If you have ever had the pleasure of making collection calls, you have probably also had some experience listening to excuses as to why the person on the other end of the call was not able to pay you on time. Anyone with a decent amount of collections experience knows that these excuses are incredibly common, and they also come in bunches.
One of the easiest ways to handle the inevitable barrage of excuses that you are going to be given on your next collection call is to already have your responses ready to go. Because many of the excuses used by debtors are so similar, you can plan ahead and be ready for them with responses that will turn the tables in your favor and catch the debtor off guard.
Here are some of the most common excuses that you will hear while making collection calls and how to best respond to them:
I Never Got The Bill
Probably the most common excuses you will hear from a debtor is that they never received the bill or invoice you are calling them about. This is the excuse that many serial debtors default to, because they know that it will almost always buy them at least a couple of days worth of time.
The best way to respond to a debtor who claims they never received a bill is to have a copy ready to go and offer to fax or email it to them immediately, while they are still on the phone with you. If they are smart enough to wiggle their way out of that suggestion, you will want to follow up by immediately sending them another copy through certified mail with confirmation that they received it.
The Check is in the Mail
Another popular excuse that many experienced debtors will default to is to tell you that they just dropped the check in the mail. You are smart enough to know that they probably aren’t telling you the truth, but there is no way that you can actually prove that.
The best response to this excuse is to ask them to look up the check number, the amount it was written for, the date it was written, and the date it was mailed. If they are telling the truth (which is unlikely), they should be able to get this information in a matter of minutes. If they are being less-than-honest, you will no immediately when there is a sudden, awkward silence.
We Pay Net 90 Days
If you are dealing with a company that has a good bit of experience with struggling to meet their payables, you might hear an excuse that brings up some corporate policy to wait a certain length of time before making a payment. This is where it can pay to know your history with this particular debtor.
Have they always waited this long to make payments? What did your original agreement with them state? In these situations, the best response is to provide them a copy of your original agreement stating when payments were due.
Someone Else Handles That
This excuse comes in a number of different forms. The person you are speaking with will deny any accountability and suggest that someone else is actually responsible for handling the payment. This other person could be a secretary, boss, or board member, and they are almost never available.
If you get this excuse, you will want to write down the contact information of both the person you are speaking with and the person they are suggesting you should be speaking with. This will give you some leverage to make sure that the person you are speaking with is telling the truth and hopefully help avoid letting them send you chasing around in circles.
Another excuse that you will be confronted with from time to time is an outright dispute about either the accuracy of the invoice or the quality of the product or service delivered. This is another place where your initial agreement with the debtor will come into play. Have a copy of your agreement available for immediate fax or email and explain to the debtor how they could have properly handled any dispute, then tell them how they can remit payment.
We Have a Small Problem
This type of excuse is the biggest red flag you could possibly get that there are big problems in play. If the person you are speaking with suggests that they have any type of internal problem at all, you should immediately proceed with the next step in your formal collection strategy. You want to get the collection process rolling as soon as possible in these situations. This is also an excellent time to hand off the debt to a debt collection agency.
Dealing with collections excuses and the people making them can be an incredibly aggravating process. With a little bit of preparation prior to the call, you can put yourself in a much better position to handle any and all possible excuses that might get thrown your way, which will dramatically increase your chances of actually collecting the amount owed.