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Where Have All The Hours Gone?
By Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CBF
and Steven Kozack

Most collectors spend hours every working day making collection calls and getting voice mail and busy signals. They leave messages asking accounts payable to call back - knowing that the chances that they will receive a return call are relatively low. For many collectors, it becomes a numbers game...the more calls they make [including follow up calls] the more likely they are to get someone to pick up, or return their call or issue a payment. With this problem in mind, here are some ways that collectors can increase the payback on each call that they make:

  • If you must leave a message, don't ask to be called back "as soon as possible" or "at your earliest convenience." Instead, ask to be called back that day. If the collector wants to add a little mystery to the call, he or she can ask to be called back before an odd time. For example, the collector might ask to be called back today before 3:45 Pacific Standard Time.

  • If you call and reach someone who does not handle your account, ask for payment status anyway. If they work in A/P, they should be able to tell you when payment is scheduled.

  • If you are going to leave a message, leave your telephone number at the beginning and at the end of the call. This way, there is no doubt that the customer has it.

  • If you have an order pending, always tell accounts payable. In many cases, an order pending will trigger A/P to handle your call differently.

  • Recognize that A/P clerks working for companies that do not pay vendors well usually prioritize calls because they receive more voice mail messages than they can answer in a day. Knowing this, the collector should try to make their message stand out. How? Try using buzz words or phrases such as:

    • This matter is urgent

    • Immediate attention is needed

    • There is an order on hold

    • We have a serious problem

  • When an order is pending, encourage collectors not to leave a message. Suggest they go back to the company operator, explain the problem, and ask to be transferred to someone who can help. In many companies, the switchboard operator has been taught that a call from a vendor with an order on hold should be given a special priority.

Using these simple techniques should improve collection results, and reduce the stress that comes from being ignored by customers.

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