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home | Outside the Box | Telephone Collections: 10 Dos and Do . . .

Telephone Collections: 10 Do's and Don'ts
By Fred Strano
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The following article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of ABC-Amega's free client newsleter, "Credit-to-Cash Advisor".

There's more to telephone collections than getting in touch with the debtor and saying, "Show me the money!" Experienced collectors know that successful telephone collections is a skill that requires a positive attitude and careful preparation.

Here are 10 important Do's and Don'ts that can help you become more effective when you pick up that phone to call a customer that owes your company money.

10 Telephone Collection Do's

  1. Do know the details of the account -- what amount is due, for what products/services, and when it was due.
  2. Do have positive expectations of every call.
  3. Do identify yourself and the person you are speaking with -- every time you call.
  4. Do maintain control of the conversation; stay calm and professional.
  5. Do insist on payment -- in full -- unless other arrangements are necessary and acceptable to you.
  6. Do listen; make the customer feel he has your undivided attention.
  7. Do follow the "Golden Rule" -- treat the customer the way you would like to be treated.
  8. Do document all details of the call, especially if there is a dispute.
  9. Do set specific follow-up dates with the customer.
  10. Do maintain a good relationship with the customer.

10 Telephone Collection Don'ts

  1. Don't eat, drink or chew when speaking on the phone.
  2. Don't use a speakerphone when talking with a customer.
  3. Don't put the customer on hold, unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Don't take a negative attitude. Do not use the words "can't", "won't" or "don't".
  5. Don't threaten, shout at, curse, or hang up on the customer -- no matter how he behaves.
  6. Don't interrupt the customer.
  7. Don't accuse the customer of lying.
  8. Don't give the customer an excuse for non-payment.
  9. Don't consent to smaller payments without knowing all the facts.
  10. Don't overlook alternate sources for obtaining payment -- guarantors, owners (if it's a sole proprietorship or partnership), etc.

Four More Collection Tips

Here are four additional tips that will help you improve your telephone collection skills.

  1. Turn a negative into a positive.
    • When the customer insists they can't pay in full, reply: "I understand.
    • How large a payment will be you able to make?"
    • When the customer has an issue: "How can we work together to resolve this issue?"

    If things start to get out of hand: "I would like to see the problem from your point of view."

  2. Be prepared for any excuse, even the absurd, for instance:
    • "The only person that can sign checks is off until the end of the year."
    • "Our buyer hasn't paid us, so we can't pay you until they do."
    • "We ran out of checks."
  3. Always try to get some sort of payment immediately.
    • If there is an undisputed portion of the account, get that paid right away.
    • If they're going to need a payment plan or longer to pay, get a "good faith" payment up-front.

  4. Convince the customer to expedite payment, even if it's only a partial payment. Suggestions: FedEx, UPS, DHL, Western Union, credit card, wire transfer, check by phone -- whatever you can offer that will get the payment to you ASAP.


Interested in learning more about Telephone Collections or other collection and credit management topics, visit

Fred Strano, principal associate of AFS Business Services, LLC, has more than 40 years of diverse business experience in a variety of industries, including 34 years with Dun & Bradstreet . He has also served as an instructor at several Western New York colleges and business schools, as well as being guest speaker/instructor for the National Association of Purchasing Managers, and the National Association of Credit Management. Fred has authored the textbook, "Small Business Administration", and provides workshops to firms throughout the US and Canada in the areas of Collection, Credit, Financial Analysis, Marketing and Procurement.


We thank ABC-Amega Inc. for the above information, which was originally published in their client newsletter "Credit-to-Cash Advisor". ABC-Amega Inc. provides 1st and 3rd party commercial collection services since 1929, and collecting in more than 200 countries worldwide. For further information, contact

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