Don’t Take My Word For It
Often, conflict will arise between a collection agent and a consumer simply because they don’t acknowledge the agent’s authority or information. This isn’t surprising, as many collection agencies have played fast and loose with collection regulations, and our industry has a poor reputation. However, there are ways to diffuse this conflict, and back up your authority.
Share The Information
If you have backup on file, or information about date of delinquency, references, customer notelines before the file went to collections, and so on, don’t be afraid to share that information with the consumer right at the beginning. Cynical and jaded collection agents might see this as ‘a stall’ by the consumer, but really, it strengthens your position by being transparent with the documentation the creditor has provided you.
Also remember that all provincial collection laws require you to divulge your company’s name, your name, and the name of the creditor you represent – don’t be shy with this information. Also don’t withhold your client’s telephone number, your full name, or your agency’s address – it makes you look petulant and unprofessional. If you are confident in your authority, you can convey that by not being afraid to share what you know.
Refer Them To An Authority
Rather than argue whether you have the ability to affect someone’s credit bureau, why not give the consumer the toll free consumer number for the credit bureau, and let them investigate the file themselves?
Rather than saying:
“Ms. Richards, we will be affecting your credit rating at the end of the month, and there is nothing you can do about it!”.
“Michelle, my company is responsible for reporting ABC’s accounts to the credit bureau if they are not resolved, and we are scheduled to send your file at the end of the month. You seem to be disputing this debt – I would recommend that you take a day or two and call the credit bureaus directly. Trans Union can be reached at 1-800-663-9980, and Equifax can be reached at 1-800-937-4093. Both credit bureaus have a process for informing consumers of their rights, and what steps they can take to dispute a debt. Give them a call, gather information, and get back to me by Thursday, and we can make a decision on how you want to proceed at that point.”
Share the Laws
Just yesterday, our office received an angry email stating that under the collection laws of Ontario, a debt could not be pursued after two years – obviously this was a slightly skewed understanding of the law, but you can see how a consumer might get that impression – rather than arguing with a debtor like kids on the school yard (“is not!”, “ Is too!”), our office wrote a very polite response providing a link to the Collection Agencies Act, the Limitations Act, and the Consumer Reporting Act of Ontario.
By sharing the laws, everyone gets to be on the same page. You are displaying respect for those laws, and cutting out any misunderstanding or perception that you are “flying under the radar” of your provincial regulations regarding collections. By freely sharing the laws, it builds an image of competency and awareness of your industry.
As always, if you have questions about collection methodology, or you are a creditor interested in learning new ways to approach accounts receivable contacts with consumers, feel free to call or email myself to discuss our APPRAISE process. I can be reached at 226-946-1730.
Kingston Data and Credit