This is embarrassing but I completely messed up on a collection call. Here’s what happened. I had been calling one of our regularly delinquent, but long term, customers for the past three months and dealing with several broken promises. Then last week when I called again, I was so frustrated before the call that even though the customer said we could send one of our people over to pick up the check, I suddenly got angry and warned him “not to play any games” with us. He said, “So you don’t want me to play games with you? Now you can sue me for the money.” and hung up. I’m now at a loss as to how to bring this account back to life.
Signed: Feeling Terrible in Maryland
Dear Feeling Terrible,
These things happen and chalk it up to a very important learning experience. I imagine there were several things on your plate that day, which compounded by the previous broken promises, caused you to anticipate another delay. Here’s what you can do. Call the customer and if he comes to the phone, immediately apologize briefly explaining that you feel terrible about what you said. That’s all you can do. Try to move the conversation into a friendly direction and tell him that you have always appreciated his business. At the right point, ask if your staff person can still come over to pick up the check. If he says yes, you’re back in business. If he says no or delays again, I suggest you escalate the problem up the chain of command, explaining what happened as you did with me. Let me know the outcome.
Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org) on what to advise are most welcome, and with your permission, we’ll reprint your comments in the next issue of our newsletter.