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Overcoming Objections and Dealing with Difficult Consumers

Overcoming Objections & Dealing with Difficult Consumers

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Spencer Peterson

Public Relations Specialist

Collection agents face difficult calls and conversations daily. Just because there is an objection doesn’t mean the interaction has to be negative. Agents and managers need to know how to respond to common objections, strategies for approaching difficult conversations, and how to know when a call needs to be ended or escalated.

Recent Objections Trends

Common objections that agencies have been facing include claims that consumers cannot make payments due to holdups with the IRS or because of COVID-19. There has also been a decrease in placement volumes and the number of people promising to make payments, while the number of difficult conversations has increased since the stimulus check disbursement ended.

How To Combat The Latest Objections?

As new obstacles and objections arise, it is necessary to learn and adapt. Agents should be aware of legislation and changes that may affect consumers’ ability to make payments. Some states have incentives for individuals to get a job to replace the stimulus checks. Encourage individuals to look for employment by asking how job prospects in the area are. Tactfully ask consumers how they are making ends meet currently. How are they paying their bills or buying food? Gently broach the topic of payments by asking, “In the meantime, what do you think you can do?” By asking these questions and guiding the conversation, agents can spur action and instill ideas in consumers to help them get back on their feet.

Strategies For Difficult Conversations

Regardless of how skilled an agent is or how tactfully they navigate a conversation, some calls will always be difficult, and agents need to be prepared to handle them appropriately. Steer away from the negative. Acknowledge the hardship that consumers are facing while transitioning to what the consumer can pay. Try relating their position to another consumer that received approval for an extension or reduction in payments. Use terminology such as ‘we’ and ‘let’s’ to connect agents with the consumer and their position. “Let’s see what you can be approved for” can lead to a resolution. Follow-up is also critical when handling collections. When asking for commitments or ending a call, give clear and concrete due dates. Asking for a call back in a week or two weeks provides the consumer with responsibility and a specific deadline to motivate action. When an agent says, “Let me know when you hear back from…”, the call back rate is much lower, and it’s easier for consumers to forget or justify avoiding the call. Close effectively even without a promise to pay.

Indicators That A Call Needs To End

Some calls are not productive. Agents and managers need to know how to recognize this to save time, money and preserve the consumer experience. Some indicators might be: if you explain yourself more than twice, can’t get a word in, you are losing traction, or the bond created at the beginning of a call is breaking. All of these are signs of a need to transfer or end a call. 

When transferring a call, agents should do their best to preserve the consumer’s goodwill, even if it means absorbing some of the blame. Phrases like, “I am sorry that I am not explaining this properly. Let me transfer you to someone that can help you better.” Take the blame and pressure off the consumer and put them in a more positive mindset for the following manager or agent. Agencies can also consider having a group of agents trained explicitly for escalation calls alone to smooth conversations over and solve the consumer’s problem. After resolving issues, agents can sometimes return them to a collection agent for collection completion.

Watch the webinar replay to learn more about how agents can manage difficult calls and objections and how agencies can better train and motivate agents for these calls. For more tips and tricks on training agents, take a look at The Complete Guide to Managing Call Center Agents.

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