How good collectors and collection agencies are able to be compliant and empathetic at the same time.

For anyone of a certain age, they will likely remember television commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups where some sequence of unlikely events would take place, leading one person to say to another, “Hey. You got peanut butter in my chocolate,” which would be followed by the other person saying, “Hey. You got chocolate in my peanut butter.”

The point of the commercial was to prove that chocolate and peanut butter go well together and people did not have to choose one or the other when feeling snacky. That same dynamic can work inside a collection agency, where collectors can be compliant and empathetic at the same time; the two most important components of a successful collection agent are not mutually exclusive. In fact, collectors need to have both components in order to be successful in today’s world.

There may be some who think that ensuring compliance on a call with an individual, such as making sure to identify yourself as a debt collector, reading the required disclosures, and verifying the individual’s identity to make sure he or she is talking to the right person are robotic and do not lend themselves to a more casual form of conversation. And there are others who think that, especially in this day and age, collectors need to be more understanding, flexible, and more willing to work with consumers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it does not have to be one or the other. Collectors can, and should, focus on compliance and empathy whenever they are on the phone with a consumer. If done correctly, the two actually can go hand-in-hand. Collectors should always take an empathetic tone of understanding when engaging with a consumer on the phone. If a consumer bristles when the collector identifies himself or herself, or if the consumer questions why he or she needs to verify information in order for the collector to confirm he or she is talking to the right individual, killing someone with kindness will win the day. One possible method that collectors can use is what is known as the “feel, felt, found” method, which is a classic tool used to manage objections.

The first step is to say something along the lines of, “I understand how you feel.” That is quickly followed by another statement, such as, “Many of the people that I contact have felt the same way,.” Finally, the collector closes with, “Those people found that by confirming this information with me, I was able to help them get out of a tight financial situation.”

Compliance and empathy are equally important on every collection call. The focus must be on both aspects and not one or the other.