Hi Everyone!

As collectors, we’ve often been trained to overcome the objections with replies and sound bites that quickly neutralize the reasons why someone can’t or won’t pay. However, there are times that we need to step back and explain “what happened” in more detail, especially when there is a dispute (valid or not) against the product or service.

Although it might appear obvious, giving an explanation is a type of communication process of trying to express a sequence of ideas, events, or procedures. There are basically two kinds of explanations:

Type 1 – is when the order of the explanation cannot be changed, such as in detailing a procedure.  If I were to ask you how to bake a cake, you would tell me things like, “First, you make the batter. Secondly you put the batter in a cooking pan. Finally you put it in the oven for 45 minutes.” If you were to change up the order and say, “First, you put it in the oven for 45 minutes and then secondly you mix the batter…” it wouldn’t make any sense.

Type 2 – is when the order of the explanation can be changed without any loss to the meaning. If I were to ask you what you did on Saturday night you could respond by saying, “I went to a movie, went to dinner, and took a walk.” Or, you could say, “I went to dinner, took a walk, and went to a movie.” Either way, the listener understands what you did even if they weren’t in the actual order performed.

There are times on a collection call when you need to explain things in a Type 1 or Type 2 way, depending on the circumstances. Whichever type of explanation you need to use, one very important part of speech to help you segment the explanation is the use of Explanation Markers.

Explanation Markers are particles of speech that more clearly organize the sequence and using them will convey your points much more understandably and effectively. Some examples of Explanation Markers are: firstly, first of all, from the start, secondly, then, in addition, subsequently, thirdly, afterwards, shortly thereafter, in due course, at the same time, furthermore, finally, moreover, above all, in conclusion

Let me give you an example of a situation in which explanation markers can be used.

Situation: The invoice is already two months past due and you are calling the customer for the first time who complains the products were not shipped on time.

Customer: Why were the products shipped late?

Here’s a suggested response:

  • First of all, we shipped the product as per your shipping instructions.
  • Subsequently, we confirmed with your warehouse manager that the products were received on time and in good form.
  • In due course, I sent you a couple of past due statements and at a minimum, that should have prompted you to call us if there was an issue.
  • Moreover, not until today, two months past the due date, am I hearing about our product being shipped late. Please understand that I cannot accept this excuse.

Of course there are many variations as to responses but I think you can see how the explanation markers can help to convey a more logical, as well persuasive, tone.

This is not to say that you should follow the above example exactly as is, since the words and the communication style used depend on many factors. It is however, one more important idea to put in your collection toolbox when preparing to speak with a debtor, especially knowing in advance that there may be a dispute to grapple with.


Hector the Collector is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) are most welcome!


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