June 04, 2013

Demeanor is everything when collecting past due accounts

Delinquencies eventually plague most business owners. Sometimes the hard-luck story is true. Difficult circumstances can seriously impede a business owner’s ability to pay a bill on time. The trick is to know if the person is telling the truth, stalling for more time, or has no intention of ever paying the invoice.

Ascertaining patterns is crucial in your collection efforts. A business that has never missed a payment and then suddenly falls three months behind is sending a distress signal. Your task is to find out what’s causing the distress, while steering clear of violating laws put in place to protect a debtor’s privacy and reputation.

The first step is to glean as many clues as you can as to what the person’s intention might be. If you have an account history to reference, this will provide clues and should be reviewed before making a call.

When you pick up the phone, take a deep breath and focus on the task. Remember the goal is to garner as much information as you legally can. Start the call with a pleasant demeanor, and keep your voice upbeat and friendly. You may be able to head off a hostile response. When people become angry, a logical conversation is no longer possible. If the client becomes angry, then politely end the conversation. Don’t get baited into an angry back-and-forth exchange. That may be just a diversion tactic.

Politely ask for more information, while keeping your demeanor friendly and professional. Don’t react emotionally to what the clients says, except to express sympathy, and then move on to the business at hand. Always treat the person with respect. Preserving someone’s self-esteem will not cost you anything, and may gain you a lot during the course of your collection efforts. A small percent of the population are scam artists, but most clients want to make good on their promises, and are grateful for measured forbearance.

The odds that your delinquent business client will turn out to be a scammer are very low, but it is a possibility, particularly if the client has only conducted business with you for a short time. If you suspect a scam, check with your state’s attorney general, as this agency keeps a close watch on those who steal from consumers and businesses. You can also request a credit report on a business, before you extend payment terms.

Leave a Reply