I’ve been enjoying your column and now find myself writing to you for help. Our staff collector was trained to be very polite, understanding, and to be reasonably, “accommodating” to our customers, as many of them have been with us for decades. I would describe our collector as having a “gift of gab.” He can make enjoyable conversation with our customers to the extent that he remembers their birthdays, inquires about their recent vacations, and even in a few cases makes them feel like he’s their best friend. The problem, as you can imagine, is instead of “attracting more bees with honey,” he gives away the honey by acquiescing to their requests to delay payments.
How can I turn this situation around?
Signed: My Collection Manager Is too Nicey-Nicey
Without question, it’s always better to maintain a business relationship when collecting instead of becoming “friends.” If you need to wear more than one hat, I always recommend a “call name” for collecting. This way your collector can be a friendly customer service representative and then be all business when the situation requires it.
The art of being a collector is understanding the fine line between being friendly and being assertive and professional. Once a collector blurs these lines and lets past due customers become even more past due for no other reason than being nice, the genie is out of the bottle and it’s very hard to put it back.
Based on your collector’s personality, it sounds like you may want to consider him for sales and move another person into the collection position. Sometimes we find our team members have skills more appropriate for another position than for the one they’re assigned to do. Let me know what happens.
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.