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From Collector: The Ingredients of a Successful Call Opening

ACA International — Keep the conversation friendly and positive when talking with consumers.

In the January edition of Collector magazine, editor Anne Rosso May reports on how to execute a successful call with a consumer by creating a balance between a friendly conversation and adhering to strict compliance requirements.

It can be a tricky balance for collectors to be friendly and engaging while meeting those requirements from the very minute the consumer picks up the phone, but there are several tips to help.

For starters, the beginning of the call should be more customer service than collections. Before you disclose why you are calling, make sure you are talking to the right person, Rosso May reports.

It may require the last four digits of a consumer’s Social Security number or verification through their address or date of birth. Of course, in light of all the identity theft scams perpetuated today, some consumers may be reluctant to give out personal information to a stranger on the phone.

If a consumer sounds anxious when he gives you his verification information, calmly reassure him by saying, “Thank you for that information. I know you can appreciate that we want to keep your information safe,” Rosso May reports.

If the consumer doesn’t want to give you the information at all, don’t get into a tug of war about it. Keep the conversation friendly and positive—just thank the consumer for his time and move on. It may turn out that he feels more comfortable calling your agency directly.

From there, initial communication with a consumer must include the mini-Miranda statement required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It must be stated during a call with a consumer regardless of who initiated the call or how often you have spoken.

In addition to legal and compliance requirements, it’s important to earn consumers’ trust. It may feel awkward to ask consumers personal questions, but don’t let that awkwardness make you sound stiff or robotic in your introduction, Rosso May reports.

Before the call, practice delivering the mandated verbal disclosures with ease. Try, “I’d like to tell you about some legal rights you have.” Clunky segues, such as “I’m legally required to tell you this,” can ruin the flow of the call and disrupt the rapport you’re trying to build with the consumer.

Finally, having good manners can take you far—remember to say please and thank you. People love the sound of their own name, but don’t get familiar too quickly. You should always address the consumer with a courtesy title, such as Mr. Smith. If the consumer says, “You can call me Mike,” it might be nice to respond, “Thank you Mike. You can call me Amy.”

ACA has many helpful resources for members through ACA SearchPoint. Information on communicating with consumers is available by visiting the ACA SearchPoint website and clicking on the Collection Calls tab. ACA members must be logged on to the website to access ACA SearchPoint documents.

The complete digital editions of Collector magazine are available through ACA International’s website. ACA International will publish weekly excerpts from Collector articles, when available; check your inbox for the excerpts in ACA Daily on Wednesdays.

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