Collecting money is always a touchy issue for anyone, whether it is from someone you loaned it to, or someone who has purchased something from you. Women tend to want to wait, saying such things as, “Oh they will pay", or “Their having a hard time, I am sure they will pay when they can". Some of this is because we are compassionate creatures and some of it is because we will sometimes do anything in our power to avoid conflict or the thought of *gasp* someone not liking us, or thinking we are pushy. Well ladies, when someone owes you money, it is time to be pushy not a push over.
If you are a mom, you can be a successful bill collector. In my opinion, if you are a mom, you are superwoman and can do anything you set your mind to. Some of the things moms and bill collectors have in common are:
Being assertive and firm
Being in charge of the situation
Being organized to a fault
Not taking any talking back
When you are a bill collector you need to teach debtors what, why and when certain things happen as a result of their action. Such as what will happen if they don’t pay their bill. It could be reflected on their credit report, they could get dunning letters and collection calls at home or at work, they may end up in court, or with garnished wages. There are circumstances for everything we do. As a mother, you spend each day teaching this to your children.
You must be sensitive to a debtor just like a small child. I am not saying treat a debtor like a baby, but remember that a debtor is not happy about the situation that has caused you to contact them. They will be embarrassed and angry and you are the perfect person to take that out on. If you can understand this before you make a collection call, you will know that you need to help the debtor not berate them. Be sensitive to the fact that they are embarrassed and maybe do not have the funds to pay in full. Be understanding and helpful and you will collect more money. A good way to do this is to put yourself in the debtor’s shoes before you ever make a call. I would say this is easy for most of us to do; we have all had situations beyond our control that may have caused us to fall behind on bills and have to make a decision on whether to go to the church to get food for our children or use the cash we have to buy food. Then when the bill collector calls and yells at you and tells you that a debt must be paid in full, how would you feel? I would feel like swearing at the person who called me and never paying them, only because they didn’t even try to understand or accept a partial payment or hear my situation.
Not every debtor is in a bad situation and just can’t pay. There will always be the debtors who are always past due, who are repeat customers. Once you have figured out who they are by keeping your detailed organized notes on your collection efforts, you can move to the next step with those debtors. Just like when your kids become school age children from toddlers. Social skills that we teach our children can be most helpful when making collection calls. When you walk into a room and your child is sitting there eating the dirt from the plant and the plant is tipped over with dirt everywhere, you (hopefully) resist the urge to scream, and calmly say to your child, “What happened here?" To which the child replies, “I don’t know", or “The dog did it". Think about what you do, you normally stare at the child, trying to absorb this nonsense, and counting to ten so you don’t flip out. Do the same in a collection call, when you call a debtor and they give you an excuse or answer that floors you, take a breath and ask a simple question. For example, you call a debtor and say, Hello, this is Michelle, and I am calling from ABC Collections about your balance due of $100 with Dr. Smith’s office. I am calling to take your payment over the phone today for free. They reply, “I paid that". Then there is silence. You can then ask detailed, simple questions that will alert you as to if this is a fact and what your next step should be. You can cheerily say, “Oh Great! When did you pay that? Did you mail the payment or make it in person? Was it a check or money order? What was the check number? What was the amount you paid?" Keep it simple and you will get the results you are looking for.
You want to be in charge of the call at all times. You don’t let your child talk back to you or be disrespectful, and you shouldn’t let a debtor either. Once you ask a debtor a question, stop, and let the silence sit there. Remember, if you are uncomfortable with this silence, so is the debtor. Let them speak first; this is how you stay in control of this situation. No matter how long or how uncomfortable the silence is, let them break it. This is very hard, but I did it for many years and it truly works. They will tell you more than you need to know or they will hang up on you.
By having a child and deciding to raise it, you have taken initiative on creating, molding and teaching a person how to be a good, caring, honest person. Being a bill collector takes some initiative since you have to initiate most contacts, by letter and/or by phone. You have to be in charge of the situation, you have to negotiate, be a mediator at times and offer a solution. You want to create in the debtor, someone who will pay their bills or at least the bill you are trying to collect in full, or on a scheduled payment plan, without you having to contact them every day. If you have ever toilet trained a child, you know how frustrating it is, and so I have no doubt you can do this.
Being a parent we have to suddenly carry a huge bag around with everything but the kitchen sink in it. Long gone are the days of a cute, stylish, small purse. Along comes the big bag with changes of clothes, bottles, pacifiers, snacks, diapers, wipes, bibs, changing pads, toys, books, aspirin (for us), sweatshirts, shoes, Vaseline, powder, tissues and who knows what else ends up in there. We have zip lock bags to put soiled diapers in, we are ready for anything! Being a bill collector requires the same type of preparedness and organization. Be prepared for anything, because anything can happen. You have to be alert, be calm, have answers and solutions and take meticulous notes. I always pretended that every single debtor I talked to, any of the paperwork or notes I had on a call, were going to be reviewed by a judge. This caused me to always be very thorough, which brought me great success. So, when you do any collection work, just pretend you will have to provide this information in court, and you will know what questions to ask to get the information you need.
Being a woman bill collector is especially frustrating when a male debtor decides to give you a hard time, because, after all, you are a woman. My experience has been that they will laugh at you, call you nice names such as Honey, Sweetie, Dear or not so nice names that I can’t type here. They will ask for the man in charge, they won’t believe anything you say, and will laugh the whole thing off. Guess who is laughing in the end? Keeping your mouth shut when you get this treatment from a man who thinks he has to act this way to be a bigger man, is the best idea. Continue with your collection efforts, do everything you say you will do, and see who is laughing when they try to buy a new car in a year. Thank you Honey.
Follow up is key in any business, but especially collection work. Your main job is to make sure everyone is paying; no one wants to pay and even if they say they will pay it is up to you to call and follow up on each payment promise. When someone tells you they will pay on Friday, send a letter confirming the payment, you can even include a payment envelope, how easy for them! Call on Friday to verify the check was sent. Call on Tuesday when you don’t receive the check, to get a check number and verify which day it was mailed. If it wasn’t’ mailed, offer to take a payment over the phone. You can always offer a solution.
Michelle started M. A. D. Collection Agency in January 1998 and ran it successfully until she sold it in December 2004 to write and consult full time. She owns and runs http://www.Credit-and-Collections.com an online community for credit and business professionals with over 750 members. She has been featured in Ladies Home Journal, PC World, Home Business Magazine, Home Business Journal, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, NH Business Review, Professional Collector, and in Home Based Business for Dummies, Shameless Marketing for Brazen Hussies, she was a featured guest on (NPR) National Public Radio and the CBS Early Show and has been in many newspapers and magazines nationwide. She has many published articles and 5 published books to add to her list of accomplishments. Michelle has recently signed a contract with Entrepreneur Press to write a book for their Ultimate Series, titled “The Ultimate Book of Credit & Collections. Learn more or order any of her books at http://www.michelledunn.com or http://www.credit-and-collections.com