“Don’t be a Scrooge!” Sure, the message can make you feel that way. But everyone can relate to the crunch of the holiday season – debtors and collectors alike. Three months of back-to-back-to-back spends… mostly for our children; oftentimes for our friends and families as well. We warm up with costumed crusaders and ghoulish traditions, sustained by sugar highs then slowly stewed and simmered through all-day extravaganzas of food and football consumption only to be amped right back up by the blitz of Black Friday and the three following shades of Monday – Cyber, Manic and Green – shot-gunned through a capitalized time warp of purchases and parties and delivered on Christmas Day for a weeklong bookend with New Years. Phew! It’s a great time of year, filled with love if you’re lucky, but it’s also a time when we all feel stress infringing on our time and tugging on our finances.
It’s important to remember this from both sides of the collection call. For the patients and consumers answering the call to the agents making them, remember that we each have our own burdens peaking at this time of year, so patience with each other is crucial to gaining understanding and working with each other to deliver on those “happy holidays” as well as your fiscal responsibility. To the consumers, no, we’re not heartless non-believers – in fact, we’ve got our own bills and we’re just trying to pull our weight in order to provide for our own families as well. The best of us are actually trying to find a way to help you get through this. We’re intermediaries, trying to find a way for you to meet your obligation to your doctor or creditor or contractor – to the people or organizations that provided you with a service and compensation that they in turn count on to support their families, just like you and me. We’re all in this thing together, you know?
So while it might seem like somebody has to be cast in the role of “bad guy” here… actually no one has to fill that lead. The truth is that the holidays are not a justification for skipping payments just like they’re not an excuse to “no show” for work. Just because you are the “collector” it’s not fair to ask you to wear that hat. So don’t. It’s not yours to wear.
For the collector, do what you would do any other time of the year. As you know, a lot of times it’s far more productive to allow your customer to vent a bit of their frustration. To share their burden. To get a little anxiety off their chest. By sympathizing you can begin to build trust and will be much better positioned to then try to negotiate for a positive payment arrangement or simply get your customer back on board with their agreed upon monthly payment by reminding them that they aren’t the only ones in this situation. In fact there is someone on the receiving end of this transaction that is trying to make do without their fair compensation for the work they performed. The seasonal excuses can tug at your heartstrings – I had to buy a costume for my son! I had to use my insurance check to buy toys for my grandkids! I had to host my family for Thanksgiving because no one else would!
It’s tough, surely, we’ve lived through it ourselves, but there were ways for you to get your payment in and still provide for your family. Don’t forget the sacrifices you have had to make along the way as well. Perhaps you made a night out of designing zombie costumes for the whole family from old clothes and makeup instead of racking up a tab at Walmart. Or you found a deal on a refurbished smartphone instead of buying the newest model; activated it yourself and had it ready for action straight out of the freshly trashed wrapping paper that concealed it! Or asked that everyone bring their own dish to Thanksgiving because you needed a little help this time around. Don’t be afraid to remind your customers that there are ways to make the holidays work on a tight budget that doesn’t require they abandon their responsibility to pay their bill. It’s perfectly appropriate to also remind them that the arrangement they were afforded was a courtesy and perhaps even a sacrifice for the client you represent.
Lastly, for the very responsible consumer who has honored your negotiated arrangement for countless months and now is asking you to give them some extra leeway this time around, well maybe, just maybe, this is the person who deserves a little extra compassion this year. Every collector has a few of these people they have developed respectful relationships with over the years… they are the ones who call you when they might be a day late. They are the ones who held you to task in the early going but softened as you stayed with them, not judging them but helping them, and now they’ve made a payment each of the preceding ten months and they just need one month of help so they can get their kid that one gift that would make their year. This is probably where you want to spend some of your seasonal compassion for a customer in their time of need.
Likewise you may have a similar consumer who knows they have a windfall coming – be it that insurance check finally being mailed or a tax return they are filing early for or the Hanukah gift from Grandma – and they just need to be able to skip this month. Perhaps for them you can also negotiate to ease their burden now, by getting them to agree to resume their monthly payment next month and to settle the remaining balance with their tax return or windfall in February. You can always look to future payouts with consumers you have built a relationship with and who have honored their arrangements with you. They are the ones who have earned your compassion this year.
So, don’t let the clowns rule the season for there are genuine people who are worthy of your consideration; there is a way to keep payments going and still provide a wonderful holiday season of experiences for their loved ones if you can show them the way. You don’t have to feel like a scrooge if you are able to suggest some budget friendly ways for your customers to have it all if they are willing to cut back on the extravagance and consider some economical ways to drive their holiday season into pure bliss – they may even find that these activities with their loved ones reward them more than simply spending their way to happiness. You know, the same way it has done for you, me and countless others…
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