The ABC’s of Handling Customer Excuses

By Krista T. Walsh, CFCP- President, KC Collect!

When dealing with overdue accounts, it can seem like there is no end to customer excuses. If we do not handle them correctly, we often hang up the phone and wish we had of asked something else. By following this simple ABC plan, a collector has a greater chance of recovering the outstanding debt.

A – Ask Questions: When a person is lying, they will become more and more uncomfortable. Eventually making an effort to get this bill paid is less work than dealing with your questions. Keep detailed notes on every contact with the customer—if they are lying they may have a different story than they had originally told you. Most times catching them in a lie will result in payment.

B – Backbone: Do not let the debtor hang up the phone without making payment arrangements and deadlines. Do not settle for “I will pay that sometime this month/week”. Give them a deadline and make sure that this is confirmed before you hang up. Use lines like “So you have confirmed that you will make payment on or before next Friday at 3pm.” In some cases a follow up reminder is needed if you are giving a deadline of 2 weeks or more.

Don’t sympathize with the debtor and try to relate. This will make them think that you “understand” and they may not have to pay the bill. Just because they are going through a rough time, does not excuse them from paying a bill. Try to work out a suitable payment plan until they have stabilized their financial situation.

C – Control: Keep control of the conversation. Keep focused on the debt. Do not let the debtor stall the conversation with their personal history. DO NOT let it get personal.

Sometimes it is inevitable to avoid the debtors long drawn out excuses. They give you a long in-depth story of the crises in their life. In this case, let them talk. When they are finally finished take a moment or two, and response should be “I am sorry to hear that, but let’s stay focused on the debt itself and try to work out a suitable payment plan”.

Even when dealing with family or friends, you can’t let them get upset by you doing your job.

Most frequently used debtor excuse:
“I am going through a rough time right now”