If you think they hated you before…

Perhaps hate is a strong word, but on a list of the least respected professions, bill collector is rated as number two, between telemarketers and politicians.

It is not fair. After all, people don’t rate cashiers as a hated profession. Even in this time of COVID-19 when you have to be careful when you shop, people may get stroppy about having to wait in line, six feet apart, the sanitizing that takes place when you arrive at the cashier and maybe uncomfortable with the plexi-glass that separates us from them, but we don’t hate the cashier.

Yet, isn’t that the job for most of us in collections – completing the sale? Picture if you will, a customer arrives at a checkout line and is waved thru with a cheerful, ‘we’ll catch up with you next month’. Buy now, pay later. How cool is that? When we then ask for the money the next month or even later – hey, don’t hate the messenger. Completing the sale as many in my profession will say and ‘the sale is not complete until the money is in the cash register.’

I go further mind you, ‘the sale is not complete until the money has been collected and the customer returns to deal with you again – on credit – paying on time’.

Having said all of that, are we likely to change a customer’s mind, what they may think of our profession? Fat chance.[1] Even if we managed to sit a debtor across the table to listen to our explanation, it would sound whiny and pleading, so much so that if they didn’t hate you before, they would by the time you finished.

Fortunately, we don’t have to change their mind.  I just have to change yours.

The most important person today and for the immediate future in your organization, wait for it…is you!

Accounts receivable is the lifeblood of your organization and without you, it will not survive. It was always so, but the process of collections, while always a challenge, was never to the same degree as during COVID-19.[2]

We will use COVID as an acronym to describe necessary attributes of the profession.

C – Competitive
You have to compete against every other debt as well as future spending. Some of your competition will take priority. If you are lower on the list to be paid, you must be better at collection. If you were good before, you must get even better.

O – Overcome
You need to successfully overcome any excuse given for non-payment or a delay in payment. Some, but not all of these will be related to COVID-19. The motto of the Scouts is, ‘Always Be Prepared’. Knowing these excuses ahead of time, you should never pick up the telephone to answer a call or to make without preparation.

V – Victory
First you define what Victory means for you and your organization. Most times, this is full payment of the debt, but that is not always possible. If not, what would victory look like under those circumstances. Then you measure it, quality and quantity[3]

I – Inoculate
Leave your customers alone, assume they can’t pay you during the crisis and that is just what happens. Your telephone calls to collect or at least to effectively communicate is like an inoculation for non-payment.

D – Dignity
More than before, perhaps more than ever in the history of accounts receivable, you will be dealing with many people in difficult, maybe can’t be resolved financial situations, for the most part – thru no fault of their own. We want to earn our PHD in collections, which is to Preserve the Human Dignity of each and every customer.

So, should a client or anyone else attempt to give you grief about your profession, be it full time, part or just filling in from Sales or Customer Service – know that you are greatly needed by your organization, now more than ever. Head high. Walk proud.

Pithy Quote of the Month: 

‘When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.’
– Yoda

[1] Or I could say, ‘slim chance’ and mean the same thing. English is a funny language, eh?

[2] By the way, if you are wondering if this means they should pay you more, the answer is yes.

[3] Management author Peter Drucker said, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.’