Telephone collection call scripts to use with overdue customers

by | Nov 5, 2019 | 2 comments

Conducting an effective collection call is trickier than most people think. On top of being highly organised, detailed and patient, accounts receivable staff also need to be superstars at communication. After all, they’re on the front line of communicating with customers to chase payments. And developing a positive relationship with customers is key to engaging them in return business.

Making a collections phone call to an overdue customer is an inevitable part of the credit controller’s job. But it’s a job that is often avoided, or worse, dreaded. It can be hard to know what to say on a collection call, especially when your customer produces  excuse after excuse.

Still, a good old-fashioned phone call is so effective! It cuts through the noise of an overloaded inbox and gives you a genuine way to connect with your customer. Done right, your telephone collection call can result in a prompt payment and a better ongoing relationship with your customer.

But first, a note on collection call courtesy

Always endeavour to speak with the right person in the business i.e. the person who can take action to pay your invoices. This might be the business owner,  the financial controller or the external bookkeeper. Introduce yourself by name and the company you are calling from. If you are leaving a message with someone in the business who has no function in accounts, don’t disclose that the call is about unpaid invoices. Simply request a call back by the end of the day.

Key communication skills for effective collection calls

While you may not be formally trained in positive collection techniques, effective communication skills in listening, empathy and negotiation will go a long way to having productive conversations with your customers who have become overdue debtors.

Listening: To deeply listen, learn to be comfortable with silence. This allows you to pay attention to what’s said and what’s not said. Be mindful of your customer’s tone and language. You may pick up on frustration, embarrassment, evasion, remorse etc. Listening with the intention to understand is a lot more powerful than simply listening to reply.

Empathy: Connect with your debtor by sharing your understanding. Connection helps to build the trust between you and your debtor and that can open up an honest dialogue about payment. Practising empathy also allows you to regulate your own emotions so you don’t unwittingly unravel a payments conversation by reacting in haste or anger.

Negotiation:. A good negotiator can express their position and reasoning clearly, seek a variety of solutions to the problem, collaborate not dominate, persuade not manipulate, act decisively, and reliably follow-through.

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Understand the intention of your collection call

Remember that your debt collection call is probably just one step in a workflow of reminders you enact to get paid. (Data from ezyCollect shows that 52.9% of debtors pay after three or more reminders.) The intention of your collection phone call will depend on your workflow stage (first reminder, second reminder, third reminder, etc.). In the following scripts, the intentions of the phone call are to:

(1) resolve disputes
(2) remove hurdles to payment
(3) accept payment immediately over the phone
(4) establish the date when you can expect to be paid

Other intentions of your phone call may be to inform your debtor that you are engaging a debt collector, or to advise that you are placing your customer’s account on credit hold until you receive payment.

Sample collection call scripts: Examples of how to handle common excuses

No doubt, you’ve heard many of these common reasons for non-payment. Sometimes they’re simply excuses that delay the transfer of money to your bank account; at other times they are legitimate reasons. Either way, you should address them politely, with the intention of progressing towards payment.

I forgot to pay

Customer: I got busy and forgot to pay.

You: Thank you, I knew you’d be able to give me a reason. I’m glad I called. I understand how busy you can get. Now that I have you on the line, do you think you’ll find time to complete the payment today?

Customer: Yes, today. If not today, then tomorrow.

You:  I appreciate your prompt attention to this. I can take your credit card payment while I have you on the phone?

Customer: I’m busy right now. I’ll do it later today.

You: I’ll make a note in our system that we spoke about payment being received tomorrow at the latest. Please let me know if you need anything more from me. Thank you and have a great day.

The invoice has mistakes (the customer is correct)

Customer: I haven’t paid because you’ve invoiced me incorrectly.

You: I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware there was a problem with the invoice. Can you tell me more?

Customer: (Explaining the problem.)

You: Thank you for explaining that to me. Let me check I have understood that correctly (repeat your understanding). I’m sorry, I can see that we’ve made a mistake. I’ll issue you a new invoice straight away. Please don’t hesitate to let me know of any errors or omissions in the future. Thank you for your help today.

The invoice has mistakes (the customer is incorrect)

Customer: I haven’t paid because you’ve invoiced me incorrectly.

You: I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware there was a problem with the invoice. Can you tell me more?

Customer: (Explaining the problem.)

You: Thank you for explaining that to me. Let me check I have understood that correctly (repeat your understanding). I’m looking at your invoice now and the charge you are querying is for (insert reason). We charge that when (explain reasons). That charge has been agreed to in our contract, that’s why you can see it on this invoice. Do you have any questions about the contract?

Customer: I never saw that on the contract.

You: I’ll email you a copy of the signed contract now. If you have any questions please call me back on this number. Otherwise, can I please get an estimated payment date from you?

Customer: It will be paid by the end of the month.

You: By the end of the month you will be incurring late payment fees, also agreed to in our contract. If you pay by the end of this week, you will avoid the late payment fee.

Customer: Okay, I’ll pay by the end of this week.

You: Thank you for letting me know. I’ll make a note in our system to expect payment by end of this week. Please review the contract and if you need to speak with our sales representative, just give (insert name) a call. Thank you for your time and have a great day.

I never received your invoice

Customer: I haven’t paid because I haven’t seen your invoice.

You: I’m glad you told me. Can I please verify the email address I should send the invoice to?

Customer: (Gives the email address you have on record.)

You: That is the email address I sent the invoice to last month. Can you please check your junk folder to make sure our invoices aren’t getting blocked? I’ll issue the invoice again while I have you on the line. Did it come through?

Customer: Yes, I see it.

You: Great. Because of our communication issue, can we agree to a new due date next week?

Customer: Yes, I’ll pay that next Thursday.

You: Thank you, I appreciate it. I’ll make a note in our system and follow-up next week if I haven’t seen the payment come through. Have a great day.

(NB With ezyCollect, you can track when a debtor has opened your reminder email).

I’ll pay soon

Customer: I don’t have the money this week. I’ll pay soon.

You: I’m sorry to hear that. How’s business going?

Customer: (Explains reasons for cash flow shortage.)

You: Thank you for sharing that with me, I appreciate your honesty. It sounds like cash flow is tight. That’s tough to manage, we’re always trying to manage our cash flow, too. I’d love to keep you on as customer; we’ve worked well together in the past. I think a payment arrangement would help us both. What do you think?

Customer: What does that mean?

You: It means we agree on part payments until the invoice is paid in full. That way we can both manage our cash flow better.

Customer: OK, let’s do that.

You: (Suggest your payment plan.) Thank you for committing to make those payments. I’m glad we could sort that out together. Have a great day.

(NB In ezyCollect’s online customer payment portal, your customers with a good track record of paying on time will have the option to responsibly finance their debt with a third party finance provider.)

I’m out of the office

Customer: I’m not at my desk. I’ll pay when I’m back in the office.

You: You sound busy. Did you notice the Pay Now* button on our invoice? If you click that you can pay via your mobile phone at any time.

Customer: Okay.

You: With that in mind, can you please give me an indication when you can complete the payment? I’ll keep an eye out for it.

Customer: I’ll pay today.

You: Thank you, I really appreciate that. I’ll make a note in our system that we spoke.  And please send in your feedback about our online payments system. We implemented it to make payments easier for customers like you who don’t get a lot of desk time.  I’d love to know how it works for you. Thanks and have a great day.

(*With ezyCollect’s online payments, you can add Pay Now buttons on your invoices and reminders so customers can click and pay online 24/7.)

I already paid the invoice

Customer: Why are you calling me? I already paid the invoice.

You: Thanks for taking my phone call. We haven’t received the payment yet. Can you please help me by letting me know how you settled the bill and when? Was it online? Cheque?

Customer: (Gives details of payment.)

You: Thank you for the information. I can investigate that today. I’ll give you another call if there appears to be a problem with the payment getting through. Thank you for your time today.

Done with care and consideration, your collection calls to customers can reinforce your expectation of getting paid promptly and reveal important information about your customers’ payment intentions. Log your call notes and share with your team so that you have a complete history of communications if you need to continue the conversation later.

For more valuable resources to help you simply get paid faster:

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  1. Trisha Wood

    Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their sites. Keep on sharing!

    • Mihiri

      Hi Trisha! Thanks so much for stopping by. Please visit ezyCollect again soon!


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