Hi Everyone! 

Although most people are having fun in the warm weather, I heard from one colleague about how the excessive heat and the lack of air conditioning at their office resulted in exacerbating an already difficult collection situation. Let me recant the story from the colleague in quotes for you below.

“I was recently speaking with my long-time customer regarding the account, which was unusually four months past due. Several calls had already been made for payment which was for the balance on a new website we built for them. At the time of the call, I was speaking from my home office which was without air conditioning on a very hot day. 

The conversation started out cordial but as I was listening to my customer’s reason for not paying, I started to feel uncontrollable frustration. Out the blue, my customer brought up a complaint that the website didn’t quite meet their expectations, and this completely blindsided me. At the time I turned the website over to them I had received nothing but glorious accolades in writing as to how the website looked and functioned — but now, it only appeared they were trying to maneuver out of the payment with a fabricated excuse. 

Due to the heat and the exasperation of the moment, I became angry and spewed out a couple of profane terms. My customer immediately hung up and a subsequent email from them claimed that the conversation was recorded and will be shared on social media.” 

While I don’t know if my colleague’s customer will follow through on their threat, this is an unfortunate example of how losing your cool on a collection call, even for a moment, can have seriously negative repercussions.

At the very least it might encourage a debtor to respond with anger and profanity of their own, creating a combative, unproductive interaction. More often, they will cut off communication altogether, making an amicable resolution unlikely. From a third-party collection perspective, this may leave litigation as the only course of action, which can be costly and time-consuming.

It may also harm the reputation of the creditor and their business, either through an official reprimand for verbal abuse, or in the court of public opinion if it is shared on social media.

In addition, losing control of your emotions on a collection call makes the chances of collecting the past due amount less likely. While it is understandable to be frustrated and upset with the tactics and excuses a debtor may use to avoid payment, it’s our job to stay level-headed in the moment and keep the goal in mind.

Furthermore, one of the most effective ways to deal with sudden excuses with the product or services is to ask questions about what the problems are, when they started, and why weren’t they reported sooner. The more questions you ask politely and calmly, in most cases the customer will begin to run out of excuses. Eventually, the charade will fall apart and you can get down to the matter of when payment will finally be made. 

Finally, it’s also imperative that everyone doing the collection function by working in an environment that is comfortable. Calling for money which is normally ripe with annoying excuses anyway, especially while in a hot room, is like a powder keg waiting to go off. 

Hopefully you’re staying cool both in the heat and on the phone this summer.

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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