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5 Tips to Get a Debtor on the Phone

Making collection calls is one aspect of the debt collection process that very few people (if any) enjoy. There probably aren't too many collection representatives who are excited to make the call, and you'd be hard pressed to find a debtor who enjoys receiving the call. However, these calls are a necessary evil to accomplish one goal: getting your clients’ accounts receivables up to date.

Once the collection call is made, you are on your way to some sort of resolution, but what steps can be taken if the debtor you are trying to reach doesn't answer the phone or respond to your voicemail message? Below are 5 tips that can help you to get your debtor on the phone.

1. A simple, but often effective tactic is to try making your phone calls at various times of the day. It might be that you are just missing the debtor because of scheduling conflicts. If the debtor is avoiding your call, and you typically call around the same time of day, you might be able catch them off guard by calling at a different time or alternate day of the week.

2. If your debtor consistently doesn’t answer the phone and is at a business that uses a phone system with caller ID, try to call the company’s main phone number, rather than your contact’s direct extension. By going this route, you will at the very least be speaking to a live person. The receptionist or gatekeeper may even put you in direct contact with the debtor - or possibly someone who is above your debtor who can facilitate payment on the account being collected.

3. If your calls end up going to a voicemail box be sure to leave detailed messages indicating the urgency of a returned call. As time passes and more messages are left for the debtor, you can increase the intensity of the message and it will indicate to the debtor that you aren’t going to stop calling on the account.

4. When you have repeatedly left messages without getting a returned call, it is a good idea to follow up with written demand letters, utilizing a combination of traditional postal mail and e-mail. Include all of the pertinent information on the past due account in your letter with the option of taking care of the outstanding payment by mail or a telephone call. It can also be useful to send demand letters by certified mail, which will require a signature upon delivery. This can be used as proof of contact if needed down the road.

5. After repeated attempts with no luck, you can leave a final message to indicate that the claim will be sent to a collections agency or attorney if your call is ignored. The promise of this type of escalation could be what prompts the debtor to finally respond.

Regardless of which tactics you employ to connect with a non-paying customer, it is always best to have a defined telephone collections strategy in place. A recent study indicated that each year 150 billion dollars of commercial US debt is placed into collections, and only 40 billion are actually collected. By following the tips above, along with persistence and a little luck, you can increase the likelihood of adding your account to the 40 billion dollar side of that statistic!