them do so. Even if you don’t get payment right away, the people you are contacting will make promises that they will most likely keep.
  3. Computer skills: You will become proficient at using the computer because you will probably be using it daily. Like many machines, you get better with repetition over time. You get good at what you repeatedly do. Because computers are here to stay, this is a good skill to have and be good at. It is a transferrable skill, meaning that if get another job you will be able to use the skill.
  4. Writing skills: Your writing skills will improve. You will be writing to customers via email or regular mail. If you are not writing letters and emails then you will most likely be making notes of your conversations with customers. Either way, this is another good skill to have and just like the other skills mentioned earlier, repetition will improve your skills.
  5. Credit knowledge: Many of us live in a society where borrowing is normal. Borrowing comes in many forms and names. Call it a mortgage, line of credit, overdraft, term loan or visa, all of these and many more mean that you will repay what you have borrowed, over a period of time at a certain interest rate. Since borrowing is a major part of our economic activity, you will acquire plenty of knowledge on this important subject.

As long as people borrow money, there will be a need for a bill collector. Consider this field of work.