Empathy. Understanding. Respect. Concern. Trust.
To the average person, these words are rarely associated with the debt collection industry, which is often painted in a bad light due to the actions of a few overzealous companies looking out only for their own self-interests.
However, this negative narrative is certainly not accurate among reputable organizations involved in debt collection. As a matter of fact, my experience has taught me that the opposite holds true. An approach driven by human empathy is far more effective for both the consumer and the debt collector.
In addition to being the right way to ethically do business, the success of this type of approach speaks for itself. Research confirms that empathy-first engagement in collections leads to significant improvements in key metrics such as Net Promoter Scores, Recovery Rates, Agent Productivity, and real-time Quality Assurance Adherence.
Listening is The Key
So how do you implement an empathy-driven approach to collections to improve agent performance and customer satisfaction?
It starts with listening.
After more than 25 years in the customer service and collections industry, I’ve learned that it’s impossible to advance a conversation if customers don’t feel like they are being understood. If their concerns aren’t being heard. If they don’t feel validated. Customers who feel respected and validated are far more likely to enter into dialogue and arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome.
By listening to the concerns and circumstances of a specific customer, agents will understand why a bill isn’t being paid. This understanding is often the initial building block of a deeper relationship with a customer, which will yield both short- and long-term benefits.
Active listening skills are a key attribute we look for in collections agents here at Servicing Solutions. Our agents are trained that active listening goes far beyond simply hearing and must include the ability to truly understanding the totality of a customer’s situation.
Using active listening in an empathetic approach to collections includes:
- Be Understanding: I’ve yet to meet a customer who is proud of being late on a bill. Being judgmental, insulting or threatening rarely motivates a customer to communicate. It will typically have the opposite effect and often leads to complaints and escalations.
- Let Them Explain: Customers want to be heard. Even if their reasons for delinquency seem irrelevant to an agent, interrupting or rushing them will make them feel invalidated and often cause them to stop communications.
- Gather Information: No two circumstances are the same. Taking the time to get a full picture of what is going on in a customer’s life that is causing delinquency will arm an agent with information that can lead to a successful outcome.
- Solve Problems: Using the information gathering process as a guide, a trained agent will quickly be able to determine what payment arrangements are realistic from the customer and satisfactory to the lender.
- Use Positive Language: Negative language has no place in the collections environment. In fact, replacing negative language with positive language is far more effective. Instead of focusing on the late payment itself, acknowledge a customer for having made the first several payments on time or explain the good things that will come along with being current.
At Servicing Solutions, we use active listening and an empathy-led approach as part of our commitment to treating collections as part of customer service. Today’s delinquent customers could very well become lifelong and profitable customers when their circumstances improve.
Want to learn more about using an empathy-led approach to improve collections performance and customer satisfaction? We can help. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .